Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Wedding

The wedding was *lovely*.

It was at the Cambridge Registry Office. The sun shone (though I was glad of my pashmina, for the wind was a bit on the chilly side first thing in the morning).

Tabitha and Gareth were there (usefully!). So too were: The Builder and me; Freyja and Mark; Ian; Gareth’s mum; Gareth’s dad; Peter and Joan; Paul, Carol and Claire; Tabitha’s school friend Kumiko; their pal Marryk; another pal Batch; their mate Alex; Bob and Marcia Stephenson, who Tabitha has known since she first moved to Sheffield.

Freyja had surprised me in the morning by appearing dressed for the wedding in a sailor dress with a white sailor cap. Alex surprised me even more by turning up in full naval officer kit. It seems that the “theme” was going to be Blue Cool, then it morphed into Naughty Cool which of course requires Nauti-cal dress!

Taffa was wearing a beautiful blue/grey dress. Gareth looked magnificent in a purple shirt which I’m sure should really be mine. Marryk and Batch scrubbed up amazingly well. They’re good looking lads!

The ceremony was presided over by a charming registrar. There was lots of laughter. Nobody cried. Marryk stood as best man, Freyja and Alex stood as Tabitha’s Best Alex and Best Freyja; Kumiko and Batch stood as witnesses. Marryk positively TOWERED over the registrar when he was handing over the rings :-P

After the ceremony we trundled out into the sunshine and Paul and Ian took thousands of photographs. We all milled about and chatted. Then most people climbed up Castle Mound. Peter and Joan went home at this point. Joan was beginning to find the standing around a bit hard. I have to say, both Peter and Joan were looking remarkably well, particularly Peter (when you consider how ill he has been this year).

Everyone came back down the mound. Gaz, Batch and Marryk climbed up a tree. I can’t tell you why. But it’s definitely the first wedding I’ve ever been to where the groom has ended up up a tree!

Then The Builder, Freyja and Mark took our car back to the guest house, followed by Bob and Marcia who brought them back to Alex Wood Road. Tabitha, Ian and I went back to AWR to prepare lunch. Everyone else went to the pub. The boys had been standing around uttering the word “pub” in mournful tones since about 5 seconds after the ceremony finished. I think they might have been suffering the after effects of the previous evening’s impromptu party.

Ian prepped the meringues and turned them into mini pavlovas. The party pies and sausage rolls and vegetable puffs all went in the oven. I left the rice mix as a rice salad rather than making rice balls. The mashed potato patties and the pea and sesame patties cooked up beautifully. Ian did a magnificent job frying up the marinated lamb. There was Greek salad and tabouleh to accompany the rice salad. The wallpaper pasting table that Gareth had bought in lieu of a banqueting trestle was positively groaning. Freyja and Mark did the fetching and the carrying. It was a grand team effort.

We were very glad of the marquees. The Builder had organised them against the (highly likely, given the summer of 2008) prospect of rain. In fact, we were glad of them for preventing our heads from being sunburnt! The drinks table was glad of them too. It was sat out in the blazing sun until somebody noticed and it was moved under cover. Batch’s girlfriend joined us for lunch. So too did Bernard the Hippo, Sleepy Hippo and Tabitha’s little tiny lion Frank (though I’m sure she used to have a small tiny hedgehog called Frank).

I’m not sure I prepared enough food, however. There was only a bit of lettuce and some bits of pita bread left and most people only got seconds and thirds. I’m certain I didn’t make enough meringues. Should I ever cater anything like this again, I’ll make double the number! My bride and groom biscuits were very cute. The jam tarts weren’t too bad either.

We even managed to get Austin to the reception. Skype and web cameras are wonderful things :-)

It was a lovely afternoon.

Ginger Rich turned up later in the afternoon. Various people who were going to the evening do started to roll in. The party was to be a grunge rock party and people had to come in music based fancy dress. Tabitha, Freyja and Kumiko went as the Chipettes (you can Google it yourselves!). Marryk made a fantastic Freddie Mercury. And I don’t know who Ginge was dressed as but he looked wonderful. The venue had had another, last minute change of address. They had been booked into the Cambridge City Football Club, but the person who had organised it had moved to Cambridge United (who’d have thought that Cambridge would be big enough to need two football clubs!) and the party venue went with him. I think this was an improvement. Certainly Tabitha referred to it as an Upgrade when she told us all about it.

It really was a lovely day. And to make it even better – Taffa and Gaz gave me a Dalek money box and a Tom Baker Dr Who Doll as a present for making all the food. (The Builder got 4 bottles of local to Cambridge beer for the marquees, Paul got a picture of The Backs (I think it was The Backs) for taking the photos and Ian got a huge tea towel of Cambridge for helping with everything)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

You find us in Cambridge. It’s Tabitha and Gareth’s wedding day.

We came down yesterday after another mammoth cooking session. Everything packed neatly into the car, although there certainly wouldn’t have been room for Freyja and Mark - unless we had invested in a roof rack and tied them on up there. Fortunately, they were coming down later with Paul, Carol and Claire. We left at about 1:00. Lunchtime. By nearly 2:00, we were definitely hungry. We diverted from the road to Newark and dropped into Southwell for lunch at the Saracen’s Head, then made our way to Tabitha and Gareth’s place.

We offloaded the food. And went to find the guest house. You may remember that there was a flurry of very confusing emails about the booking a week or so ago. You may therefore not be surprised to learn that the guest house was quite hard to find. No sign that said We are a Guest House. It’s also tucked down a little enclave. There was a hand written note on the door addressed to me. Come on in, it said. The door’s open. You have rooms 1 and 2. 1 and 2? What about 3? Where are Mark and Freyja going to sleep? Fortunately, they had also left a mobile phone number on the piece of paper. I rang it. The lady confirmed that we did indeed have rooms 1 and 2. But what about the third room? You have three rooms booked? We do indeed. Ah yes. Room number 4. Go through the kitchen. You see the white door? Go through that. That leads into the laundry. Now go through the next door. There is room number 4! So there is. Freyja and Mark can have that one. It is, mind you, an odd way to run things.

Ian’s room is actually quite nice. Light and airy and quite large. Ours is much smaller and a bit dark. Still. We’re not going to be in it much. And not at this moment, at all. We’re back to Tabitha and Gareth’s place to put up the gazebos (well, I supervised the putting up of the gazebos) and to talk to Kumiko, Tabitha’s friend, and Gareth’s mother, then Paul, Carol, Claire, Freyja and Mark rocked in. Maryck turned up. So did Batch. It turned into a veritable party.

It has to be said that I slept remarkably well last night. The bed was extremely comfortable. The Builder didn’t enjoy his shower this morning, though. The cloakroom on the ground level is extremely tiny. He hardly fits into it. Ian reports that he was very worried when he sat on the toilet this morning - it was exactly the same configuration as the bathroom in Paris last year where he severely put his back out! It seems there are larger bathrooms upstairs.

I don’t think they were actually expecting Freyja and Mark. Freyja reports that their room doesn’t actually appear to be expecting guests ever. There are dead insects on the window sill and the back of the wardrobe is falling off. As you can’t actually open the wardrobe (there’s a large chair in front of it), this may be something of a relief - at least they know there are no bodies stashed in there!! It seems that their room is the emergency room pressed into service when they miscount the number of rooms that have been booked.

Does it count as eating out when you have take away curry under the gazebos in Tabitha and Gareth’s back garden?

Friday, August 29, 2008

My ambition to eat out every day while on holiday might have been thwarted by the unexpected failure of the Cornerstone to open on Tuesday, but the daily average has been improving. Twice out yesterday. And twice today. Excellent!

We went out to explore Oxford today. None of us has *really* been here before. The Builder and I have, in fact, physically been in Oxford. We have even walked along some of the streets. But we were meeting my mate Stephen who took us on a round walk once of about an hour, when we were actually on our way to Salisbury. The round walk didn’t involve any of the actual centre of Oxford. Our potterings today did!

But first - breakfast. Ian took us to a part of Oxford he had been wandering around with Tom yesterday. We found signs to something called the Vault and Gardens which said it did breakfasts. Found a door and went in - thinking it odd that there didn’t appear to be any gardens. I don’t think they were really quite open just yet. The door might have been open, but they were obviously just getting ready to get started. However, they agreed to do bacon and scrambled egg on toast for us. It was unfortunate that the toast was sun dried tomato and walnut bread :-( Couldn’t eat my toast :-( Wasn’t really expecting flavoured toast for breakfast! (Also - allergic to walnuts, sadly.) While we were eating, they opened another door. And several people came in. It was the front door! We had come in from the back entrance!! There are gardens outside the front entrance!!!!!

And so we meandered about Oxford. We visited the courtyards of the Bodleian. We ambled along little streets and lneways. And then we found the Botanic Gardens (at the gate of which we had met Stephen on our previous visit). We went in. And they are amazing! Ian wants a Victorian Hothouse for Ballarat to grow vegetables in. I want one too. Not for Ballarat. We admired the vegetables (pumpkins bigger than mine) and the fruit trees. We found Tolkein’s favourite tree - it looks quite remarkably like an Ent. There were AMAZING water lilies in the water lily house. It was all rather fantastic. I took lots of photos.

Then we went back to a little pub in a little laneway called the Turf Tavern. It’s a tardis pub. It looks to be quite tiny, but once you got into it you realised that it had lots of rooms all stretched out in a sort of zig zag. It also did quite nice food. And a rather nice pint of Old Rosie scrumpy. Ian and The Builder reported that the bar staff were a bit alaremd when they asked for a pint of Old Rosie. It was a bit early, wasn’t it. And was I intending to do anything else in the course of the afternoon? Ian assured them that I had seemed to know what I was doing and I was allowed to have my pint of Old Rosie.

And so to home, avoiding yet more hold ups on the motorway. More baking. Home made fish pie for dinner. Was a good day :-)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I have done a prodigious amount of baking. I have made: vegetarian party pies, bride and groom biscuits, raspberry jam tarts, apricot jam tarts, cheese twists, sesame twists, more ordinary party pies, meringues … Then I ran out of caster sugar and milk :-S

While all this was going on, I heard Margaret saying: You need to read the ingredients of things carefully. They put wheat flour into the oddest of things. I nearly poisoned Paul the other day by putting soya sauce in his food. You wouldn’t think that soya sauce would have wheat flour in it, now would you?

This was a conversation I had had with Margaret more than twenty years ago. If she was minded to remind me of it from beyond the grave, then I was certainly minded to listen! I went and checked the soya sauce bottle and there indeed was wheat flour listed in the ingredients. But that’s all right. I haven’t put soya sauce in any of the Paul-friendly food. Thinking, thinking, thinking. No, I’m sure I haven’t - except, BUGGER. Yes I have. In the bean and sushi patties I made yesterday. Damn!!!

I’ll have to make something else. I know. I’ll make some of the risotto, mozzarella and vegetable balls that I make for The Builder and me to take to work sometimes. But not right now. Right now, The Builder and I are going in search of some more caster sugar, some milk, some cat food and some lunch (Telmere Arms because we were going past it). Then we went home and I made some plum jam tarts, decorated the bride and groom biscuits, burned the jam tarts because I was paying too much attention to the biscuits, cleared up the kitchen, dashed about, sorted things out - and left more or less on time to relocate to Oxford where we were due to meet Ian at 6:30. Need to make more plum jam tarts. Need to do LOTS of cooking. Shouldn’t have left my kitchen so far away. Panic, panic, panic.

Was making a list of the things that need doing (forgot to add: make savoury, gluten free (no soya sauce!) mince for the lettuce boats) as The Builder was driving us down the M1. Suddenly, the traffic came to a halt. Quite a serious halt. There was an accident two junctions down. Actually at the junction. The motorway was closed. The motorway was actually closed in both directions - the air ambulance landed on the opposite side. We came off and rejoined the M1 beyond the accident. But this made us quite seriously late for meeting Ian at 6:30! About half an hour late. We ended up even later yet - there were further hold ups on the way down. Ian sent a text message suggesting that we meet him and his mate Tom at the restaurant. The Cherwell Boathouse on Bedford Street. I put the details into Jenny. Off we detoured. Eventually we arrived in Bedford Street. And there the Cherwell Boathouse wasn’t. Mind you - you might think that it would be somewhere near the Cherwell, and we were about 4 or 5 miles away from it. We asked a passing person walking a dog. Oh no, said he - the Cherwell Boathouse is about 5 miles away in north Oxford off the Banbury road on the bank of the Cherwell. I rang Ian. He was adamant that it was in Bedford Street. He and Tom would come and find us. Stay where you are.

We stayed.

My phone rang. It seems the restaurant isn’t in Bedford Street (No? Really?) It’s in Bardwell Street. In North Oxford. Off the Banbury Road. On the bank of the Cherwell! I think Ian was trying to shake us off :-(

But to no avail. Jenny found it! She had always had misgivings about going to Bedford Street

It clearly wasn’t meant to be an easy dinner, mind. Tom had booked a table for us all, for 7:15 on Wednesday night. The restaurant had put it down for 7:45 on Thursday! They had no table inside. We had to sit at a table outside and watch the punts and the ducks and the river. It was lovely!

So too was the food. Fantabulous food. The parmesan crisp I had with my vegetable ravioli and sweet potato coulis was amazing. The lamb fillet wasn’t bad either! Mind you, I’m not sure about smoked potato mash. It was beautifully made but seemed - well, odd to me. We even had dessert! Tom was very nice. He has an ancestral pile in Ely and is the Emergency Physician at The Radcliffe in Oxford.

And so on to the apartment. Too late to have my regular Skype conversation with Tony and in any case we has something of a battle to get onto the internet. Only one computer can get on to each registration and we only had one. Ian’s computer had connected to it first and so, of course, mine wouldn’t. Had to commandeer Ian’s!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thwarted I am. Thwarted!

It had been my ambition to eat out at least once daily during my late summer week off.

Managed it on Saturday. Lunch in the Three Horseshoes at Spitewinter with The Builder.

Managed it on Sunday. Lunch in the Dog and Partridge near Disley with The Builder, Ian, Freyja, Fiona (Ian’s niece) and her partner John. The Dog and Partridge is a carvery, chain pub. We won’t go there again (though if we should find ourselves around Disley at lunchtime, the Ram’s Head looks quite nice)

Managed it on Monday. Lunch in the Ashford Arms at Ashford in the water, with The Builder and Ian - though we completely failed to achieve the post-prandial walk that we had promised ourselves by not being able to find anywhere at all to park in Ashford after we left the pub car park.

Yesterday we comprehensively failed. Our plan had been brunch at the Corner Stone coffee shop in Tupton. Got there - and it was closed!!! Somebody was putting up a new power pole across the road from them and their power was off. Had to come home and make our own bacon and eggs :-( Then Ian went to London and The Builder and I had left overs for dinner.

Am anticipating dinner rather than lunch out tonight. We are meeting Ian in Oxford, where he presently is, this evening and staying overnight. Lunch in Oxford tomorrow. Dinner in Cambridge on Friday. Lunch and dinner out on Saturday. Mission probably accomplished, apart from yesterday.

In the meantime, I, at least, have been quite busy. We picked up Freyja at her place on Sunday morning quite early (very early for her) and trundled off to Manchester Airport to collect Ian, who is here for Tabitha and Gareth’s Do next Saturday and to meet various medical people in London. We had arranged to meet Fiona and John and he Leigh Arms near Disley for lunch - this being probably the only opportunity Ian would have to see Fiona on this trip. I had completely failed to find a Leigh Arms on the Internet. Armed with John’s instructions, I put the address into Jenny and off we went. Drove all the way through To right the other side of Disley, counting off the pubs as we went. No Leigh Arms. Rang Fiona. Not the Leigh Arms. The Dog and Partridge. Always useful if you call a pub by the right name! The Leigh Arms is somewhere else entirely!

We took Ian to the Chatsworth farm shop on Monday. I think he thought he’d died and gone to heaven! He was impressed when we went into the first bit, with the vegetables and cakes and yummy things. Then he found the new fish bar. And then the butchery. When we walked on and he found the bakery and the deli, he practically swooned! He said as we left that it would have been easier to have put the few things that he didn’t want to buy in a trolley and take the rest. Fortunately, I had control of the trolley and we didn’t buy all that much.

Tabitha and Gareth, along with Freyja, came for dinner on Monday evening. Tabitha and Gaz had been at the Leeds festival over the weekend and usually do call for dinner on their way home from the festival. This year, of course, there was the added attraction of having Ian to look. They collected Freyja and brought her with them. We had beef wellingtons (apart from Freyja who had a quorn kiev) and mint and choc chip ice cream.

Mostly, I have been cooking. The freezer is positively groaning with wedding food. There are party pies and party sausage rolls. There are vegetable puffs and a rice and bean mix for making rice patties. Soon there will be cheese twists and sesame twists (not in the freezer!) and bride and groom biscuits, meringues and jam tarts (likewise not in the freezer). On Friday I’ll make various salads and some mashed potato and vegetable fingers. Then we’ll transport all of that to Cambridge together with some marinating lamb chunks, some pea patties and some pitta bread, ready for the wedding lunch on Saturday. If I have time I might also make some ice cream. I might also need a second car to get everything down!

I have been doubly thwarted. I have been absolutely scouring the world to find some rice pastry for making gluten free spring rolls. Can’t find it anywhere. Am beginning to think hat it might not exist. The Builder and I even made a quick trip to Sheffield yesterday to go to the Chinese supermarket and *they* didn’t have any, though they did have spring roll wrappers and wonton wrappers - but made with wheat flour. So no gluten free spring rolls for the wedding party. I do have some rice noodles, though. At least Paul (cousin; gluten free diet) can have some noodles with his marinated lamb chunks on Saturday.

I think I have destroyed the kitchen. It looks like a major insurrection has happened in it. I might need a new one!!!!!

Right. Must go. There are twists and biscuits and tarts to bake. I have never before been much of a baker. I seem to have taken it up over the past few months.

Oh - but I am not going to try crumpets again for a long time. We never did rescue the new pancake pan after I burnt the last lot of crumpets onto it. I’ve had to throw it away :-(
There are two sizeable pumpkins in the greenhouse now. We haven't bothered pollinating the other small pumpkins which are forming - there are also five or six pumpkins growing in the garden. Had we realised that the pumpkins in the greenhouse need hand pollinating and got usy earlier, and assuming all the pumpkins grow to a reasonable size, we would need a third freezer just to accommodate all the pumpkins! As it is, I think we're going to have quite a lot.

We have started picking tomatoes, too. So far only the cherry and small tomatoes in the greenhouse. The plum tomatoes aren't ready and nor are the tomatoes in the garden. We are, however, beginning to get a few more courgettes and the runner beans are doing quite nicely (though not nicely enough for The Builder who loves runner beans and wishes we had lots and lots more!). We have now picked and pulled all the broad beans, and all but two rows of peas which won't be ready for another week or so. Almost all the onions are up (must get around to stringing the last lot!) and we are digging up the Arran Victory potatoes. They have been mostly slug/wireworm damaged. When time permits, I'll sort them out, par boil them and bung them in the freezer (once the wedding food has come out!).

We are fighting lots of caterpillars for the brassicas. They're running amok on the sprouts and caulis - not so much on the red cabbage, for some reason. WE have given in and acquired a caterpillar spray (alleged to be suitable for organic gardening, which we mostly but don't exclusively do). Next year we'll put butterfly proof netting over them.

I've made a start on clearing out the flower beds. Will get back to that next week - though the green bin is now full to the brim and won't be emptied until next Tuesday. It's been quite successful this summer. Lots of colour. I'm going to start hunting for some black/purple sweet pea, cornflower and sunflower seeds for next year. I've got some hollyhock seedlings ready to plant as soon as the beds are ready

Friday, August 22, 2008

Absolutely, positively my last ever visit to Psalter Lane

You find me at Psalter Lane again. Absolutely and positively for the very last time this time. Barb says that I've had more farewell appearances here than Frank Sinatra ever contemplated. This may well be true, but this one is definitely it. We close the doors to the public for the last time at 5 this afternoon. I won't actually be here at 5 - I'm leaving at quarter to four. But I'll be here until almost the bitter end. The staff (who aren't moving until next weekend) have been given permission to have a Farewell Party next Thursday afternoon, and to invite other staff who have a significant association with the library. I was invited but alas won't be able to attend. I expect to be in Oxford with The Builder and Ian next Thursday. I shall make my farewells as I leave this afternoon

I can't even say that I opened up for the last time this morning. When I got here at quarter to eight, the removal men were stacking crates of books onto their truck. When I came upstairs, the landing and corridor were absolutely chockers full of crates. I almost had to go mountaineering to get into the office. There was no way I was going to get to the Information Desk. It was surrounded by crates.

Not that I have need to get to the Information Desk. The library is now virtually empty. There are a few books still on the shelves - though they will be gone by this afternoon. All the moving men have trundled off with their full truck to deliver them to the Adsetts Centre. They will be back (at least I hope they will - there are loads of full crates still here) shortly. In the meantime, it's nice and quiet and peaceful.

I am not here to provide an enquiry service. I am not at the Information Desk. Nobody is at the desk. Not much point, really. Hardly anybody has been in this week, by all accounts. I am merely here to provide an Advisor presence, should the need for advice arise. I can't say that it seems likely. And I could probably have advised by telephone, if necessary. But it's a nice sunny day and it seemed churlish to refuse the opportunity to come and play on the library's very last day. Mind you, it's a bit spooky up here. There are two assistants downstairs and me upstairs and that's it. Not even the ghostly Mr Nichols/Nicholson seems to be about. I'm not sure if he's sulking, left or hitched a ride in one of the boxes and gone to Adsetts!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Aaaaaarghh. I thought it was all going rather smoothly. Active Hotels have just sent me an email telling me that they have ceased their association with the place we’re booked into for the weekend of The Wedding and that the guest house may have trouble fulfilling our booking and that they have therefore cancelled our booking. About two weeks ago the hotel itself sent me an email saying they had moved us to a new location and would I confirm that that was acceptable. Which I did. Now I am confused. I don’t know whether we have a booking or not. I have spoken to someone on the telephone who speaks English with a very pretty Eastern European accent. She says I’ll need to speak to someone else and they will ring me. I have also emailed them. And I will give it until tomorrow morning before I cancel any booking we may or may not have and book somewhere else.

Anyone got some tents we can borrow? I’m sure no one will notice if we all doss on Jesus Green!

An update on the sausages. We had the apple and cider ones last night. And they were very nice, though they shrank alarmingly on cooking and had the texture more of a pork burger than a sausage. Next time I will put a higher proportion of fat in and less cider and perhaps a bit more grain. And I’ll keep experimenting. I’ll also buy another sausage book!! Tony tells me that he has a friend whose family he (Tony) in his youth used to “help” make sausages. He still has the friend but alas the sausage makers have retired to feed their wares to the angels and are no longer available to seek advice from. This is not in itself especially surprising, but Tony says that the sausages were lovely. It’s a pity there wasn’t someone of the third generation to take the sausage making over and proffer advice.

And an update on the accommodation. Had emails from Active Hotels cancelling our bookings. Took this to mean that our bookings had been cancelled. Seemed reasonable. So booked us all in somewhere else (quite impressed that I could get a booking at a week’s notice for five of us in the same place in Cambridge in August!) Then had an email from the first place we were booked into to say that our bookings hadn’t been cancelled; they were still with them only directly so and no longer via Active Hotels. A dilemma! Decided to cancel the second booking – it would have been quite a bit more expensive. Probably nicer but I am not expecting us to be in the rooms a great deal!

It’s all a bit too hard. I have been to the library and found another sausage book (it’s still American but at least its recipes aren’t full of additives which are completely unknown to me – are there NO British books on how to make sausages?!?!?). I’m going to go and sit on the Information Desk and answer questions (if there are any) and browse the recipes and not think about accommodation!

I’ve just had lunch with Freyja. She came to tell me all about the excitements of her birthday weekend in London, where she stayed in Toooooooting (Toot Toot) with Mark in what sounds to have been almost an apartment in a set of boarding houses. They went to what sounds like an X-rated muppet show on the Friday night and then spent Saturday and Sunday at the Empire magazine Film Convention. They saw lots of snippets of yet-to-be released films and met film stars 9one of whom engaged in conversation with them) and they won prizes and saw a couple of full length films – and Freyja won an IPod Nano. But she won’t give it to me.

They seem to have had a good time. It was, I gather, a magnificent Birthday Weekend.

I would probably have enjoyed the X-rated muppet show! And probably staying in Tooting.

Freyja has been lying to Facebook. Or Facebook is lying to me. It sent me an alert on Saturday to say that her birthday was approaching and that she would be turning 23. This is clearly not the case. Everyone knows that Freyja is 15. Although Freyja suggests that both Facebook and I are wrong and that she is really 17. In either case, she is much too young to be going to X-rated muppet shows!!!

I have broken my liquidiser jug:-( I dropped it on top of the mixing bowl when I was cleaning up on Sunday and it’s got a big crack in it. This is unfortunate. I can still use it for making breadcrumbs but not for blending soups and sauces and things. :-( Fortunately, Kenwood has a spare parts facility. A new liquidising jug is on its way, though it won’t come for about a fortnight. It is being accompanied by a dough hook :-)

The Builder’s ear is getting better. He no longer snarls and kicks and bites and scratches when I put the drops in his ear. He just can’t hear properly.

It’s less than a week till Ian arrives. This means that The Wedding is looming large on the horizon. I had better find my Wedding Picnic menu and start thinking about it. I have to make a million party pies, party sausage rolls, party pasties and party quiches. Amongst other things.

In a burst of enthusiasm about sausage making, I ordered from Amazon a book called: Great sausage recipes and meat curing Seemed a good combination. I’ve been tempted by the idea of trying ham-making too, lately. While I was at it, I ordered a DK book about bread which I’ve had out from the Chesterfield Library and which needs to go back soon. The fat, hardback sausage book arrived rather too tightly cling-wrapped and had started to buckle. Then it and the bread book had been put in a box that was toooooo small, which had been put in a larger box which was bound with lashings of sellotape. I’ve never had such a bizarrely packaged delivery from Amazon before. It was falling apart even as it got to me. The bread book, being a paperback, didn’t fare too badly. But the sausage book was all bent and buckled and looked rather sad. You certainly couldn’t have given it as a present to anybody. Also, it was American and not really what I had been looking for. Plus, all the recipes contain proprietary mixes which you can’t source here and which I don’t want to use anyway. I sent them a grumpy email, complaining about the packaging. Which I wouldn’t have done if I had been happy with the book. As Freyja pointed out – I can still read it. Had it not been buckled, though, I would have sent it back as a straight return. Or given it to someone.

Amazon responded with a friendly email saying they were very sorry about the packaging and they didn’t really know what to do now because ordinarily they would have sent a replacement copy but they rather fancied that I didn’t want one. Would I like to return the damaged book and have a refund, or to keep it at a discount. I was rather impressed! It’s going back. Such a difference from the responses I got from eBay when I sent them a gently worded complaint! I shall buy a different sausage book from them, having first checked that it is not American.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You may remember that I made lasagne last Thursday. I was a bit puzzled that the lasagne sheets were tearing well before they had got to the diaphanous stage which I expect them to tear at. I had a look of Friday morning to see what was what – and found that it was all clogged up with dried, ancient pasta. I set about cleaning it. Stuck my finger in underneath a little lip – and tore a flap off it :-( It’s bloody sharp under that little lip. …Took lots and lots of Mr Happy bandaids to make my poor finger happier!

I was a bit perplexed about how I was to get it (the pasta maker, not my finger) clean if I wasn’t supposed to immerse it in water. It says on the box that it’s easy to clean. Doesn’t look easy to me. Then I began to wonder why it couldn’t be immersed in water. It’s not electric. It doesn’t look as though it was likely to rust. I had a look at the instruction booklet. Doesn’t say anything at all about water. Nothing. I’ve washed it now in a basin of hot soapy water and it’s absolutely fine. And free of dried pasta. I made fettuccine with it on Saturday evening. We had it with a sauce made of peas, broad beans and runner beans from the garden, onions from the allotment and cream and bacon from Chatsworth. The pasta maker performed perfectly. The meal was DELICIOUS.

We had rather a nice weekend. It was nice and quiet. We stayed at home. At least, we didn’t go away for the weekend; we didn’t spend all weekend slavishly attached to the house. We went to the allotment and pollinated pumpkins. We went to Arnold Laver and ordered lots of wood. We went into Chesterfield and pottered around in the Chesterfield Department Store and in the Laneways shops. We went to Chatsworth and spent a scary amount on a piece of rib of beef and a less scary amount on various other things. We went home and podded peas and pootled about and gently passed into the evening and went to bed nice and early and went to sleep and slept and slept and slept and slept

Until 3:00 when the heavens opened and God tipped a waterfall over the house. And woke me up! It woke The Builder up too but he went back to sleep. I lay there and listened to the waterfall and to the radio and lay there and lay there. And at quarter to four gave in, got up and went down for a cup of tea and a play on the Internet. Nearly rang Mount Martha on Skype, where a substantial family gathering was underway. But decided that it would cause Alarm and Upset if I Skyped in quite so early in the morning!

Went back to bed at 5 and sort of dozed until 7 – just as well it was a Sunday. Normally we leave at 7 to head into Sheffield!

It was quite a pleasant Sunday too. I made another attempt at crumpets which was more successful than the first one – at least until I burned the bottom of one lot and thus the base of my brand new pancake skillet. I’m not sure that we have got it cleaned yet! We pottered off to the garden centre and ambled about and came home and I made cheese straws and The Builder pulled up the broad bean plants and then we unpacked the new mincer and minced up various bits of pork meat. The mincer is irritating in that it’s clamp is just THIS much too small to fit on the kitchen bench. We didn’t want to clamp it onto the very nice and still not quite a year old oak dining table. We ended up doing the mincing by attaching it to the middle sized coffee table and putting this on the kitchen bench. Which made it too tall for me to operate properly. The Builder had to help! Then I flavoured the meat mix and left it to sit for a bit. And then we made the sausages. It was lots of fun – once we worked out how to assemble the sausage filling bit. But it is definitely a two person job. Or it is until you become proficient at it. I suppose you might eventually work out how to do it on your own. And we now have 10 pork, apple and cider and 10 pork apricot and orange sausages in the freezer awaiting taste testing. We couldn’t have them yesterday – there was the rib of beef to deal with.

I am in trouble :-S We arranged at The Builder’s dad’s funeral for both his brothers, his sister, his son and his daughter, with all their accoutrements, to join us and his mum for a family lunch on the Sunday after Christmas. Gwen reported that she was being asked what the arrangements were (answer: there aren’t really any yet. It’s only August. But we do have a cottage booked to stay in). So I typed up a reminder and sent it to his brother Terry with his birthday card, to Marie and to Peter. All it said was that I was reminding them about the party and where the cottage was. It seems that Peter’s Barb took umbrage because she hadn’t been invited. But she has been invited. *All* the accoutrements have been invited. Ah yes. But her name wasn’t written on the invitation. But nobody’s name was written on. I just printed it out, put a copy of a photo of the Builder’s mum in the envelope with it and choofed them off in the post. Not the point. If she doesn’t get a personally addressed invitation she won’t come and then Peter won’t be able to come either. Sigh. Big, big sigh. So much easier with Hyde lunches. You select your venue, check that the owners of the venue are going to be At Home, announce your intention to come to lunch and then let the news percolate around and everyone who is free turns up. No formal invitations. No umbrage taking. Sigh. And THEN Gwen said that Marie wanted to know if it would be a sit down dinner or a buffet. I don't know. It's only August, for goodness sake. I haven't even thought about the menu. Sigh. Again (Actually, that's not true; I have been gently pondering it in idle moments. And I think it might have to be a buffet in a holiday cottage with all those people.).

Somebody has stolen the staff room at work. It's gone. I have taken in the travel kettle and will take a tiny, minute, microscopic two-beer-can fridge of The Builder's to keep the milk in.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I have now, I think, finally done my last shift at Psalter Lane. It is true that I have a shift booked for next Friday morning, but I will be surprised in the extreme if it actually happens. The stock is on its way down to Adsetts and I think the library will be bare by Friday. It is possible that I may still go – but it won’t be for an information desk session. And I think it more than likely that I won’t actually go.

It’s a bit sad.

It’s sadder still. Today I handed back my keys to Roger’s office and to the L3 team office. When we all come back after the Bank Holiday weekend (or whenever we do come back – I’m actually off that week), everyone will have moved to their new locations. There will be no need at all for me to have keys to those offices. I’ve had that key to the L3 team office for nearly ten years. Bye bye, key :-( And I don’t really like it down in the L2 office. It feels really quite remote from everyone else. And apart from Gavin and very occasionally Roger – nobody ever comes to see us. Roger and Bea are moving all the way up to L6. I expect I shall get very fit climbing up all those stairs to visit them.

I woke up on Wednesday morning. Went to speak to The Builder and Marlo – and nothing emerged from my mouth at all. Not so much as a squeak. Tea and glasses of water failed to restore it. I still had the remnant of the high temperature I had had the day before. So I stayed at home. The Builder struggled into work with his horrible ear infection. Actually, I had quite a nice day at home. The weather was lovely and I spent quite a bit of time sat out in the garden with Marlo. I paid a leisurely visit to the allotment (not with Marlo). I pootled about. I didn’t actually need to speak to anyone apart from to The Builder when he rang mid-morning until he came home again in the evening. I did forget at one point and tried to speak to the cat. He looked a bit surprised by the strange squawk which emerged.

Had Thursday not been a Psalter Lane day (always very difficult to fill at short notice) and had it not been my last ever desk shift there, I would probably have taken yesterday off too. But a pleasant afternoon sat in the sunshine at the Psalter Desk wasn’t particularly taxing and I didn’t need to speak to very many people. The Builder, mind you, wasn’t at all well in the evening. He failed to eat all of his homemade lasagne. He only drank TWO glasses of wine in the whole evening. He slept through the theme tune to EastEnders – which always, but always has him leaping for the remote control to turn it over before any of the characters have a chance to get into the lounge room. Clearly not a well bunny. I was expecting him to be too poorly to go to work today – but he seemed quite a lot better this morning.

Some weeks ago, I booked us into the Swan at Stoford for a Saturday night in September. Then we decided to go down on the Friday. The Swan didn’t have a room, so we decided to stay the Friday night in Marlborough. I booked a room at a discount rate at a pub on the main drag.

Thank goodness it was at a discount rate. I had an email today from the web people asking me to rate our stay (they do this whenever we book a place through them). I was a bit surprised. It’s only August, after all. Nowhere near time for rating the hotel. I checked back at my booking confirmation. Oops! I had inadvertently booked it for August the 12th :-( And we, of course, hadn’t gone, the 12th being a Tuesday and a school night. Fortunately, it was only £50 down the drain, as against the usual £90. I’ve booked us in for the right night this time, only not at that hotel (no discounts available) but at a place called The Inn with the Well in a hamlet called Ogbourne St George a wee bit out of Marlborough. I must check my email confirmations more closely in the future!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mid-August report

I have been wondering for some time why it was that the rampant pumpkin plant in the greenhouse (ambitions not just on the allotment site, Tupton, or even the world, but the whole known universe) was producing lots of baby pumpkins which, when they reached the size of a small chicken’s egg, would turn yellow, wither and die. There’s nothing wrong with the plant. It still has ambitions on the universe. It’s watered regularly. It gets fed seaweed meal every couple of weeks. It seems entirely happy – I’ve never seen so many baby pumpkins on a vine. You usually only get two or perhaps three. Nevertheless, they continued to rot and die despite everything that I tried.

I put the dilemma to a web garden forum I use from time to time. Sounds, they said, as if you have pollination problems. Of course. The pumpkins are in the greenhouse (there are two in the kitchen garden as well, but they are only just starting to produce pumpkins). No bees can get to them. Nor butterflies. Nothing for it but to hand pollinate. The drawback is that pumpkin flowers are wide, wide open in the mornings and gradually close as the afternoon progresses. By the time we get to the allotment after work, they are closed up tight. And there isn’t time to go up in the mornings before we leave for work at 7. So The Builder nipped up before we left on Saturday and took off the ones that are clearly not going to grow and pollinated the ones he could. There are a couple that were too small. We will do those this Saturday and hope that we are in time.

There are cucumbers growing on the cucumber plants. I don’t know about the melon plants. There weren’t any female flowers the last time I was there to look. The tomatoes and the Cape Gooseberries are fruiting nicely, though nothing is ripe yet. And the pepper/capsicum plants are starting to flower so there should even be some capsicums (or peppers, depending on where you are)

We are doing well for potatoes this year. So far no blight. And so far nothing like the slug damage we had last year. We are also doing very well for peas and onions, although the peas in the garden are now all finished. No more wandering around in the evenings and grazing from the pea vines.

The flower garden has gone completely bonkers. I’ve just left it to get on with it. I’ll sort it all out when it dies back a bit in the autumn.

The fruit is now largely finished, apart from one raspberry cane which appears to be an autumn fruiting raspberry, some blueberries which aren’t quiet ripe yet and the apples which will be along in another three or four weeks.

We are doing well for courgettes/zucchinis, runner beans, broad beans and broccoli, though that is all but finished now. Must stagger the sowing of the broccoli next year. 12 large Veronica calabrese is rather a lot for two people to deal with when it all flowers at once! The carrots are only growing slowly. I hope they are big enough to eat before the winter sets in! The beetroot, which The Builder has been despairing of, is now settling into growing apace. He had been waiting for them to form scarlet globes above ground. They were never going to do that. I planted long, underground growing beetroots this year. And very nice they are too. We are getting cucumbers from the plants in the garden (and they are LOVELY). I don't suppose you remember, but last year the sweet corn didn't grow and didn't do and didn't even fruit until the autumn. It's much better this year. The first sowings are taller than me and produced masses of flowers and now there are corn ears growing. I must remember to get you a photo.

The winter veg are growing well. All those brassicas are beginning to fill out a bit and the beans on the allotment are doing quite well – though they never recovered from that later frost that hit them after I put them out much too early in May. They are producing beans but they are only about *this* high so are struggling to produce huge quantities. I shall try and remember for next year – ne’er cast a clout till May is out is excellent advice, more so if you live North of the M25!

Oh – and most of the asparagus plants that we planted in the spring sneakily produced a second spear each. We didn’t notice because the entire bed is covered in forget me nots and we couldn’t see them. We noticed when we went down to weed a couple of weeks ago.

The Met Office keeps talking about how this has been one of the wettest summers for a long time. Can't say that that's how I see it in Tupton. It's certainly been wetter in August than last year (but then we had Ian's sunshine tethered over us). But it's been a much better growing year and we haven't had anything like the problems with blight, things rotting and things bolting. This means that we also don't have as much set aside for the winter. There has been no panic harvesting so far this year! I do, however, have five jars of onions pickling in the store cellar

There has been a cattle-astrophe. A cattle-astrophe, I tell you

What kind of a cattle-astrophe, do I hear you ask?

The kind of cattle-astrophe where someone has wantonly and wilfully dumped, abandoned and LEFT a brand new cook shop on Chapel Walk which is just across the road and along a bit from here L

I found it this lunchtime when I was heading up Chapel Walk in a perfectly innocent manner on my way to buy The Builder's granddaughter, Sophie, a gift token from Claire’s. Some external power took control of my feet and hauled me protesting and struggling into the shop. I had no control over my feet at all.

It's been there a week or so (unbeknownst to me, though both Bea and Roger had run across it) and isn't fully stocked yet. It remains to be seen whether it will be on of those "magic" shops which comes and goes in a random manner (that particular building has had many manifestations over the past few years) or whether it will stay the distance. Apparently they have another branch in one of the shopping complexes which does quite well. But I fear for the effect on my plastic while it is there!

I am now the proud possessor of a hand meat mincer with sausage filling attachment. I have been considering the acquisition of a sausage machine for some time but had been thinking of an electric one. Bea has a hand one and tells me that making sausages is lots of fun but that it takes two people to manipulate the sausage skins when you are filling them. The new cook shop only had hand ones. Mind you, only set me back £17, which isn’t bad at all given that it is alleged to be cast iron and the electric ones are closer to £60. So I have been thrifty and kind to the environment and friendly to my arm muscles which will surely benefit from cranking it by hand. I am hoping to get the appropriate meats to give it a go over the weekend.

I am beginning to need a separate cupboard to keep all my new gadgets and their (small) bits in. Perhaps a drawer would be better for small bits. I must see if I can sort one out

I had to come into work on the train today :-( It was raining :-( Hard :-( Fortunately, we have a couple of HUGE golfing umbrellas which kept me nice and dry. And it's August so the trains are fairly empty. And why couldn't I come in The Builder’s van? Because he didn’t come in this morning. He has gone to visit the GP in Clay Cross. He has been complaining for a few days that somebody has inserted a red hot stiletto knife in his ear and was twisting it about. This did not sound entirely desirable to me. Might be an ear infection. Might be an ear drum which was about to perforate. Or – might be an alien life form growing in his ear which was about to explode out, disintegrating his head and plastering bits of it all over the kitchen or dining room ceiling and walls. Most unhygienic, bits of The Builder scattered about all over the place. So he went to the doctor to have the alien life form removed before the exploding happens. I assume that all is well. I haven’t heard anything from him.

I have a cold too :-( My eyes are scratchy and my shoulders and back ache and my throat hurts. I even woke up this morning with virtually no voice. Alas, the application of two cups of tea and several glasses of water brought it back and I had no excuse for staying at home. Mind you – it’s been one of those mornings when having stayed at home is looking like it would have been the best plan!

It was, you will be amazed to hear, a very food-laden weekend. Most unusual for us. Food and wine hardly ever figure in our weekends!

It started on Friday evening when The Builder and I abandoned Marlo to the house (“You’re going out *again*? But you’ve only just got back from work” and he sat by the side of the road and SCOWLED as we drove away!) and went to Ashford in the Water, where we met Bea, Steve, Roger and Kate for dinner. The Builder and I have eaten in Ashford a few times, though we have always gone to the Ashford Arms. This time we went to the Bull’s Head, at Roger’s recommendation. And it was an excellent recommendation. The food was lovely. I probably wouldn’t buy the house white by the glass. It was a very uninteresting chardonnay. It would probably have been better to have put up more dosh and to have bought a bottle of something better. But the food was certainly not uninteresting. Crayfish tails and salad for me, followed by really nice salmon and smoked haddock fishcakes in a lobster bisque sauce. Very yum.

It was a lovely evening. Jenny the Sat Nav had taken us to Ashford via the winding road to Rowsley. The weather was lovely. The company was genial. We came back along more sedate roads, having decided it was getting a bit dark for a walk after dinner (memo: in future, have the walk before dinner, or go in June) and pottered about until bed time.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny. I did a load of washing, while The Builder went to the allotment to collect potatoes and vegetables for Jeanette and Matthew, and for his mother. The clouds rolled in :-( I decided not to hang the washing out and put it on the clothes horse. Marlo observed me packing the red bag with dismay. I spoke to Stella on Skype. She’s home now and looking quite chipper. I do like internet telephony. Talking to someone you can see is almost as good as being there!

We packed everything into the car, left Marlo sulking on the dining room table and trundled off to Whiteley. In the rain. It was Matt’s 40th birthday just over a week ago and they had had a barbecue to celebrate last weekend. We, alas, couldn’t go. It was the weekend of the Cromford Steam Fair and we had organised with Barb months ago to go. So we moved our celebration to this last weekend. Always good to extend the celebration season of a significant birthday. My 50th went on for nearly a month!

Anyway. All was going well until we got to Winchester. The problem with travelling on a Saturday in the summer is that the holiday change over day is nearly always a Saturday. By the time we got to Winchester, we had caught up with all the people who were heading to the south coast for their summer holiday. Fortunately, The Builder live around Winchester for a good many years and knows his way around. We left the main road and the standing traffic and pootled around the back of Winchester – and then foolishly launched ourselves back onto the motorway system, despite the warning signs saying that the speed limit was 50 mph. The motorway was at a standstill. Well, not quite. It was moving but only very slowly. “Let’s come off at the next exit” I suggested. But that’s Eastleigh, said The Builder. I don’t know the way from Eastleigh to Whiteley except on the motorway. Perhaps not. But Jenny does!

And so we got there, to find the house deserted. They were in the supermarket laying in supplies. I was supposed to ring them as we got closer, but none of their phones were receiving. And why were they in the supermarket so late, when they were expecting us about then? Because they had suddenly realised on Friday evening that they had a room for us to sleep in, but nothing for us to sleep on – and they had had to rush out in the morning and buy a futon! Quite a comfortable futon, it must be said.

So a late lunch of bread and cheese and ham and things. And it was still raining. Really raining. So we couldn’t really go out. So we repaired to the lounge room and played with Evie (not quite 12 months and taking up to 12 tentative steps, when aided) and watched The Mummy with Rebecca. I have never seen The Mummy. I had assumed it was a horror film and, as I don’t watch horror films, hadn’t thought about it any further. It’s not a horror film, it’s more Indiana Jones meets the scarab beetles. I quite enjoyed it. Then we watched a Disney film and then, it still raining with enthusiasm, we abandoned the barbecue idea and went with takeaway Chinese.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny too. Only this time it stayed that way. We all went to explore the Whiteley shopping complex, leaving Jeanette to deal with the roast pork we were to have for Sunday lunch. I was after a photo frame for a copy of a picture I had taken of Rebecca and Evie the last time we were down, to give to The Builder’s mother. We had a nice potter about in the shops. Rebecca won a huge inflatable hammer on one of those lift-the-frog-from-the-pond games and devoted herself to beating up Matt with it on the way back to the house. Where we consumed a magnificent roast pork lunch with roast potatoes and yorkshire puddings and vegetables and apple crumble and custard and then had to drag ourselves off to squeeeeeeeeeze into the car and head to Salisbury, while they went to Basingstoke, poor people to collect something they had ordered.


We had afternoon tea with Gwen. Not that we needed afternoon tea, but she had baked cakes and muffins for us. Room had to be found! She’s looking quite cheerful, really. I think she gets very bored on Sundays, when there’s not much happening around about, and the people she might see are likely to be out or busy. And I suspect that now she doesn't get much chance to bake. Not that I think Mick ate much in the way of cake, being a diabetic. It was nice cake, lemon cup cakes and chocolate chip muffins, and a nice cup of tea too. Then we had to dash off, drive to Barb’s in the only rain shower we met all day, deliver some stuff for her before she left for her Sunday Evening shift at the Black Dog and then make our way home.

As we were heading off, we decided, rather than going up the usual road by the Black Dog, which takes you up to the main road at a rather awkward intersection into a VERY busy road, that we would go further along and try a road which takes you to a slip road intersection. The road up from Dinton to Wylye is a winding, narrow, tree lined lane which was fun to drive along - though I might not want to do it on a winter's evening. Brought us up to the A303 - which was completely, really completely empty of traffic heading in our direction. The road just had to have been closed further up. Just as well we hadn't gone up our normal way! We hit standing traffic where the road goes abruptly from two lanes to one, but that nearly always happens. In the meantime, three police cars, two ambulances and two fire engines went hurtling up on the other side. Had to have been an accident. In the end, we turned off the 303 at Winterbourne Stoke and headed across country towards Marlborough.

But it was characteristic of our whole journey home. Studded with standing traffic and detours and other impediments to progress. Eventually we got home at just before 10:00. We left Barb's at 5:30. Normally takes a touch under three and a half hours! We didn't have the tuna I had bought for supper. We had wine. And The Builder had a bowl of dried fruit and nuts.

Marlo was VERY pleased to see us back. I had realised, as we were heading south on Saturday, that I had forgotten to fill his biscuit bowl and to put down an extra bowl of biscuits to see him through, which is what I usually do if we are only going to be away for one night. I sent Tammy a text message asking her to feed him. She sent one back saying she would - but I think I might have caught her a bit early and that she might have been still asleep because we got back to find his bowls empty, his food still on the bench and the biscuit packet knocked to the floor. And Tammy is normally extremely reliable. Alas - Marlo had been unable to get the peg which was holding the bag closed off so he still couldn't get to the biscuits. He was out when we got back. I think he was somewhere down on the farm. A few minutes after I called him he came hurtling over the front wall, demanded to know where on earth we had been and what sort of time do you call this to get home in the evening, then demolished his bowl of wet food in about ten seconds. Had to have another one!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Laptops and fishy things

You may remember, back in April, that The Builder’s laptop upped and died on us while we were visiting Austin in Japan. Screen gone. Effectively no computer. No means of communication with the outside world, given that our phones also didn’t work. Fortunately, we could use Austin’s Macbook.

I bought a Mac myself when we got to Melbourne. We had left the Dell at Austin’s place. Collected it when we got back and brought the body home with us. I gave a bit of thought to buying it a new screen, but rapidly decided that it had been driving us batty anyway with its performance and that a replacement would be the better way to go, if we actually needed two computers.

The body sat in the corner, gathering dust. From time to time The Builder investigated Dell screens on eBay. I continued to argue that, if we really needed two computers, a new one would be better. The Builder, being a thrifty soul, felt that making do and mending was the way to go. Ordinarily I would agree with him, but the Dell was going to require quite a lot of work to get it back up to scratch.

I ran all this past my pal Gavin. He also thought that a new laptop would be better than patching up the old one and drew my attention to the existence of Linux based internet browsers. They actually looked as though they would do quite nicely, and were only £50 more than a new screen on eBay.

So, we called in to PC World on our way home last evening and looked at the internet browsers. They were rather cute. The keyboard was a touch on the small size for someone with large fingers, but we figured he would get used to it. You probably couldn’t do very much more than just browse the net with them, but then The Builder doesn’t do much more than that. And should he need to, there is still the Mac. We’ll have one of those. Alas. There were none in stock. No worries – we’ll have one of those other ones instead.

The boy went off to look for one. While he was doing that, we wandered off to look at the laptops. And found a perfectly serviceable laptop (although a brand I had never heard of) for a mere £100 more. Runs on Vista but that probably won’t worry The Builder. The boy came back. None of any of the internet browsers anywhere to be found. But that was OK because by the time he got back we had decided to abandon the browser idea and just buy a new laptop.

And so we did.

We also bought one of those electronic photo frames. With a weather station attached. Because we were playing with the display model while the boy was collecting the laptop. A true impulse buy!

I spent a merry hour or so setting up the Ei-system so it does what The Builder wants it to. The only problem came when it was bedtime and we wanted to turn it off. I couldn’t find a way to do it! I could log The Builder off. I could make it go to sleep. I could do a number of things that I can’t think why you would want to at the alt/control/delete stage. Turn it off? No. Even pressing the off button only put it to sleep. We left it sleeping, went to bed and I had another look this morning. Took quiet some puzzling – but eventually I noticed the electronic Off Button hiding in the corner!!!

Tony asked why a Microsoft based laptop and not another Mac. Finances, I fear. A new Mac would have set us back not quite £800 and the Ei-system was a mere £300. Couldn’t quite justify spending nearly £500 more on what is really a second laptop.

Haven’t set up the other new toy yet.

On Tuesday evening, we got home to find Steve Next Door hanging over the fence, brandishing a plastic bag containing a freshly caught trout. Nice. We like trout. While The Builder was putting up a trellis in the greenhouse and generally doing useful garden things, I gutted and cleaned it (lessons remembered from fishing with Tony when I were no’but a lass!) Then I filleted it, much less expertly, never having been called upon to fillet a trout before – and not really having a suitable filleting knife. We didn’t eat it on Tuesday evening because I had prepared pork chops in the morning ready for that evening’s dinner. We did, however, have them last night, with potatoes, courgette, broad beans and a mountain of runner beans from the garden. That trout was absolutely delicious. So were the vegetables, but the trout was a real treat. It is a great pleasure having amiable and generous neighbours.

I spoke to Stella yesterday morning. She is sounding very chipper and quite cheerful and is still on course to go home on Saturday. Tony has returned to playing golf.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A steamy weekend

It was the Cromford Steam Rally this weekend. We had intended to go last year, but it was called off because the field it's held on was under a foot or two of water. They were forecasting showers this weekend, but the field was not under water and in fact it didn't rain at all. At least not on Saturday when we went; I don’t know about Sunday.

Barb had come up on Friday after work so we pottered about a bit in the morning and then took ourselves off, not to Cromford, but to Brackenfield which is where the steam rally actually is. Nowhere near Cromford. Not all that far from us. Jenny the Sat Nav took us along cute, narrow, winding country roads to get there. Very pretty. But not a bank in sight. The Builder had enough to get him into the rally. I didn’t quite have enough to get me in :-( Barb has some money but probably not enough to fund all of us all day.

We went to Matlock in search of a bank. And returned to the steam rally.

I have to say – it was a lovely few hours. The rally (which I’m told used to be on the Cromford town meadow) is in a couple of large fields outside Brackenfield. There were miniature traction engines and full sized ones. There were the vintage buses and army vehicles and commercial vehicles that you normally find at these dos. There was a fair and cancan dancers. And, of course, all the junk and not-junk stalls. We wandered around and watched the miniature steam engine on parade. We admired the craft and model tents. We bought me a pair of lovely boat shoes at one of the stalls. We had fish and chips and beer/cider in the beer tent. We didn’t buy a chook shed in the chook shed stall, but we did take the contact details away. Perhaps next year! Mostly the sun shone and mostly it was lovely and warm and we all had a good time.

We went home the scenic route.

On Sunday we went to Chatsworth to the Farm shop in the morning and then had a merry time pottering about in Rowsley at the flour mill and in the Shopping Village before ambling back home. It was a lovely, quiet, gentle day.

We had quite a lot of food over the weekend too. I had laid in more than enough provender to provision an entire invading Russian Army. Not that I was expecting a Russian Army. I was expecting Barb, who made a magnificent attempt to do justice to the mountains of food. We had quiche and potatoes and steamed fresh vegetables on Friday evening. We went to The Cornerstone for breakfast on Saturday and, of course, had fish and chips at the steam rally for lunch. Then in the evening we had a barbecue with potatoes and more vegetables cooked inside and sausages and burgers and lamb steaks and things done on the barbie, followed by ginger ice cream. On Sunday I made an attempt to make crumpets. Wasn’t a bad attempt – but next time I’ll cook them for a minute or two longer. They weren’t quite fluffy inside. Then, late afternoon, before Barb left to go home, we had a cold collation outside sat under the new marquee (small marquee) that The Builder recently bought. We had the left over quiche and the left over lamb from the barbie, and some home roasted gammon and some pork brawn that Barb brought, and salad and more salad and home made bread and … well, the table was positively groaning. Despite our best efforts, and in the absence of an invading army of any nationality, there was an enormous amount of food left. The Builder and I will be eating leftovers practically for ever!! Happily, they are all leftovers which will do nicely for lunches.

Strangely, there doesn’t appear to be much left in the way of wine, though. Can’t think where that all went.

We were exceedingly lucky with the weather. Nearly everybody else had rain and gales and gloom all weekend. The Builder’s mother reports than it rained on and off all weekend in Salisbury. I don’t think more than a drop or two fell on our heads, and the washing dried on both days!

I had yesterday off. It was another lovely, quiet day. I had to go into Chesterfield to collect a couple of packages, but I went on the bus so didn’t have to worry about parking, and took the time for a bit of a potter about the shops. Otherwise, I stayed at home and pottered about. I made another attempt to make crumpets – but it all went horribly, horribly wrong! I put the batter into a barely warmed oven to rise, turned it up just a tad because it wasn’t really quite warm enough for rising purposes, and then forgot about the whole lot. Came back an hour and a half later to find the crumpet batter trying to turn itself into one HUGE crumpet :-S I made an attempt to bake it but it was perfectly clear that it was never, ever, ever going to cook through to the middle. I gave up and went outside with a gin and tonic to help The Builder pod the 3kg or so of peas that we had brought back from the allotment. We’ve got loads of fresh peas in the freezer now! And a tub of coffee ice cream. Plus the left over ginger ice cream.

Maybe The Builder shouldn’t have bought the ice cream maker!!!

It seems that the Belper Steam Rally in June, which we would have gone to had we not been in Salisbury that weekend – was abruptly cancelled at the last minute for some legal reason!!! It sounds, reading between the lines, as though someone registered an objection to the planning permission for the site it was going to be held on. Not the usual site which was temporarily unavailable this year. Just as well we didn’t try to go. Although I would probably have noticed that it had been cancelled – I usually check the address online on the day and the website is effectively shut down with the just cancellation notice . I hope it’s back next year. I enjoyed the Belper rally last year.

Oh. And I spoke to Stella a couple of times over the weekend. She seems to be loads better, although now very bored stuck in the hospital. She’s hoping to come home on Saturday.