Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Friday, October 31, 2008

Traffic Report

The Weather Dogs might be having a fine and dandy time, batting the seasons about. But the Traffic Dogs are in a very grumpy mood!

The M1 was closed on Wednesday because someone on foot was struck and killed by a van. I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to find out why anyone would be foolish enough to be wandering around on a motorway. I guess I'll never know.

Yesterday, we were heading home and got to the Dronfield roundabout. The traffic was well and truly backed up. This is unusual! The police had closed the A61 and all the traffic was being diverted through Dronfield and was queued to a standstill. We went around the roundabout, back to Meadowhead and went home via Bradway, Holmefield and Barlow. Would have been a very pretty drive in daylight! I think there had been an accident on the A61. We could see lots of blue lights towards the Unstone turn off as we passed through Barlow.

It's a mercy we had Jenny with us, mind. Once we got onto the Barlow road, I knew where we were, but I've never gone via Bradway and Holmefield before.

It would be quite nice to have a smooth, untroubled, undiverted trip home this evening. Calling in at Richard's place to scrump his apples does not count as a diversion!

(I still don't know why there should have been a pedestrian on the motorway on Wednesday, but last night's amusement was caused by a small car overturning and then rolling 10' down an embankment and seriously injuring the driver. You could wish that people would be a bit more careful. People do tend to go at very high speeds on that road)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Somebody needs to tell the Weather Dogs - it's ONLY OCTOBER!!!!!!!

It was snowing this morning in Tupton when I went out to feed the birds at 06:50. Properly snowing. It was even settling on the grass. Not for long, I grant you. It fairly quickly turned to rain. But, I say again - IT'S ONLY OCTOBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The M1 was was closed around Chesterfield yesterday evening. This always but always leads to complete chaos in and around Chesterfield. Fortunately, somebody heard it on the news and alerted The Builder. We decided to go home Another Way to our usual route. We headed across country towards Bakewell, and turned towards Chesterfield at Frogatt, and then headed along back roads when we hit Chesterfield itself. Took abiout 20 minutes longer than usual. And the traffic on the A61 at the QVR roundabout was at a complete standstill as far as you could see looking south and very busy, although moving looking north. I'm oh so glad we didn't try to go along our normal route!!

Tabitha and Gareth came for dinner. They also headed across country, although the roads were clearer by then. We had a scallop and prawn pie. It was extremely yummy. They've been in Sheffield for a couple of days and were on their way home (T&G, not the scallops and prawns)

Freyja's Facebook account has been reinstated. She still doesn't have a landline, mobile phone or internet connection at home, however

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weather report

When I got up and looked out the window this morning, the sun was shining (well, it was after about 6:40), there was not a cloud in the sky - and everything was completely white. The fields were white, the garden was white, the roofs were white. It was so white I thought it had been snowing. But it hadn't. It was just a very thick frost. It was very beautiful. It was also very early. It's only October!

It's been snowing in London. It was the first October snow in London since 1934, apparently.

Freya's Facebook account has been deactivated :-( She doesn't know why. We think it's because in their unseemly haste to rid the world of bears, they are also eliminating humans. So poor Freyja now has no internet or landline at home, no mobile phone because it hasn't got back from its adventuring yet, and now no Facebook account. She can't use Skype at work so no effective means of communicating with the outside world!

The sun is shining through the library window, then through the window separating me from the library floor and right into my eyes. Could almost do with a curtain!

I have dug out one of my thick winter woollies. It's very early for this too. It's still only October!!

I went down to breakfast pondering what to have.
Gwen was proposing to feed us roast beef at about 1:00.
I really can't eat a full breakfast at 9:00, followed by a roast meal at 1:00. Quite apart from the fact that it won't fit in, it tends to give me indigestion.

So. No full English.

Eggs Benedict? I like eggs Benedict, but Hollandaise sauce is a bit rich for me for breakfast. I suppose I could have it all but without the sauce. Eggs on toast? Bit dull. Ponder, ponder, ponder. In the meantime, The Builder went to get the coffee

Sat at the table and was idly gazing at a couple of young American girls on another table while waiting for The Builder to come back. They had stuff on a wooden platter. Fruit. Cheese. What is there on the menu that gives you fruit and cheese on a wooden platter? Had a look. Aha - the croissant option, which I had never looked at because I do not care much for croissants and certainly not for breakfast. Ham, cheese, fruit, jam and croissants. I wonder - perhaps they could be persuaded to give me toast instead.

And they did. And it was lovely! The ham was wonderful. And it didn’t give me indigestion at all :-)

The Americans were talking to Carl the Landlord about their best options for getting to Stonehenge. As we were checking out, they came back from the bus stop to say that there was no Sunday service and what should they do now? Stonehenge is no great distance from the Swan so we offered to take them. They were lovely lassies. They're from a small university somewhere in Oregon which as a partnership arrangement with the University of Nottingham and about a dozen of them come over for a semester each year. These two are spending their weekends trundling around the rest of Britain.

Since we were there we decided to have a walk around as well. Except that, as we went in the light rain decided it was going to be Very Heavy Rain Indeed. The advantage of going in using your English Heritage card (quite apart from the fact that you get to do some serious queue jumping - a lady came along the queue asking if people were English tax payers. We said we were but had EH cards. Showed them to her - and she escorted us in through the staff gate!). Where was I? Oh yes - the advantage of going in using your EH card is that you can decide after three minutes that the weather is not conducive to admiring the stones, and walk out again without wasting your £6.50 entrance fee! We called into the shop and went away. In fact, sometimes we use our EH cards simply so we can call into the shop!

A quick trip to Waitrose and to the toy shop. Decide not to walk into town in the rain and trundled off to Nunton to find that Peter had taken all the rubbish to the tip first thing in the morning and all we were being called on to do was to eat roast beef and roast potatoes and boiled potatoes and an EVEREST of vegetables at 1:00. And the biggest bowl of tinned peaches and cream that I have ever seen in my entire life!!! Gwen is a fine cook - but she doesn't half over-feed you.

We took some flowers up to the church yard after lunch and admired the new name stone that lies over Mick's ashes. Then we took Gwen home and headed back to our own home. We decided not to go on the motorways and not even to follow Jenny the Sat Nav's directions. I wanted to know why she never takes us up the most direct (on the map) route. This would be because there is no obvious way of avoiding the town centres and all those roundabouts slow you down. But it was a very enjoyable drive. We must do it again sometime when it is all done in daylight.

Marlo was very pleased to see us back! We had party food for supper (tempura prawns, spring rolls, that sort of thing). I really should make a selection of party pies and pasties and things that can be heated from frozen when we get back and are snacky rather than hungry.

I'm on the evening duty today, and didn't come in until later in the afternoon. I've spent the day washing and tidying and making soup and baking cakes and sorting through a box of potatoes. I went to the allotment in fine sunshine - and got drenched on the way home. And the washing got wet ;-( And I undercooked the cakes and they sank ;-( But the soup is magnificent and I had a lovely, peaceful, quiet day. It's not too bad here this evening either. A pleasant number of queries, including some real information ones. Enough to make the time pass but not so many that you fell rushed and flustered.

Freyja has been cut off from the outside world. Her phone line, internet and pay TV have all gone with Mark (who I assume has now moved out). And her mobile phone tried to run away and very nearly succeeded, except it was found by a Kindly Stranger who is sending it back. In the meantime, if you want to talk to her you might need to resort to pigeons or smoke signals. She needs to talk to me, though. Not only do I have Bernard and Sleepy Hippo, who accompanied us to Salisbury, and Austin's Christmas present, which she is taking to Japan for me - but I also have both her passports and if she hasn't seen me by Monday she won't be going anywhere!!!!!!!

Seems Mark hasn't moved out properly yet. He's in the process of moving out over the next week or three

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back in Salisbury

It’s been another busy week back at the salt mine. Lots and lots more teaching, although this week mostly the mature first year students and the post grads. I very much prefer working with these people to the 18 year olds. With the older students, even if they don’t immediately understand why they need to know what I am telling them, they have enough experience to be aware that if I think it important enough to come and teach them about it, then they probably do need to know about it! I’ve also been doing follow up sessions with some of the students I saw at the very beginning of semester. They seem to be pleased to see me - largely because it all seems much more difficult when they come to do it on their own than it did when I was there with them!!

But I’ve now come to the end of the really intensive teaching. There is none in my diary for this coming week, apart from a couple of 1-2-1s. And for the next few weeks only one or two sessions a week. And then it stops until after Christmas when experience suggests it will pick up again - although not quite as intensively as in October.

In the meantime, we are back in the Swan@Stoford near Salisbury. Some time ago, The Builder’s mother mentioned that she and Mick had for quite some time been pondering the possibility of having their rather bedraggled patio restored. But Mick would never actually go ahead with doing anything about it and then latterly decided that there was no point - they wouldn’t get the use out of it. At no point did either of them think to mention it to The Builder, who would merrily have done it for them, or even to his brother Peter who would have given it a shot. On the occasion Gwen told us this, both The Builder and Peter were there and so was I. We decided that the patio was now really too dangerous for Gwen to use with a walking stick and in any case the fence was falling down. So we organised a weekend to do it.

The Weather Dogs were in excellent humour yesterday. It didn’t rain, the wind was light, it wasn’t hot and there was intermittent sun but not unrelieved blazing on the head. Peter had got paving slabs and cement and stuff. The two of them worked amiably together (they don’t absolutely always get on!) and made steady progress. The slabs were laid and the actual patio bit of it was very nearly done by the time Gwen called us in for chicken stew. After lunch the boys
went and got the fencing panels and stuff and finished laying the slabs. Then Peter went off to meet his lady friend, and I transformed myself from supervisor into Junior Carpenter’s Mate and helped The Builder put the fence posts in, he erected the fence and in the course of a single day Gwen is now the proud possessor of a mighty fine new patio. It looks absolutely great!

We had ham sandwiches and cake for afternoon tea an
d then came back to the Swan along circuitous back routes and sat and watched telly until just after half past eight.

Although we had had a substantial breakfast, a substantial stewy lunch *and* afternoon tea with sandwiches and cake, we did not feel that this would actually last us until breakfast time on Sunday, so we
nt down to the bar at about quarter to nine for supper. I had absolutely lovely haddock fish cakes with baby potatoes and carrot and cabbage. Really it was an entree with the potatoes and veg added to make it a nice, small main course. We shared a bottle of wine. It was all very civilised. It is a very big advantage, staying in a pub. You have wine and food immediately beneath your feet, there is no travelling time if you want to eat or drink and nobody has to drive back.

Speaking of driving - we are coming to the conclusion th
at there is absolutely no point trying to come down to Salisbury on a Friday evening unless we can leave early in the afternoon. It doesn’t matter what we do, which way we come, how many motorways we avoid, we still end up being delayed. We were held up twice and diverted once this trip and didn’t get here until quarter past ten. Normally, we leave early on Saturday morning, but that isn’t helpful if you need to be here fairly early on the Saturday. I think in future we will come half way and stay in Tewkesbury or Gloucester or wherever, which gives us only an hour and a half or so to get here on the Saturday morning.

It is now Sunday morning. It is raining. We are about to go to breakfast. Oh - and the clocks have gone back. We are now back on GMT.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Greetings from Tupton :-)

It puzzles me a bit why I am not entirely keen on Eastern European breakfasts. I am perfectly happy to accept as breakfast food eggs, bacon, (cooked) tomato and mushrooms with toast. Why then, I wonder, do I view ham, cheese, (raw) tomato and capsicum slices with bread rolls as distinctly lunchtime fodder? I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and a cup of very strong coffee. Although, at least the breakfast buffet in Prague wasn’t completely smothered in mayonnaise or salad cream as it was in Warsaw!!

We had to check out of the hotel by 11. By a happy coincidence, a mini bus was coming to collect us at about 11, so that was all right. We left the pink bag at the hotel and went, with the Travelling Hippos, in the mini bus into town where we transfered to another mini bus and went with two Spaniards (who I think might have been honeymooning), and Ukrainian lassie and a local tour guide down to the river, where we joined a large-ish cruise boat. We were off for a lunch cruise of the Vltava River. I must say, it was a beautiful day for it. Very sunny, although the wind was cold. The boat was kitted out with lots of lunch tables. Lots of other people, including some other tour groups, were there too. And off we set, up river, accompanied by an accordion player. Who for some reason was playing mainly tunes from early Elvis Presley, other American crooners of much the same period and some Austrian waltzes. Not sure why he wasn’t playing Czech music.

The lunch was surprisingly nice. Lovely goulash. The vegetables in the fish stew weren’t cooked, but everything else was lovely. The cherry cake and custard was a real treat. After lunch we went up onto the top of the boat and sat out in the sunshine and watched Prague go by. It was lovely. A very pleasant way of passing a lunchtime. Took about two and a half hours to go up and back.

We made our way via the Jewish quarter back to the Od Town Square and sent a very pleasant couple of hours sat outside with some white wine, just watching the world go by, enjoying the sunshine and happily relaxing.

Then we went for a walk through some of the back streets and ended up, more or less by accident, at the bottom of Wenceslas Square. We went to the top to look at Wenceslas’ statue and then walked slowly back to the hotel, where we collected the Pink Bag, called a taxi and went to the airport.

There is very much more to do at the Prague airport than there is to do in the Budget airlines’ tin hut in Warsaw! Shops. Restaurants. Bars. I admit that I was a bit disconcerted in the restaurant by the way the staff were flinging the food about. Splooch this on, splodge that on, whomp things about, pass plate to customer. The food, though, was really lovely. They might have been treating the food a bit roughly, but the chicken schnitzels were freshly cooked when I asked for them, the potatoes had clearly not been sat around for hours, and the salad (paid for by weight) was delicious.

In both directions I had paid extra to easyJet for Speedy Boarding. Money extremely well spent. You get to join a very, very short queue for checking in, plus you get to board the plane first and choose your seats first (easyJet doesn’t allocate seats - you select when you board). This had the happy effect that we got to sit right at the very front so The Builder had extra leg room. Makes flying in budget airlines quite a lot easier for him. His knee is not at all happy about having been squished into those mini buses where he was all jammed up against the seat in front.

We got home just after midnight and are now sat in our very own, nice and comfortable bed having enjoyed the first cup of tea we’ve had since Thursday (I missed tea - must remember to take the travel kettle and tea bags next time, and to find some proper milk). Suppose we really ought to get up. There are things to do!

It’s a bit on the chilly side though. Would it be profligate to put the central heating on?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Greetings from Prague

I have, for the past couple of weeks, been Frannioso Busybusybusybusybusybusybusy!! I’ve had at work wall to wall teaching. When I haven’t been teaching I’ve been preparing for teaching or doing desk sessions. It’s been absolutely flat chat. Time takes on interesting properties in fortnights like that. Although each day seems to stretch interminably before you and to last for ever, in fact huge swathes of time just vanish and suddenly two weeks have gone and you don’t quite know where!

It would have been useful to have spent this weekend, as we did last, at home gently pottering in the garden and on the allotment and catching up with domestic things like clearing up and washing and ironing. However, some weeks ago, the Property Appraisal people asked me if I would join them in Prague this weekend to do some induction sessions for a new Czech cohort. They decided a couple of weeks ago that they didn’t have the numbers to run the new cohort at this time and postponed it until next year. In the meantime, I had bought tickets for The Builder and me to go and The Builder had taken Thursday and Friday off work. I spoke to Alison in our department and decided to go anyway. Never been to Prague. Seemed a fun idea. And the air tickets were non-refundable. No point wasting them.

Then the property people sent me an email asking if, since I was going to Prague anyway, I would spend an hour or two doing refresher training with last years people. Fine, said I. The only reason I’m going is because you asked me to. Don’t mind doing some teaching while I’m there.

They went completely silent. Not a peep out of them. I decided to treat it a a holiday and booked things for us to do. They formally cancelled the teaching at 17:30 last night - when I was long gone and well into holiday mode. This did not come as any surprise to me. They had kept me well informed last time. I had inferred that there was no teaching for me this time from their silence.

So. We arrived in Prague on Thursday evening and took a taxi to the hotel. The taxi fare was exactly what the people at the taxi stand had said it would be. The only problem was - the taxi driver had taken us to the WRONG Hotel Amadeus!!! We had to get another taxi to the right one! It’s a nice room we’ve got. A little sitting alcove with sofa and telly and coffee table. There’s a small kitchen sink with bar fridge and two ring electric hot plate. Alas - there is nothing to use on the hot plate. Not even a kettle. And no plates or cutlery. Not quite sure why it’s there. And the bed has to be, almost without exception, the most uncomfortable bed I can ever remember sleeping in. And two single mattresses pressed together in a frame with two single duvets would be somewhat disappointing if your primary purpose in coming to Prague had been a romantic one!

We went on a guided coach trip of Prague yesterday morning. As we set off, I was thinking that on the whole I preferred Warsaw. It’s smaller and more compact and the tourists haven’t found it properly yet so it’s not very crowded. As the morning progressed, however, it became very clear that Prague gains a great deal by not having been completely razed to the ground during WWII. It is not as dominated by depressing concrete Soviet-style 1950s and 60s apartment blocks. It is, in fact, a very pretty city. The Little Quarter, on the other side of the Charles Bridge is beautiful. I like Prague. I like it a lot. I’m not so fussed by the crowds of people, though!

The tour was very interesting. The guide ran it in English and French. I was pleased to discover that, if I concentrated, I could understand a lot of the French commentary. We had a pleasant walk around the Castle area, and saw most of the City Centre. And ended up 3 hours later in the main Town Square. Pizza for lunch (extremely nice pizza, I must say) and then we headed to the river to collect the many bridges. Including the Charles Bridge, which is ancient and beautiful - and heavily laden with tourists and street artists and jewellery stalls. We had a very nice potter around and then headed back to the hotel for a sit down and a bit of a rest before dinner.

When Roger discovered that we were coming to Prague, he recommended a couple of restaurants and a jazz club, which he and Kate had been too when they visited. The first restaurant he recommended looked to be very, very expensive, and a jazz club didn’t really appeal. But the second restaurant looked interesting and wasn’t too expensive. The Cafe Louvre. Been here since the beginning of the 20th century. Has a gallery restaurant, a cafe, a proper restaurant and a billiards room. And really, really nice food. The pork loin I had just melted as I ate it. And it wasn’t too expensive. The Builder very much enjoyed his pork tenderloin too.

And so a slow stroll back to the hotel, a couple of glasses of wine and back into our very uncomfortable bed - where we both slept right through until about an hour ago. All that walking must have worn us out!

It’s funny how quickly you get used to living in what is very nearly a smokeless society. There are ashtrays everywhere here. People smoke in the restaurants and in the hotels (the jazz club would have been unpleasantly smoky, I think). It quite shocked us when we first noticed! And nearly everybody smokes out in the street. Very few people do now, comparatively, in Britain.

The weather has been very sunny. But the wind is cold. We are glad we brought out jackets, jumpers and gloves

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Autumn is well and truly here - it's behaving a lot like winter!

We have harvested all the pumpkins. They are now chopped and in the freezer or turned into soup and in the freezer. There is one left to do.

We have also dug up the sweet potatoes. Not really an efficient return on investment, I fear. We only got a few small ones. It has to be said that they were very tasty but they were also very expensive per tuber. Next year I'll try sprouting my own slips and start much, much earlier. I think we might have got more if they had had a longer growing season.

While we were about it, The Builder dug over that greenhouse and it's now ready (more or less) for planting next spring.

We've pulled quite a bit of oxygenating weed out of the fish pond. I threw a couple of pieces in when we first got the fish and it seems to be mounting an attack on the whole world! There's almost no room for the fish!!!!!! We could probably do to get some more out before winter sets in properly. It has to be said that the water quality has been vastly improved since we got the new ultra violet thingy for the pond filter. Must remember to put a new one in next spring.

The flower garden still needs attention! I would really like to get all the stray oat plants out so I can see what needs to be done. We're still harvesting runner beans and courgettes, but it's slowing down now. We've had one of the little savoy cabbages, though - and it was absolutely lovely. Waiting for some more to be ready now. The brussels sprouts are about as big as a small pea :-( The sprout tops are flourishing but the sprouts themselves are not. I think it might have been down to the lack of sun when they were setting. But I'll leave them and see if they get any bigger. The beetroot is wonderful!

Monday, October 06, 2008

We were in Cambridge over the weekend. We went down after I finished work on Friday, and had a great trip down. I told Jennie to avoid the M1, so we did. Which meant we didn’t spend an hour or so travelling from one junction to the next. Instead we went down the A1 and had a lovely trip. We made such good time that we beat Tabitha back from her place of work!

We had gone down because we all had tickets to the Hadrian exhibition at the British Museum. It is becoming hugely expensive to take the train down from Sheffield and it is not hugely expensive from Cambridge. On this occasion , however, Gareth drove us down to outer London and we took the tube into the city. We arrived in Tottenham Court Road at around 12 and set off in search of something to eat. By a stroke of sheer good luck we found, in a little street off Tottenham Court Road, a pub called The Black Horse. I’m not sure I would necessarily be able to find it again, which would be a pity. It has rather a nice menu – but it also has a separate fish and chip menu, with a variety of different fishes to choose from, and the name of the ale they’ve put in the batter each day. I had pollack, with London Pride in the batter. And it was wonderful! Alas, Tabitha’s wish to eat gammon was thwarted by there having been no delivery on Saturday. And Gareth’s food didn’t arrive at all. Well, it did, but not until the rest of us had finished eating! We all had to have supplementary pints while we waited.

And so, to the BM to meet Hadrian. It was a very interesting exhibition, although it didn’t have the wow element that the Terracotta army had. And it was too crowded for me. The exhibition area was crammed full of people, all listening to their audio guides and focussing intently on what they were listening to and looking at. To the point that they would just walk in front of you while you were stood a bit back and looking at something or reading something. And little old ladies would dart in front of you because they couldn’t see past you – so then, of course, you couldn’t see past them! But we all enjoyed the exhibition very much, despite the crowds and the audio guide listeners!

Ran across Dan from work, while we were waiting for Gareth and Tabitha to emerge from the exhibition. Who would expect to run across someone from work in the Great Hall at the BM. Clearly – he didn’t!!

Off to Covent Garden for a visit to the Australia Shop and a hot chocolate laced with kahlua (although it was really a hot kahlua laced with hot chocolate!!) and then back to Cambridge using the tube and the car.

Now- where to go for dinner. WE had thought of the Green Dragon, but when we rang to enquire if they serve food on Saturdays they said they did, but they had a party of 30 and another party of 10 booked in and it might be a bit crowded. So we went to the Old Spring, where Gareth and his teacher mates meet for after school pints sometimes. None of us had ever eaten there, but we’re always up for an adventure. And the food was wonderful. Two excellent pub meals in a day!

Actually, make that three excellent put meals in two days. On Sunday we despatched Gareth (and John, their housemate) through torrential rain to spend the day at Forbidden Planet reading comics and playing with the sci-fi toys in the shop. They claimed they were working! Tabitha, The Builder and I were meeting Peter and Joan in the Traveller’s Rest, a beefeater pub not far from the Girton Road. It wasn’t raining quite so torrentially by half past twelve. We had a magnificent Sunday Roast and then went back to their place for a restorative cup of tea. They are both looking remarkably fit and are looking forward to their fortnight’s cruise in November (Morocco, Spain and Portugal, I think). It was good to see them. Then we took Tabitha home and made our way back to Tupton, avoiding the M1 *and* the A14 this time. We had noticed that the A14 was at a standstill as we drove over it on our way back from Girton. It was a very pretty route.

It stopped raining by the time we got to Peterborough. Tabitha reports that it stopped in Cambridge towards evening.

The Builder had given some thought to selling Uncle John last week when he was on holiday. He took it up to the van place in North Wingfield where the chap said – I’ll give you £700 for it; no I won’t I’ll give you £500 for it. I think The Builder might have been tempted by 700, but wasn’t ever going to sell it for 500, especially not when it’s probably worth about £1200-£1500. We’ve still got it. The Builder wants to put it on eBay. I’d be a bit tempted to get Nick to give it a proper going over and pay to have whatever needs repairing repaired and then to sell it when The Builder retires in a couple of years time. But he wants rid of the van and to replace it with a station wagon (estate car).

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Autumn is upon us

The tomatoes in the greenhouse have been struck with blight :-( The Builder has pulled them all. We have some in a brown paper bag, accompanied by a banana. Some of them are slowly ripening. On the other hand, the Cape Gooseberries are starting to ripen :-) I have had three so far, and there are lots more to come. The pumpkins are trundling along, though the little one seems not to be growing. Hasn’t died but is clearly not getting any bigger. We are thinking next year of growing all the cucurbits outside, and providing them with trellis to grow up. The Builder says he was watching a gardening program recently and they had a little trellis up over the sweet potatoes for the leafy bits to grow up. You can use the leaves like spinach, though we never have. I wonder if they are producing anything underneath the ground. Interestingly enough, the tomato plants (self invited) in that greenhouse do not have blight and are looking quite well.

Things are slowing down in the kitchen garden. We are still getting runner beans and zucchini, although we have not been over run with zucchini this year. The sweet corn is fantastic. There are two large cobs on each plant and they are lovely and juicy and sweet. The caterpillars are still making determined attempts at the cabbage plants, but the weather is against them now. The savoy cabbages are beginning to heart, and there are some more small caulis making an appearance. I bought some white sprouting broccoli seedlings in Wilton. Had no idea where I was going to put them, mind. But I rather like the white sprouting and we’ve got lots of green and no white. The Builder has suggested putting them where we put the first, not every successful overwintering peas last autumn. Good plan!

We have quite a lot of apples on the bramley tree. They are not quite ripe yet. The apples on the other tree were ripe and have been picked and put in the fruit bowl or in the freezer.

The flower garden desperately needs attention. When I have time, it is raining. When it isn’t raining, I am not there ;-( But I must get on and sort it and the planters out. I’ve bought some winter flowering pansy seedlings and some jonquil bulbs that I want to get into the planters, and I’ve got some hollyhocks and things that need planting in the garden before winter really kicks in.

We’re doing well, really. The freezer is nearly full of fruit and veg. There are still potatoes to sort out, pumpkins to ripen, a few beans to come from the allotment, as few more runners perhaps. The potatoes in the tub in the bottom greenhouse, which I bought to grow for Christmas, look nearly ready for harvesting. I assume, given that they should be protected from frost, slugs and other potato predators (and it is getting a bit late for blight now) in their tub in the greenhouse, that they should be able to stay in the tub until we want them. I guess we’ll find out!

I’m planning to buy a small electric propagator for next year. Get the soya beans, kidney beans, Cape Gooseberries and all the other tender little things a head start

Some six weeks ago, the landlord at the Black Dog, Barb's local, ambled off and new people took his place. Barb works there a couple of evenings a week and reported that they were very nice people and had introduced an interesting menu. Did we want to come and try it out?

But of course!

So. I made sure I didn’t have a full English Breakfast on Sunday morning. The Builder did, but he can manage a full cooked breakfast followed by a full cooked lunch, and I can’t. We wandered to Nunton, did one or two things for Gwen, popped up to the churchyard and watered the bronze chrysanthemum plant that Gwen had dropped by Mick’s grave and mooched on, with Gwen, to Wilton, where I wanted to have a gentle potter in the Garden Centre. And then we went, by the scenic route through The Woodfords (Lower, Middle and Upper – we would have been very early for our 1:30 meeting with Barb if we’d gone directly there) to Chilmark and to the Black Dog. We arrived exactly on time! Barb was waiting for us in the bar.

I am very, very glad I didn’t have a full breakfast. I probably shouldn’t have had any breakfast at all. They do offer a small adult serving, but we didn’t discover that until after we had ordered at the bar. My roast beef was lovely. The whole meal was lovely. But it was Enormous! I managed most of it. It roundly defeated Gwen. Barb managed most of hers. The Builder cleared his plate! Then we had dessert !!!!! Although mine was merely ice cream. Very nice ice cream, it must be said. Ice cream is good – it doesn’t take up very much space. It was a very successful lunch.

We took Gwen home and then made our way in a slow and leisurely manner back to Tupton, eschewing all the motorways and going more or less across country. Had a good run back. We were home in time for supper – if supper had been required. As it was, we had a packet of crisps and some biscuits each later in the evening.

The weather had been lovely all weekend. A pity it couldn’t hold for Monday – although Monday started out bright and sunny and cheerful. I did loads of washing and hung it all out. We pootled about and did useful things. We took ourselves off into Town for The Builder’s new glasses and to the post office sorting office to collect a parcel and to the Dunstan Hall garden centre for some over wintering onion sets. And then we made a quick dash home, for the clouds were coming in, dark and heavy, and the wind was picking up – and my washing in Tupton would have been oh-so nearly dry.

We got back just *this* much ahead of the storm!

Right. Expedition #1 had been successfully achieved, except that I had forgotten to take my library books with me. Didn’t stop me coming home with more, though! Expedition #2 now needed to be considered. Off we set. As we were driving up Hagg Hill, I thought to myself that I was beginning to get a bit hungry. An unexpected thought, after the food feastings of the weekend! But it was half past one and I hadn’t had anything to eat since my packet of crisps and biscuits the evening before. Lunch it was then. We called into the Telmere Arms, en route to the supermarket. The pubs are beginning to serve autumn and winter food now. Autumn and winter food is beginning to seem quite an attractive proposition. When we got home, I made a pot of pea and pork soup!

I made a pot of beetroot chutney this morning. It was still raining, in a desultory sort of a way. But I had been pondering the quantity of beetroot that is still growing in that bed and wondering what to do with it. I don’t like pickled beetroot anything like as much as fresh. While I was wondering if you can freeze it, I remembered that in the food hamper that Jeanette and Matthew gave us last Christmas, there had been a jar of beetroot chutney that I had really liked. I gave it a bash. It really is the most beautiful colour!

Then I had to come to work. My first evening duty on the new desk. So far so good – though nobody seems very sure of the closing procedures!! The Builder is on holiday this week. He brought me in. I very much hope that he is coming to pick me up as well!

The Builder and I have been wondering for some time about the lads who run The Swan @ Stoford. We have picked up snippets by keeping our ears open, but had yet to work out the landlord’s name or quite who was who – although the same lads were there most times when we were. This time, though, the landlord was missing. I mentioned to The Builder over breakfast that Stella would have had all this sussed by now, not necessarily by asking obvious questions, but somehow she would have invited them to Tell Her All. Matthew, who had told us his name when we checked in the first time, appeared to collect our breakfast plates. The Builder asked him if he was family. No, he’s not. He’s from Brisbane and Karl (Carl?) the landlord was in Munich at the Oktoberfest and he’s worked with him before and … A fine effort on the part of The Builder. Not quite yet the Stella finesse, but definitely getting there!