Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I was looking forward to a nice, peaceful quiet weekend doing very little. And more or less – I got one.

It started a bit earlier than I had been anticipating. At just before three on Friday afternoon, the fire alarm sounded. Rupert and I looked at each other, got up and picked up our coats and bags (you’re not supposed to, but they were to hand so no time was lost). The alarm stopped. Rupert and I looked at each other, shrugged, put down our bags and coats and sat down.

Thirty seconds later, the alarm went again. Exactly the same scenario played itself out. Groundhog day in miniature! Except that after we had sat down again, Rupert thought he had perhaps better go and find out what was happening.

Thirty seconds later he rang down and said that we were evacuating the students because nobody knew why the alarm had gone on and off like that and safety first was to be our watchword. I grabbed both our bags and coats and snuck up the back way to Level 4, abandoning the students to their fate.

It was complete chaos up on Level 4. Alan the security bod was announcing over the intercom that people should leave the building. Students were wandering out in a desultory sort of a way. Staff had gone out or were hanging around in the entrance lobby. Just as the building was nearly cleared, someone came in and said the alarm had been triggered (twice) by the contractors working on the lift (We’ve only had the lift a few weeks – how come it has had to have contractors working on it so often since it arrived? Doesn’t inspire confidence!)

Those in Charge decided to let the students back in. Even greater chaos as students were still trickling out but now also stampeding back in.

Eventually it was all sorted out and I decided there was no point in going back down to the office and starting again and went outside to await the arrival of The Builder and Oscar.

Saturday was a stunningly beautiful day. Absolutely glorious. Clear and blue and sunny and still. Not hot, but beautiful. We trundled off to Chatsworth (huge queues heading towards there from Sheffield and the main road from Chesterfield again – a second weekend of Christmas Markets in the Chatsworth grounds). We went to Dunstan Hall just for a mosey about. As we were driving over the hill towards Dunstan Hall and could look down into Sheffield and into Chesterfield, and could see way, way out towards the horizon, The Builder remarked on how lovely the view would be from Spitewinter. Well, by the time we’ve pootled about in the garden centre and then been to the supermarket, it will be time for lunch. Let’s go to the Three Horse Shoes and admire the view.

So we did.

They are suffering a bit with the recession, I think. It was fairly quiet for a sunny Saturday lunchtime. But they were offering a November lunchtime special of vegetable soup and roast pork with roast potatoes and all the usual stuff. So we had that. It was excellent. A few more people were trickling in as we made our way out to admire the view and head home.

A lovely and quiet afternoon and early evening, and then we headed off across country to Manchester airport. For Freyja was coming home and her plane landed about ten minutes after the last train into Manchester central departed. Seems remarkably early to me – her plane was due in at 25 past 9, which is hardly late. We stopped at the Red Lion just outside of Disley – just up from the Dog and Partridge where we met Ian’s niece when we collected him from the airport back in August. The food in the Red Lion is very much nicer.

We got to the airport, found Freyja waiting, leapt in the car and headed back to Sheffield, making extremely good time. We dropped Freyja, Bernard and Sleepy Hippo at their place and trundled back to Tupton, where we arrived to find Tabitha and Gareth in residence. We didn’t stay up until after 3am drinking wine and whisky at all, no, no, no, no. Of course we didn’t. Well, I certainly didn’t. I don’t drink whisky!!

We poured ourselves into our beds.

For some reason I slept extremely, really, very well.

Right up until The Builder sat up in bed and exclaimed: Goodness me – it’s 9:00!!!!!

Nine O’CLOCK?!?!?!?!?! Gosh. I was supposed to have breakfast ready by then Tabitha and Gareth were supposed to be dressed, fed and ready to go into Sheffield to visit Batch and his new wee kitten for 11.

It didn’t happen. Everything slipped by a couple of hours. Eventually they went to Sheffield, The Builder and I pottered gently about and did a few useful things, time passed.

Tabitha has polar bear pyjamas. I want polar bear pyjamas! She had bought hers in Primark in Cambridge. There’s a Primark in Chesterfield too. We arranged to meet them there later in the afternoon. I didn’t buy polar bear pyjamas in the end. I bought sheep ones. And some Rudolph ones. And some Christmas knickers. We all bought pyjamas. But The Builder’s aren’t as fun as mine!

Then we went home and had slow roasted shoulder of lamb followed by apple and rhubarb pie and we drank some more wine (apart from Gareth, who was driving) and then they went home and The Builder and I went to bed.

It was a lovely weekend.

And mine continued. For I had Monday off. And absolutely no plans at all.

The weather wasn’t so good, but the house was nice and cosy and the tea was plentiful and there was toast and I really did just amble through the morning, doing a very few useful things and just enjoying being At Home. Then I went. All By Myself, in The Vixen into Chesterfield. I don’t go out All By Myself very much any more. It was quite an adventure!!! Oddly, when I got to the car, I found both the front windows completely, absolutely, fully open. Just as well it hadn’t started raining before I got there. I can’t quite work out how that happened.

I had a nice wander around in Chesterfield. Went to the library, and pottered around the shops, and wandered around the town centre. Then I went to Sainsbury’s – for some reason we were completely out of wine. The Sidings was a Wine-Free Zone. I can’t remember that ever happening before!!!! Then I went home, the back way just for fun, and made stew and dumplings and read recipe books and slowly drifted into the late afternoon.

Then The Builder dashed home and dashed almost straight out again. He had an appointment at the surgery at 4:45 for the doctor to look at the manky rash he’s had on his arms and legs. He was gone for simply AGES! Eventually he came back to report that the doctor was pleased with progress, had written him a prescription for yet more slippy unguents, and that he had been gone for so long because, although the receptionist had SAID 4:45, she had put him in the slot for 5:45!!

We have a pharmacy in Tupton. It arrived a couple of weeks ago. It’s where the smaller of the village shops was. And the butcher, which closed last summer after a fire (which was about the time the (contiguous) village store disappeared) came back at about the same time that the pharmacy appeared. We are quite well-appointed for a not terribly huge village. Butcher, pharmacy, fish and chip shop, grocers with Post Office attached, two pubs actually in the village and another one on the main road, coffee shop, a couple of mechanics, and a surgery. Plus a junior school - and a middle school and another shop, but they are dotted about slightly further afield. Apart from a branch library, there’s not much missing!

The Builder has bought me a new Le Creuset casserole. It’s HUGE! What shall I cook in it to inaugurate it?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

And what did we do?

We pottered.

We got up late and tootled around and tidied up and meandered a bit and had beans and egg on toast. We contemplated the garden and drank coffee and thought about things.

We drove to Chatsworth (which was once again very, very crowded - but at least we got a parking space) and went home Another Way because the queues getting in to Chatsworth from Sheffield and Chesterfield were enormous. Not that we fgo through Chesterfield to get to the shop, but we would have had to join the queue for a brief period to get back on to our road. The queues heading to Chatsworth on the Chesterfield road stretched for miles and miles and miles!!

We got home. Now, we could have done some useful things. We could have got into the garden, or onto the allotment or all sorts of things. Instead I thought: It's a lovely afternoon. There isn't anything really pressing we need to achieve. There's nothing we absolutely have to do. Let's put on our wellies and go and see what the highland cows are doing on the wetlands. So we did. It was a lovely stroll. Haven't been through the reserve for simply ages. It was distinctly muddy, though, especially on the bit where the path goes through a field! I had to jump in a rather large puddle once we got to the playing fields to clean my boots. Jumping around, I liberated a golf ball :-) Gave The Builder positively minutes of pleasure kicking it about, it did!

Got home. Pottered about a bit more. Had roast pork for dinner. Pootled a tad more, and then to bed.

A lovely, lazy Sunday. I thoroughly enjoyed it

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I spent most of Friday evening and yesterday morning baking. Alas, the oven was in something of a strop on Friday evening and seemed to be cooking the cakes too fast. My madeira cake was not fit for human consumption :-( The meringues were, though. It was happier yesterday morning and turned out some lovely stuff.

The dining room table was positively groaning with afternoon tea goodies by 2pm. There were: chocolate cake, lemon drizzle cake, sultana cake. There were also raspberry meringues and shortbread biscuits in the shapes of little girls, little boys, stars and flowers. I put mandarins dotted about the table and there were tea cups, a teapot, plates and pretty things. I really should have taken a photo of it, but didn't think about it until just now!

To our tea party came Julia from work and her little boy Jacob. Rupert from work came too. So did Bea and Steve. Julia's husband and little girl couldn't come because Abigail has a horrid cold. And Paul from work and his wife couldn't come because they've been very busy for the past couple of weeks and Morag fancied a day at home. She is clearly not a dedicated cake eater - I've have postponed a day at home for the opportunity of cake!!

We had tea and coffee and fruit juice and wine to drink. I ate lots and lots of cake and biscuits. Probably more than I've eaten for most of the rest of the year!

Then everyone went home and The Builder and I had fish and chips for dinner and went to bed.

Got up late this morning. Had a lovely, lazy lie in drinking tea and watching the orange men on the railway.

Now - what shall we do for the rest of the day ... ?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Vale Uncle John

I've had my last ride in Uncle John.

Yesterday, we went into work, as normal, riding in Uncle John.

After work, I dashed to the bank to collect £2500 (I had to have a secret code word and everything; it was all very exciting!). In a manner befitting all good Cold War spies, it was handed over in a plain, brown paper envelope and I burie
d it right at the very bottom of my basket, with my diary, a newspaper and my lunch boxes and things on top.

I met The Builder and Uncle John in the usual place and we came home. My last ride ever in Uncle John.

The Builder went around to Nick The Mechanic and handed over the money. Nick The Mechanic fixed the dodgy brake lights for the last time ever. The Builder and Uncle John came home.

At some point before he went home, Nick the Mechanic moved the new car down to where The Vixen was parked.

This morning we left about 15 minutes earlier than usual. The Builder drove Uncle John to where he works.
I drove The Vixen to where he works. Then The Builder drove me to work and then headed back to his kitchen installation.

This evening, The Builder drove me home in The Vixen and Uncle John went to his new home where there are children and bicycles for him to play with. I hope he will be happ
y there.

Tomorrow we go to work for the first time in the new car. It's a Proton Gen 2 or some such. I think its name is Oscar. Its letters are YNJ which, apparently, is shorthand in America for You're Not Joking (would be kidding here). This means it is clearly a very earnest car. Which brings to mind The Importance Of ... Which brings Oscar Wilde to mind. I wo
ndered why it was telling me so firmly that it was called Oscar!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

News Flash

The Builder may have sold Uncle John. One of the plasterers where he works has offered to take it. The builder offered it to him for the same amount that he turned the garage down for. But he's a mate, so you would.

Suggestions for a name for the red proton, YNJ, gratefully received

Monday, November 10, 2008

Well goodness. We actually managed to get into the garden on Sunday morning. The Builder has pulled up the runner bean plants, the sweet corn and the courgette and chopped them up for the compost heap. He also planted the new asparagus crowns which arrived during the week and cut down the fronds of the spring planted plants. We need to manure that bed now.

In the meantime, I've planted out the garlic cloves, in between the cabbage rows. My one little cauli is looking very sorry for itself. I'm hoping that the others will flower in due course and not go quite so brown and squidgy before I get a chance to pick them! The cabbages are doing well. And the tiny, tiny sprouts are finally starting to grow. A bit. They're about the size of a small little finger fingernail now!!

The Builder has now boarded up the front of the third greenhouse where the ground drops away at the bottom, so it's now fairly draught-proof. Barb sent us a small orange tree for our joint Christmas present a couple of weeks ago. We've now planted that at the back of the greenhouse, next to the kiwifruit vine. I might plant the Cape Gooseberries in there next year too. A Fruit Greenhouse :-)

While all this was going on, I made a start on clearing the flower beds. Most of the oats are now gone, I've pruned the lavender, rosemary and hyssop. I didn't get to do any proper weeding, though. The rain came in before I had chance. Perhaps next Sunday! I have planted up two more planters with pansies and jonquils for out the front, and a couple of small tubs for by the back door. I've also got some pansies in one of the hanging baskets and some primroses in the other.

The Builder made a brave dash to the allotment before it went dark in the afternoon. Alas - the capsicums had gone soft and the beans had wilted. There were a few Cape Gooseberries but that was all. I shall start all the beans and things off earlier next year, I think. I am tempted to buy a small heated propagator so I can get the seeds set in January or February. No need for them to be planted out then, but if we have a late summer and an early winter there isn't time for things to mature properly. (Memo to self: Do NOT be tempted by gorgeous spring weather to plant things out to early. It nearly always leads to disaster!!)
We made an attempt to go shopping at the Chatsworth Farm Shop on Saturday. We trundled off after a bit of domestic activity (washing, ironing, tickling the cat, that sort of thing), perhaps a little later than we had really intended (This might have had something to do with the fact that I didn't get up until after 9, and The Builder not until close to ten). As we were heading over the hill towards Beeley, I decided that I was feeling a tad on the hungry side. That might have been because it was then nearly half past one and I hadn't had anything to eat yet! We stopped at the Devonshire Arms in Beeley for a bite of lunch.

Fortified, we trundled on. Got to the Farm Shop - to find that there was not one single parking space available. Not one!!!! And to cap it off, as we were discussing what to do , a coach appeared and disgorge a coach load of happy shoppers.

We decided to defer the shopping!

Well, the Farm shop shopping at any rate. Let's do Garden Centre shopping instead. So we went to Dunstan Hall and pottered about there for a while.

Right. Off we go to B&Q. We want a rubbish bin with a lid to keep the plastic recycling in. The council doesn't collect plastic and we take it to the supermarket every couple of weeks or so. Alas, the box we keep it in tends to fill up with rain. A bin with a lid seems to be the way to go. B&Q is not the way to go, though. They sell bins and lids separately (!!!!!!!). Would cost about £20. Just for a bin with a lid!!! So we went to Dunhelm Mill instead and found one there for £7. So we bought two.

There were lots and lots of police vehicles and police officers around the football ground as we went past on our way to B&Q. Lots! As we were heading home again, many of those police vehicles came racing down from the football ground sirens blaring, lights flashing, rushed around the roundabout - and lots and lots of police officers leapt out and positively ran into the KFC. Must be hungry work guarding the football ground!

It's hungry work watching them too. We went home and had a sausage casserole with mashed potato and felt much better for it!

(And I have no idea why the police were really rushing in force into the KFC. I assume not because they were hungry!)

We got up earlier on Sunday, not least because the weather man had almost suggested that there might be a couple of dry hours early-ish on Sunday morning. And there were!!! We went out almost as soon as it had got light and dashed about doing garden things, until driven back inside a couple of hours later by darkening clouds and the beginning of some drizzle which rapidly turned to purposeful rain. So we made a second attempt at Chatsworth. There weren't very many parking spaces, but there were some. I think many of the people from the cars might have been in the restaurant for lunch because the shop was busy but not unnervingly so. Then we went to the supermarket for a few odds and ends, then into Chesterfield town centre so I could take some books back to the library. For reasons which are not particularly clear to me, the Chesterfield library is open on Sundays from the beginning of October until Christmas. Opening the library on Sunday doesn't seem odd. It's very useful for people like me. But why only for three months of the year? The Builder suggests that it might be because people have more time to read over the winter - but then you'd think the library would be open on Sundays until the end of February. Strange.

Last week, I made an attempt at curing a ham, using a variant of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's suggested recipe. It turned out quite well, though I wasn't much fussed by the vinegary taste to it. I also tried to cure some pork belly to use as bacon. The Builder tried it on Saturday and said it was a bit salty and a bit fatty but otherwise was perfectly acceptable. Then I found on a blog that I read an alternative cure for bacon with much less salt, and no vinegar. So we bought a pork loin (small!!) on Sunday and I'm attempting to cure that. This could be quite fun, trying lots of different ham and bacon cures. I might even make some up myself. I don't need to worry about using much salt because I'm not curing it with a view to keeping the meat. That's what the freezer is for! But if I strike a cure that we both really like - it's a good bit cheaper than buying ham and very considerably cheaper than buying ham or bacon slices. I might even be able to produce a Christmas ham :-)

The Builder bought a new car over the weekend. WEll - new to him at least. It's to replace the van. Poor old Uncle John is to be shoved onto eBay in the hope someone will come and take him away and is to be replaced by a red Proton, 2005 registration, probably next weekend. At least, the proton will arrive next weekend. I don't know when Uncle John will move on

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I am beginning to think that both the Weather Dogs AND the Traffic Dogs are either distinctly p*ssed off about something, or they're in a decidedly capricious mood.

The weather is grey, misty, foggy, damp, wet, gloomy and looks set to stay that way indefinitely. I don't generally mind much what the weather does, but I really want to do some outdoor things and can't get out to do them. And the weather for bonfire night last evening was absolutely dismal. I'm very glad I wasn't planning to have a bonfire or fireworks last night. If I had been, I'd have been tempted to postpone it. This might have been the Weather Dogs being capricious rather than grumpy.

But as for the Traffic Gods, goodness only knows what's rattled their cage! We were peacefully making our way home last night, even making quite good time. Got to the big roundabout in Chesterfield - and everything ground to a complete halt. I had a supermarket delivery scheduled for between 7 and 8. I was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to get home at all, and completely despairing of getting there in time for the delivery. The A61 was closed. Again. But this time heading south, out of Chesterfield. All the traffic was diverted towards Hasland, then through Grassmoor. Then the delivery man rang at half past six, as we were passing through Grassmoor, to say he had arrived early and did we want our groceries early. Yes. Stay where you are. We'll be there shortly.

It was BEDLAM on Bridge Street. The Builder dropped me off and went around the block so he could back the van into the driveway - to find the road to North Wingfield past the chip shop was also closed and traffic was being diverted onto Ward Street and then onto Bridge Street. It took him simply ages to get the van in - the delivery van was blocking one bit of road. A car was parked on the double yellow lines on the other side of the road, and diverted traffic was heading in both directions. Bridge Street is often busier than you might expect for a village through-road, but I don't remember ever having seen it quite so chaotic before.

Marlo and I made sure a vodka and tonic was waiting to be put into The Builder's hand as he walked, eventually, through the door!

Any suggestions on how to appease the Traffic Dogs gratefully received.

I have taken my "ham" and "bacon" out of the curing mix. They've been soaking in fresh water overnight. And now they're in the fridge, waiting to be properly cooked. We may well have ham for dinner tonight. Maybe with chips. We also have another pot of soup. Beef, bean and vegetable this time. I am waiting patiently for it to be lunchtime so I can have some. It is very definitely beef and vegetable soup weather today!

Early November report

We had three or four nights very sharp frost at the end of October. Killed the courgette plant and the runner beans stone dead! So that's the end of that for this season. Must be said, though, that despite The Builder's protestations that we didn't have enough runner bean plants and that we were never going to have enough beans - I now have a freezer which is half filled with bags of beans! Not all that many courgettes though. Perhaps we didn't have enough courgette plants!!

Fortunately, I managed to get the sweet corn in before the frosts. I don't think that I'll do a second planting next year. The first lot I put in fruited magnificently. The second lot (planted within the time suggested, but about three weeks later) didn't have time to mature properly before the weather turned. Granted, that was quite early this year - but I think I'll just plant the lot out all at the same time next year. The corn was quite happy sitting on the plant until I wanted it.

The Builder planted out some autumn planting onions a couple of weeks ago. They have now started to grow. We haven't yet managed to get the garlic in, though. Might need to go out in my rain kit this weekend and do it in the rain, or there will be no garlic next year ;-(

The weather since the frosts has been horrible. Misty and foggy and grey and damp and wet. We haven't got to the allotment for two weeks now (and it's not looking hopeful for this weekend either). This is irritating because not only are there Cape Gooseberries in the greenhouse, there are also capsicums. And, although I got the (very few) soya beans in before the frost, I didn't get the kidney beans and there were quite a lot of them. I assume the plants are now frosted to death, but the beans would be salvageable, if only I could get there!

And we STILL haven't got into the flower garden. It is looking very seriously neglected :-( And The Builder wants to dig over some of the veg beds and manure them, and that isn't happening either

We bought some planters for the front of the house last Saturday. By dint of working in the greenhouse at the bottom of the garden, I have now got them planted up with winter pansies and jonquil bulbs. There are a few bulbs and pansies left, and a bit of space along the front of the house. I think we might buy another couple of planters - and perhaps some more plants then I can do the hanging baskets as well.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

We had a lovely and peaceful Saturday, we did.

The weather wasn’t entirely delightful. We had been hoping to get into the garden and do a few, autumnal things, but the weather wasn’t really encouraging.

So we pottered about, and went to Chatsworth and Bakewell, and pottered about, and had lunch at the Three Merry Lads, and pottered about, and went to the garden centre and supermarket, and pottered about some more.

Mind you, I was fairly productive as well over the weekend. I’ve made and steamed two Christmas puddings. (The first one was well and truly steamed – I went to bed on Saturday night having forgotten all about it. Woke up with a start at about 3 am, having suddenly remembered it. Fortunately, it was in a stock pot with an extremely well-fitting lid and there was plenty of water left in there. But it was steamed for close to twelve hours. Hope it’s ok!). I made a large pot of pea soup. I did all the washing and all the available ironing and cleared up a bit and sorted some things out. And I’ve made up a curing mix, using a variant of a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe. I figure if you can use beer as part of your curing mix, then you can probably use cider instead. And if you can use malt vinegar, then cider vinegar is probably just as good. And I’ve got a small pork loin joint covered with the cure in a plastic box in the bottom of the fridge, in the hope that it might turn into a nice ham. I had a bit of the cure left, so I’ve put that with some belly pork strips in another plastic box in the hope that might turn into something you could use as bacon. Though I must find a proper bacon cure.

That was all fun.

Sunday was fun too, though the weather was, if anything, worse. We dropped by at Freyja’s place to deliver a play station from Taffa, plus some Aussie dollars, our bathroom scales, a universal adapter – and our spare, pay a you go mobile phone. Freyja’s phone still hasn’t reappeared from its adventure, and we have a pay as you go phone from when The Builder’s phone went missing and we needed a cheap, temporary replacement. It won’t work in Japan, but it should work in Oz and certainly works here and is at least *a* means of communication. The number, if you should wish to contact her once she hits Oz is +447964532695. I put it onto my Facebook page – and caused Tabitha deep confusion by inadvertently putting up my mobile number instead of Freyja’s!!! I think Tabitha thought I’d sent my phone a-travelling with Freyja. As if I would willingly be separated from it for a whole three weeks!!!!!

We went from Freyja’s place to Paul and Carol’s, where we had a lovely afternoon eating and drinking and chatting and generally having a good time. They both seem very well. The food was lovely. So was the wine. Walter the cat was very pleased to see us. We caught up on all the news – I didn’t think there would be all that much news; we last saw them at Taffa and Gaz’s wedding, which wasn’t all that long ago. But there was some. Including the information that Simon was living on his own in East Melbourne. That juicy little nugget had completely passed them by!

As you see, a lovely and peaceful weekend. I didn’t manage to get the house cleaned, but I don’t suppose anyone is going to die because of that.

The weather continues to be dreary. It’s proper November weather now, rather than a preview of January or February. Misty, not all that cold, drizzly, damp. I might buy some candles and some fairy lights for the dining room.

I was peacefully in the office yesterday, talking to Rupert and Gavin and Paul, when all of a sudden – the lights went out, the computers went off, the air conditioning hum faded. Power gone! Power gone not just to the Adsetts Centre, not just the most of the SHU buildings in the city centre, but to the city centre itself. Somebody decided to evacuate the students (it mercifully wasn’t drizzling at the time!). I’m not absolutely sure why because the emergency lights were still on and it wasn’t management who asked us to get them out. In the meantime, staff made their way to Level 4 and just kind of hung about. Lasted for just over an hour and then abruptly came back. Some sort of problem on Leopold Street, I believe. Was nice to see the building all lit up again. And at least the servers are now isolated from these sorts of events – they were trundling along quite happily somewhere and wren’t even a little bit put out when the power came back!

Freyja left on her adventures very, very early on Monday morning (there is a random train which passes through Sheffield to Manchester airport at 03:45. The station is closed at that time in the morning – you have to alert the security people inside to be let in!). She has now arrived in Tokyo.