Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Monday, April 27, 2009

We had a very productive weekend in the garden and on the allotment.

I've sown another four rows each of broad beans and peas on the allotment and planted 30 brassica seedlings that I bought in the Chesterfield market between the broad bean rows. The original sowings of peas and beans are now up and growing nicely. The ones from just before Easter are now coming through.There are another two beds ready for planting but more digging needs to be done! One of the allotmenteers is proposing to put a beehive up there. That will be extremely useful.

I planted the potatoes in the kitchen garden. I put 5 potatoes in each row and lightly pressed them in, then hilled them up. It's raining today. I have an uneasy feeling the hills may wash back down into the valleys and I might need to go out and put them in a bit deeper! I have 20 seed potatoes left and nowhere to put them!

We are eating lettuce thinnings in our lunches.

And I've planted out the sweet peas. They looked as though they were getting impatient to be put out. But focus - the mornings have been frosty. Don't go mad and put out the kidney beans!!

I did have a nice plan of which potatoes were to go where, but I've lost it. So, for my information, here's what eventually went where:

Bed 1

Bed 2

Bed 3

Bed 4


Lady Balfour

Shetland Black



Lady Balfour

Shetland Black




Royal Kidney

Dunbar Rover



Royal Kidney

Dunbar Rover

Lady Christl


Royal Kidney

Skerry Blue

Lady Christl


Royal Kidney

Skerry Blue

Mr Little’s Yetholm Gypsy

Mr Little’s Yetholm Gypsy

Highland Burgundy Red

Highland Burgundy Red

And in the trapezoid bed along the fence:

Belle de Fontenay Sante Pink Fir Cara
Belle de Fontenay Sante Pink Fir Cara
Belle de Fontenay
Belle de Fontenay

Oh - and exciting news: the asparagus is back! All ten of the spring planted plants have re-emerged. So far there's no sign of the autumn planted ones but no doubt they'll be along in time. We can't eat them this year though. Nothing until next year, and even then only a light picking

We've just bought a bathroom!

It’s amazing how silently £2760 moves out of your bank account. Hand over your piece of plastic and lo – it’s gone! Just like that.

I don’t suppose the arrival of the bathroom fittings will be anything like as silent or as quick. It’s all coming on Friday. Must arrange to get the day off work.

And we are hugely grateful to the nice lady in The Bathstore who alerted us to the 20% off sale which was starting on Saturday. Not everything we wanted was covered, but quite a lot was. Saved us around £500. And one of The Builder’s plumber mates and his apprentice are coming to fit the stuff next weekend. So The Builder has been having a merry time knocking the tiles off the walls (an experience enlivened by the discovery that the tiles are actually stuck on top of what we take to be the original, late Victorian tiles), removing the shower recess, chopping and chipping things – and discovering that there is a sizeable hole behind the bath which may explain why sometimes lots of water cascades down into the kitchen. Showering is becoming something of a challenge!

As I was coming out of the hairdresser’s on Saturday morning, I suddenly decided that the day would be much improved by the application of a bacon sandwich and a hot chocolate. I summoned The Builder and met him in the coffee shop. Chatting to Julie, whose coffee shop it is, we made the discovery that there is a small piggery attached to the farm and they now make their own bacon and sausages. In fact, it was their bacon we were having on our breakfast sandwiches. And extremely nice bacon it was too. I *thought* I could occasionally smell piggies but had no idea there was a piggery anywhere near us. I must email them and see if they’ll sell me half a pig. Preferably one that is already butchered. I also bought a packet of bacon and some sausages from the coffee shop. We had bacon sandwiches for breakfast again yesterday. And will have the sausages tonight.

It was absolute bedlam in Chesterfield on Saturday. I have no idea why. But it took nearly 15 minutes queuing to get OUT of the multi-storey car park! And the roads were almost at a standstill.

I’ve put us back on the alcohol wagon. Target now is either August 1st or a waistline of 85cm (for me – The Builder wouldn’t look at all well with a waistline of 85cm!!) whichever comes first. But with dispensations for weekends away. I can’t see a weekend away at an agricultural show in June with Bea and Steve being anything other than an off the wagon weekend!!

I woke up at 3:30 this morning with a massive coughing fit. I should think it stirred most of Tupton. It certainly woke The Builder up. I'm slightly achey now. And very tired. and sort of glumpy. I don't have swine flu - I haven't been anywhere near Mexico, ever. But there would be something of an irony if I have to miss my Wellness MOT tomorrow cos I'm off sick!!!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My first Japanese Class

So. I rocked up to my first Japanese class. Found the Hunloke Community Centre. Was a nice ten minute or so drive from home. Found my way in. Found the classroom. There were a few amiable oldies waiting patiently and a couple of younger people who obviously knew each other.

The teacher turned up.

Then – a whole gaggle of younger (ie, in their 20s or so) people frolicked in, chattering gaily amongst themselves. They greeted the two other younger people and the teacher and all sat down.

The teacher looked very worried.

“There seem to be 18 people,” she said. “We have a maximum class limit of 15”.

I thought this was a bit odd. Evening Class teachers don’t usually worry about this sort of thing. The more the merrier, within reason, usually.

Then she started telling us about what we would be doing.

Now, I was expecting a nice gentle evening class. Amiable Oldies learning how to chat a little in Japanese. I was not expecting to find myself in what was a mid-point extension class for a bunch of students doing the equivalent of an A-level or VCE subject. The younger ones had been doing intensive classes for the previous 15 weeks with lots of assessment and stuff. I was emphatically not expecting to find myself thinking about Learning Outcomes and Formative Assessment. They had done the speaking and listening stuff, were poised to take up the reading and writing elements in September and were having a ten week run to consolidate and prepare. So not so much evening classes as Adult Education!

The teacher went away to sort out the numbers.

She came back, with the administrator. They were clearly worried. We had three more students than we were allowed to have (this made more sense in the context of council run adult education provision!)

I don’t know how they resolved the matter. I decided that it was clearly not fair to deprive one of the continuing students of their place given that I didn’t want to do an A Level equivalent in Japanese, didn’t especially want to learn to read it and wouldn’t be going on to the rest of the formal course in September. I went away and went home to continue my evening studies in wine consumption!

There is a place in Sheffield where I can do gentle Japanese with amiable oldies. I did Italian there for years. I’ll follow it up for the new academic year in September. But it’s a pity – I was hoping to find something closer to home where I could meet a few of the locals!

Taffa has a new job! She’s going to be a staff trainer for the Cambridge branch of Sainsbury’s. She’s very excited. All the bits of staff management that she really enjoys without any of the yucky bits. She's also a bit surprised. She was told by email yesterday morning that she hadn't got it - only about half an hour after the interview. So she was mightily confused when they rang her with congratulations this morning!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The first sowings of broad beans and peas are now up. This coming weekend I intend to put in a third sowing. The Builder has been digging up the next two beds ready for ongoing sowing. I've bought extra supplies of seed so there should be plenty.

The various bean seeds have now germinated, except for the soya beans which have done nothing. I'll have another go, and then buy a new packet. I don't think soya seeds last long! I've potted on 17 beans plants. They've moved from the greenhouse to the propagating tent. And I am not going to put them on the allotment until the second May bank holiday weekend, at the very earliest (and it won't be that weekend anyway; we're away - and anyway - there isn't a bed dug for them yet!!). The lettuce seedlings are now at a point where I can start thinning them and eat the thinnings. I'm not sure they're ever going to get big enough to heart though. We may just eat the thinnings!!! Also, I've put into seed trays: Roma and cherry tomatoes and capsicums; courgettes, ghostrider pumpkins, jack be little pumpkins and sunflowers; celery; romanesco seeds. The last lot of romanesco all germinated beautifully, started to grow and then all abruptly died. Don't know why. The radish seedlings appear to be doing a similar thing!

The tulips are starting to flower. The fruit trees are in blossom, so are all the shrubs and canes. The grape vines are in bud but not yet in flower or leaf. And the kiwifruit is back in leaf - it tried about a month ago then was hit by a hard frost, even though it is in the greenhouse!

And the days are starting to be warm and sunny. The nights remain cold and occasionally frosty.

So far - so good!


I have looked Polperro and its traffic restrictions up. The no unauthorised access doesn't come into effect until the end of April. Phew!! (But the no parking is year round - and I have to say that you can clearly see why)

And The Builder rang Jeanette last evening and spoke to both Mike and Rosie who happened to be visiting. Mike didn't have another heart attack. They think he's OK for the moment but he has to take things very gently until his next appointment with his cardiologist. I'm not sure if he'll be allowed to go haring about after seeing the medic, but not even lolloping until then!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Normal service is resumed

So here we are, home again. What to do on the last two days of freedom before we both return to work?

We could try and fix the bathroom. Freyja has broken it!!!!!! She rang while we were away and said that the bath tap was running in a determined and not to be argued with sort of a way. I told her to turn it off as much as she could and we would sort it out when we got back. In a burst of Herculean strength, she ripped the cold tap right off. I wasn't unduly worried about this. I thought it had merely fallen off and could easily be put back. But no. Sheared right away is what it was! It can't be put back.

This leaves us with no effective shower, although given that it is a combination boiler which provides hot water on demand, it is possible to have the water running at an appropriate temperature without needing to use the cold water. I do this sometimes. The Builder, however, does not.

So we took ourselves off to the Bathstore to have a proper look at costings for the stuff we want to get for the bathroom. It's eye wateringly expensive, but we have saved (and inherited :-) ) very nearly enough and can certainly raise the rest. And if you are going to go to all the expense, trouble and chaos of putting in a new bathroom, you might just as well get the stuff you want. I didn't go for the cast iron feet option for the new bath, mind you!! Then we went to Chatsworth in search of some vegetables, some meaty supplies (completely unnecessary I found, when I went to put it in the very-nearly-full freezer!) and some lunch.

Chatsworth was much too full to provide lunch! So we went to the Three Horseshoes instead. And found that very nearly as full‼‼ They were hosting a baptismal party. Fortunately, they had some spare tables in the side room. They also had the carvery open. So we had a completely unexpected Sunday lunch on a Saturday.

One of the advantages of having spent the week trundling along minute Cornish roads is that the road between Beeley and the Darley Dale Road, which always seems to me to be unnecessarily narrow and winding, seemed positively highway-like on Saturday‼ I hardly gripped the hand rail at all :-p

The weather was lovely over the weekend. The Builder got up to the allotment and carried on digging. I went on an inspection tour and then came back to the house. The other excitement of the week just gone was that we inadvertently gave Freyja a key to the front door, which was blocked with pot plants, and not to the back door, where she could have got in and out quite easily. This led to quite a merry time for her when she tried to get in the first night she was staying at our place! It also meant that she shifted all the pot plants out of the doorway when it became clear that we didn’t have a spare set of keys for the back door lying about anywhere (although – we should have; I wonder where they have gone). This meant that I could now see quite how manky the porch had become after very nearly three years of having pot plants sat in it. I’ve cleaned it. And washed the door. And severely irritated three spiders and a beetle which were quite happily living in the porch.

I’ve found alternative homes for the pot plants. I think I might buy a mat for the porch and leave it so that people can get in should the need arise. Although – preferably not burglars!

We had lunch sat outside on the patio.

We pottered in the garden.

We had a lazy-ish afternoon (although The Builder did do some more digging).

And now we are back at work. And, although I don’t know how busy The Builder has been this morning – it’s been very busy in the Adsetts Centre. It’s the first day of the summer term. There are dissertation deadlines at the end of this week and next. The network is being very stroppy (it wouldn’t let me log in at all this morning – fortunately, I had brought my Mac in with me, something I very seldom do but I thought I might get some of my photos sorted at lunchtime. My Mac is more than happy to talk to the University wireless network :-) ). Consequently, printing is being stroppy. It’s pretty much bedlam out there.

A little before Easter, I was looking on the Derbyshire County website to see if they offered yoga or tai chi classes in the evening anywhere even close to Tupton. They don’t really, or at least, not ones that would be convenient. But I did find something else, at the Hunloke Community Centre, which is a mere spit away from the house. So tomorrow evening – I am off to my very first evening class in ……….. beginners Japanese‼‼‼ I must remember to go :-S

There is now English asparagus in the shops. And Jersey Royal potatoes. I love late April.

Anyone got a plumber they can lend us for a weekend? We've got a bathroom coming that needs fitting

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel, Polperro, Mevagissey

So. What shall we do on our last day?

We consult the map.

Let's go to Polperro along country lanes and hunt for smugglers.

So that's what we did.

On the way, we saw signs to Restormel Castle, which was one of the places we had considered going when we were checking out the EH and NT handbooks. Restormel is an EH property. We had our membership cards. The day was pleasantly sunny. So we called in. And had a lovely walk around the castle. Nearly lost Bernard, though. I was carrying their basket up the stairs to the top walkway, when he randomly jumped out of the basket. I nearly fell down the steps trying to catch him!!

The Builder was reading the guidebook. "Look," said he. "There's a beautiful Tudor Bridge somewhere around here. I wonder where it is." I didn't know. And the guide book didn't tell us. But the very helpful EH man knew - and did tell us. It's in the centre of Lostwithiel. Off we went to find it. It's a splendid addition to my bridge collection!

And so, on to Polperro in search of the smugglers. Along very narrow, very, very narrow, supremely narrow lanes. It was quite a challenge just passengering. The poor Builder had to concentrate mightily. Eventually, we ended up behind a tractor pulling a trailer which **JUST** fitted between the walls and hedges. A couple of cars joined our little convoy. There really was quite a lot of traffic to say we were out in the middle of nowhere on a laneway! And you have to feel exceptionally sorry for the car coming in the other direction that encountered us all. There were no passing places. It was obvious the tractor couldn't reverse (And very glad we were that it didn't try our we would have been squashed first!). The luckless driver had to reverse ever so, ever so slowly and then back into a farm gateway.

On we proceeded. Until we finally reached Polperro (having lost the tractor en route) only to see a sign as we drove past which said" Authorised Traffic only" between certain dates and certain times. Only - we didn't see what the times and dates were :-S We did see the sign that said that there was no streetside parking ever. And we did notice that the sharp, left hand bend as we got into Polperro was not designed with cars in mind! And, as you head out on the main road there is an ENORMOUS sign which says what the access restrictions are and which you couldn't possibly miss (although I couldn't read it properly, it being behind me on the way out!!). It's attached to a huge car park which clearly says: leave your car here!

I think it is highly unlikely that we were in an authorised vehicle. However, by the time we had got past the little sign on the back entrance to Polperro, there was no possibility of turning around. And even if we had been able to turn round, we would still have had traffic coming down the road behind us. There really was no option but to continue. But we didn't hang around once we got out, lest men in uniforms come and beat us about our thighs with batons. We headed along the MAIN ROADS to Mevagissey for a calming lunch. And, for the first time since we arrived in Cornwall, the chips were not a disappointment. A pity then that I had ordered something with new potatoes because all the previous chips had been very disappointing indeed!!!! (It's ok, though. The story has a happy ending. The Builder gave me half his chips in exchange for half my new potatoes :-) )

I bought two new cotton jumpers in a beach stall near the Mevagissey car park. They are very cheerful.

And that was our last day in Cornwall. We ate the seafood thermidor and the Padstow seafood. We drank the wine. We went to bed.

And then we came home, along the North Cornwall and Devon coast. We had intended to come up through Chepstow and Ludlow, but it took much longer to get to the M5 along the coast roads than we had really expected. And the M5 was very busy. And the weather was closing in. We decided to leave Wales for another day and headed home along the A38.

It was a lovely holiday, but it went very quickly. And it was one of the first holidays I've ever had where I have been aware from the very beginning just how short the time was. I think it's because we went on a Friday and usually we go on Saturday. I was exceedingly aware from when we first arrived that we didn't have the following Friday to play with. Well - not if we wanted to get home in time for dinner!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I’m in the loungeroom of the cottage listening to Stephen Fry on Radio 4 doing an obit for Clement Freud. I have coffee and a Very Large Cat. The Builder is still in bed. It’s drizzling and misty outside and there will, when I can be bothered doing them, be sausage and tomatoes and eggs on toast for breakfast. We are pondering the idea of lunch in the seafood restaurant in Mevagissey but otherwise thinking of a quiet day doing not very much. There will be a seafood thermidor for dinner tonight, accompanied with scallops and prawns, all of which I bought in Rick Stein’s deli yesterday. An ideal sort of day, really (well, apart from the need for an obit for Clement Freud). A pity it’s our last day. We head home tomorrow.

Cookie has gone upstairs to inspect The Builder! He’s a huge, enormous cat and has only three legs. I know I have had a cat with three leg who seemed not to be impeded at all by the lack of one. But Giles wasn’t anything like as huge as Cookie. And Cookie’s leg was amputated at the thigh where Giles had a (very painful when he landed on your leg with it) stump. It takes Cookie some effort to get up the stairs. Always excepting yesterday when someone’s car alarm went off and he was up the stairs from a sleeping on the sofa start in microseconds! He also has no trouble getting into the cottage when the bottom part of the stable-style door is shut. He just jumps in. Sounds like a hippo trying to get in!! And he’s in now because he could hear me moving about downstairs and he banged on the door until I let him in!!!

If you happen to have a large, disused clay pit and are wondering what you should do with it, filling it with gigantic greenhouses made with huge hexagons, a visitor centre, lots of plants, walkways ad sculptures would be a very innovative and probably lucrative venture. We had a lovely few hours at just such a venture yesterday. The Eden Project. Mostly indoors, inside the biomes, but also lots of walkways and gardens outside. I particularly enjoyed the rainforest biome - although it was a bit hot for someone who was wearing a jumper and a raincoat! They have mango trees and banana plants and waterfalls and all sorts. And very pretty little green birds there to eat the insects. There are also supposed to be lizards and frogs but we didn’t see those. There is a mediterranean dome which covers not just actual mediterranean plants but also plants from similar climates such as California and South Africa. There were huge numbers of tulips! But it was quite crowded - which was not really surprising given that we were there on a wet day during the Easter holidays! The queues in the eateries were rather long. We went for a stroll in the outside gardens in an interlude between the showers, and then took ourselves off to Padstow for scampi and chips in one of the harbourside pubs, a potter around the harbour and a visit to the Stein delicatessen. We drooled over the menu at the Rick Stein restaurant. Not as expensive as you might expect, but expensive enough - and particularly so when you have a lobsterphile in your company. We shall save up and come back. We had better bring Lindsey and Ian with us. Serious saving is clearly needed!

I enjoyed Eden lots. But if I could only go to one Cornish garden ever again, it would be Heligan. However, we have an annual ticket to Eden so will certainly go again if we find ourselves back in Cornwall in the next twelve months.

We came back to the cottage along the coast road. Not that we could see much - the mist came in and covered everything up. And we had local sausages for dinner. I bought a taster pack at Eden, which had seven sausages, each of a different flavour. They were seriously nice - not much salt and no gristle and very tasty. There are two left for breakfast. I suppose I should get dressed, create breakfast and start the day.

We’ve just had a message from Jeanette to say that Mike (her father in law), who was in hospital last week with a suspected aneurism which transpired to be a heart problem which they fixed with a couple of stents, was out shopping yesterday and had to be removed from a shop in an ambulance and taken back to hospital with a suspected heart attack. Seems like a rather melodramatic way of getting out of paying your shopping bill! Jeanette says he spent a peaceful night with no further chest pains and they are doing more tests.

Oh - and Lindsey reports that my divorce papers have arrived at her place, thus beating Simon by a month. In a fine piece of cosmic irony they arrived almost exactly to the date of the wedding!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Tuesday dawned bright and sunny. So we decided to walk into St Dennis where we had observed a bank and a butcher, as well as the spar. It was a beautiful morning for a walk. We ran across an older lady walking very slowly also towards St Dennis. We ran across her again on the way back. She had very nearly made it as we were on our way back!

Alas - the bank is only open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. No money for us! There is a cash machine in the spar, but they charge for withdrawals. Luckily, we had The Builder’s birthday money with us and could borrow that for the time being. We raided the butcher for some beautiful looking steak and came back to the cottage.

And so to Tintagel, along some very small and winding roads. Not quite sure about Jenny’s obsession with small and winding roads. There were perfectly serviceable wider roads we could have used!

We found a car park, and a cash machine and took ourselves of, all cashed up, to Tintagel Castle, alleged to be the birthplace of King Arthur, now mostly medieval ruins and up on a very, very high headland. We headed into the English Heritage cafe for a fortifying plate each of pasty, chips and beans while we pondered if we really had the stamina to climb all the way up.

Of course we do.

And off we went, up some very, very steep and very, VERY deep steps to the headland, which is oh-so-nearly and island and where part of the ruined medieval castle stands. There are also, dotted about the headland, the ruins of houses and homesteads and other buildings. There’s a chapel. There are magnificent views. There was also a man with two back labradors (Hector and Henry), whose wife had decided to climb the other, less steep stairs to the other part of the castle on the land side of the bridge. We all went back down the steep, steep stairs and up the less steep stairs on the other side to join her.

They may not be as steep, but by golly they were hard work. Much, much harder on the back and the legs than the other side. I’m not sure she believed us but it was definitely true! You clearly had to have lots of stamina and to be very fit to be a medieval Cornish king. And a medieval Cornish homesteader, come to that. You can see that both bits of the castle would have been easily defensible - and the headland almost impregnable. But you really wonder about the obsession with steep, out of the way places for castles and their attendant villages. If I were the king, once I’d got up there I would be hard persuaded to leave again!!! Although - I suppose if I were the king, I’d have a horse to carry me up. Well, if I were a homesteader ….

Advised by one of the EH steward, we clambered up the headland and made our way to the Saxon and Norman church and thence backdown into the village. It was a lovely church. And we ran across two black pigs in a back garden on our way back to Tintagel village. We also ran across Hector and Henry in the Old Post Office, which is a lovely medieval building in the village centre. We flashed our National Trust cards to gain admittance to that. I probably wouldn’t have paid to get in - I knew that my exploring energy was beginning to fade! We stayed a short time and then went for a restorative ice cream before heading back along main roads (such as they are) to Camelford, where we stopped to collect it for Lindsey.

We had intended to head to Padstow to look at the fish shops, but decided that we were really explored out. We did stop at a passing Tesco for some mushrooms and some wine (I know we don’t usually use Tesco - but needs must sometimes!) and came back to the cottage where I think we were both quite pleased to take our boots off!!

It’s misty and damp again this morning. Not as wet as it was overnight when it absolutely poured down, and it is beginning to look as though it might brighten up a bit later. But I think today will be a good day to go to Eden. We’ve only got today and tomorrow left, really. And Eden is why we decided to come to Cornwall - and anyway, I’ve already bought the tickets. It would be silly not to go. And tomorrow looks as though it might be a sunnier ay than today for outside exploring. Eden is effectively inside.

Had a very alarming experience this afternoon. My brand new iPhone bleeped at me in the Tintagel car park to say it had a message. I fished the hone out of my pocket - and it was completely dead. Utterly unresponsive. I assumed it had run out of battery power. Brought it back to the cottage. Plugged it in. Nothing. Waited half an hour. Nothing. Got Taffa to hunt for Cornish Mac shops (I have my pay as you go phone with me, luckily!) No Cornish Mac shops :-( Nearest one is in Exeter. Not going all the way to Exeter. There is, however, a Mac repair place in Newquay. Could go there, I suppose. Newquay is not all that far. Disconsolately hit the iPhone’s on button - and behold! The Mac Apple symbol appeared. And the phone turned on. I have no idea what caused that little bout of sulking. Or, indeed, why it decided to come back to life. So far it’s still working this morning!!!

I wonder if it is possible that I might have become too dependent on web access?!?!?!?!?!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Iron Age Villages. And rain

It has to be said that it was really quite wet yesterday - although it started out as only mildly drizzly. We had bacon and eggs on crumpets for breakfast, followed by another crumpet with local raspberry jam. Thus fortified we set out for Beyond Penzance, in search of an iron age village, Chysauster, which I had found in my English Heritage handbook.

The traffic on the A30 heading east, back to the rest of England was at a complete standstill for most of the way. We were enormously glad that we weren’t heading home yesterday! Although, if we had been we would have left at around 7 to avoid the A30 bank holiday traffic jam!!!

Eventually, we found ourselves at the iron age village. It was raining. With intent. We decided to go in anyway, though we were slightly deterred when we encountered s group of soggy people coming back down the hill that leads up to the village.

The man in the EH hut seemed a bit surprised to see us. I think he was anticipating a day largely devoid of visitors - and we were the second lot in not very much time!

It was very, erm, atmospheric amongst the stone round houses, in the icy rain, the wind and the mist. You can see that the houses would have been quite cosy when they had their thatched roofs on. But I must say that I am very glad we live in a house with a tiled roof and central heating!

We decided to go back down to the car when we realised that we could hardly see the EH hut any more. It was being eaten up by the mist!

Where too now? The Builder expressed an interest in Land’s End, which he has never been to. I have. And it is a huge, rather nasty theme park which was expensive to park at and probably wouldn’t be much fun in the icy rain. Or at all! So we drove to Sennen Cove which is just around a headland from Land’s End, and which has a working harbour, a nice pub which did nice fish (but rubbish chips - why do pubs think it’s all right when they advertise that they serve fresh, local produce and do serve fresh local fish, to put frozen, mass produced and not very well cooked chips with it?!?!?!?!? So many of them do and it really lets them down - at last I reckon so. I refused to eat the chips, though The Builder ate his), a lovely round building which is now a gallery, and very little rain. The pub was also nice and warm, which meant that our very soggy jeans had a chance to dry out!

We had a potter around and reached the car again just as the rain rolled back in.

We decided to abandon exploring for the day and to head home, but to go up along the coast road, through St Ives and St Agnes, and along lots of narrow, winding country roads and through some extraordinarily pretty little villages. We called into a far shop for some provisions, and into a handily placed Co-op for some wine and tootled home.

We had pork chops for dinner, which we bought in the farm shop attached to Heligan. They were extremely nice. The farm shop sells half pigs and whole lambs. This is very tempting. All the more so because they also have an internet shop and will deliver all over mainland UK. Tupton is part of mainland UK!!

Time to get dressed and ready for the day. It is not actually raining. Perhaps we’ll try again to do something outside. But breakfast first. Mushrooms and tomatoes on toast today.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Sometime back in 1990 a scion of the House of Tremayne inherited a large piece of land not far from St Austell. Not the house, which had been sold in the 1970s. This land was the Gardens of Heligan, which had been abandoned during the First and Second WArs f the TWentieth Century and pretty much been allowed to return to nature. Nature had had a merry time in the ensuing seventy years, subduing what had been a vast estate which had fed and flowered the Tremayne Estate for several hundred years.

I am told that there was a Gardener’s World program which looked at the Lost Gardens in the very eary 1990s. I almost certainly did not see that. But I think I did see the Channel Four series about them in the later 1990s. Or perhaps I had seen Tim Smit’s book. I am fairly certain I had heard about them before I left Australia, and I did know about them when I came to visit Suzanna, then living in Plymouth, in the early 2000s. We made an attempt to visit them but it was a rainy, glowery day and we didn’t get any further than the plant shop.

So the Lost Gardens of Heligan were quite high on my list of things to do when we decided last November to come to Cornwall for Easter week, primarily to go to the Eden Project, which I have never been to and which The Builder has only visited quite early in their existence. And yesterday seemed an ideal day for Heligan, because the weather was glorious - and the forecast for the rest of the week is fairly dire from a garden-visiting point of view.

Jenny the Sat Nav took us through narrow, winding, enticing country lanes to Helligan.

And the gardens were truly beautiful. The sky was an almost impossible shade of blue. The sun shone. The rhododendrons and camellias were in full flower. The vegetable garden is about 3-4 weeks ahead of ours. There were enticing views down to the sea and across to Mevagissey. There were sheep and chickens and ducks. It is quite hard to believe that the rolling park lands and the gorgeous gardens had been overrun with bramble and laurel and other invasive plants only twenty years ago. We mostly concentrated on the “productive” North garden. We did stroll through the woodland walk but are hoping, if the weather is half way decent later in the week, to go back and do the more strenuous jungle and Lost Valley walks - preferably wearing our walking boots! We had fruit scones and elderflower presse for lunch, sat on the lawns by the Steward’s House. It was quite busy - but there are about 200 acres all told, so nothing was over crowded (except hen I wanted to inspect the Bee Boles and there was a guided tour inspecting them already!)

It was a good day

We came back to the cottage, along some more winding country lanes and abandoned our plan to go for a troll around the farm and instead sat outside on our little patio and drank wine in the sunshine and read our books before having lamb shanks for dinner.

There was a group of people on the farm yesterday. Listening to them in the later afternoon when they were motling around the stables and our little patio, it became clear that they were having a first meet after an internet or penpal acquaintance. I wonder if they were from the Archer’s message boards?!?!?

It is chilly and blustery and threatening shower today. We are pondering going to inspect an iron age village. We may rethink that when we get there if the wind is planning to blow us away!!

But breakfast first.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cornish Holidays

We are down in Cornwall, on a livery farm near St Dennis which is not far from St Austell. We are staying in a tiny shoe box of a cottage, which I think might have been made from an old hayloft or some such farm building. The original bit of it hs almighty walls and is about the right size ad shape for a hayloft. It’s in the carpark for the livery stables so we get to watch lots of horse owners coming and going. We can also see some of the horses in their stables. There is a gaggle of small JAck Russells and two or three cats - one of which is the hugest cat in the world and which, when I was talking to one of the Jack RUssells yesterday, came belting over at Super Speed so HE could talk to me - never mind the useless dog! It is the friendliest cat I have ever met! Nearly knocked me over in its enthusiasm and, when I went to the loo before we went out, he came over and bashed at the bathroom door to encourage me to HURRY UP and come out and pat him so more. His name is Cookie. He figures quite a lot in the guest book!

The cottage is probably about the size of one of those “mobile home” static caravans that you find in caravan parks dotted along the coast, except is is a different shape and you certainly couldn’t move it. Mind you, you can’t move the ‘mobile homes” either. Not entirey sure why they’re called “mobile”! It’s quite a nice little cottage, though tiny. The only downsides are the kitchen which is not all that well kitted out. I didn’t bring my coffee pot because very holiday kitchen I have ever been in has had one - not this one! There’s no colander. There’s no roasting dish apart from a disposable turkey roaster which I fear is not going to survive our visit! And it’s as dark as the Black Hole of Calcutta in there. When we investigated, the kitchen light had a 25 watt bulb in it (romantic lighting is all very well - but in a kitchen?!?!?!?!) and the light over the hob only had one bulb. We couldn’t put a replacement in because the remains of the previous bulb were still in there. We did find a 40 watt bulb for the main lamp and with the aid of the wind up torch from the car I managed to produce our Good Friday feast of salmon, seafood, new potatoes and a “salsa” of capsicum, carrot and pak choi. Or - I managed it once The Builder discovered that the hob knobs went up beyond the 1,2,3 that I could see to 4,5 and 6!! I thought that 3 was an unusual maximum heat for an electric hob! (The remaining numbers were shadowed from the dim light I had available!). The other downside is the non-availability of the Internet. But it was for this very eventuality that I bought my iPhone and it’s doing a sturdy job of keeping me connected to the ether!!

We have so far had fairly good weather. The sun is shining brightly as we speak! We’ve had one or two heavy showers (and when I say “heavy” - I mean HEAVY!) and the wind is cold, but otherwise it’s been beautiful. We’ve walked into St Dennis and found a Spar (think 7-11), a butcher and a pub. We’ve been into St Austell on Saturday in search of a proper supermarket - which we didn’t find, although there was every indication of the presence somewhere of an Asda. But it’s whereabouts remained shrouded from us. So we went to Truro where we found a beautiful cathedral (It’s Victorian and amazingly light and ethereal for a Victorian religious building). They were getting ready for Easter. The flower arrangers were filling the church with lilies. The organist was practising his Easter voluntary. We also found a small supermarket and a bakery - amongst all the usual high street shops. Oh - and a National Trust shop where we bought a wind up lantern to supplement the light from the wind up torch in the kitchen! We took ourselves to Mevagissey for lunch, stopping on the way to acquire local scallops for dinner. I had scallops for lunch as well! I know we would normally eat vegetarian food on Holy Saturday, but local, fresh fish and seafood seemed equally appropriate. We went for a windy walk along the harbour wall and came back via Fowey. It was a good day.

I can report to you that the River Fal is absolutely definitely and positively tidal! As we drove to Truro it looked like highly sculpted mud flats. When we came back, the boats which had been lying listlessly in the mud, were just starting to bob about. There are also LOTS of gardens for s to explore. Except that the forecast for the rest of the week is not really enticing for garden exploring. We are expecting sunshine today then rain or showers for the rest of the week.

I fear that we fell off the Lent alcohol wagon early :-( It seemed a bit harsh to make The Builder have a beer and wine free birthday on Thursday. And I cooked the salmon in white wine on Friday and it would have been wasteful not to have finished the bottle. But I think we might go back to alcohol free living once we go home - except for on Sundays. Sundays are always much enhanced by a glass or two of wine with the Sunday Roast.

I have been listening to the Easter Service from Oxford Cathedral on Radio 4. They’re singing the Alleluia Chorus to finish. Such a robustly celebratory way to move into the morning.

Easter Sunday breakfast - and then we’re off to Heligan to explore the Lost Gardens while the sunshine lasts

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

We have been intermittently busy over the past couple of weeks. The Builder has dug over the beds in the kitchen garden ready for the potatoes and has manured them. I'll start putting the potatoes in when we come back after our Easter holiday. Then, if it should be frosty, we are around to rescue them! I have also put into seed trays in the greenhouse the rest of last years magic bean mix, plus a tray of soya beans, and some rattlesnake beans and kidney beans (these last are duplicated in the magic bean mix, but I am hoping to do better with the winter beans this year - memo to self: DON'T PUT THEM OUT UNTIL WELL INTO MAY!!!!!!!!!!!). I've also put in a second lot of salad blue potatoes into a stray plastic rubbish bin, a supermarket bought sweet potato into a pot in the hope it will produce leaf stalks I can take cuttings from, and some radishes into a salad box. The carrots and lettuces are coming along nicely. The Veronica seedlings all died for some reason. I'll start again when we get back. Oh - and I bought a couple of cucumber seedlings. One got broken on the way back from the garden centre :-( but the other is doing ok. I might buy another couple while we are in Cornwall. And I need some melon and watermelon seeds. Or seedlings! Fortunately, we are planning to visit one or two gardens while we are gone.

The Builder has also put together a second propagating tent for me so the established seedlings can be moved as needs be. I fear the greenhouse is going to run out of space in its role as a potting shed!!

We are slowly digging on, up on the allotment. I've got four rows each in of Imperial Longpod broad beans and Early Onward peas and will put four more in this week before we head off. I decided last weekend that I probably didn't have enough peas and beans for all the space I'd allocated for peas and broad beans, so sent for another 500g of each - late planting ones so we should have fresh peas and broad beans for ages - and plenty for the freezer. The Builder has brushcuttered the wilderness in the middle of the allotment so we can see what we are doing. We are planning six beds down the bottom, with a small orchard up near the greenhouses. What extra fruit trees shall we put in? I am *considering* hedging the orchard bit with hazel trees. I am given to understand they can be coppiced into a hedge. If you know what you are doing. Which I don't - though The Builder may. But I'm sure we can make it up if necessary!!

I've weeded most of the flower garden. I need to finish the bit where the very first compost heap was, which is now covered in creeping buttercup. But that can probably wait for a week or three. I do need to get the flower seeds under way. I can see a very busy weekend planting seeds when we get back!!

A rain-free weekend (against all the forecasts!)

We woke up on Saturday morning to the promise of wild, windy and largely wet weather – and to the sight of blue sky, sunshine and pleasant breezes.

So I did several loads of washing and hung them out in the hope they would at least air before the rains came. And The Builder went to the allotment with his brush-cutter and cut brushes in the hope he could reduce some of the tangled jungle that was down the bottom before the rains came and that we would be able to see what we were doing when the weather dried out again.

The sun shone. The Builder came home, jungle defeated. We went to the thriving little Post Office and sent some parcels and collected a package. We went to the Wingerworth library. I borrowed a couple of books and stopped to read the notice board. The Wingerworth Horticultural Society is running a coach trip to the Three Counties Agricultural Show near Malvern in May. I was pondering whether we would need to join the horticultural society to be able to go – until The Builder pointed out that we have not one but two cars, and not one but two drivers; should we wish to visit the Three Counties Show we could possibly travel independently of the WHS! We went to the garden centre. We came home and had lunch. I brought the (dry!!) washing in and put some more out. And we went back to the allotment so The Builder could rake up the thrashed brushes he had cut and I could tidy up the smaller greenhouse and start digging a bed I was going to put sweet corn in at the end of May (except I might now put cucurbits in instead.)

We were driven home earlier than we had hoped by the abrupt arrival of a HUGE BIG BLACK THREATENING cloud.

We got in and poured a (soft) drink.

The big black cloud went away. But it was too late by then. We had moved, a trifle early, I grant you, into evening mode and were not doing anything further that was energetic. Apart from bringing in the rest of the washing!

Sunday dawned, as promised, bright and sunny and cheery. The forecast for Sunday had been sunny and warm for the past several days. So we had arranged with Taffa and Gaz to go down with Freyja and the Travelling Hippoberries (and one sleeping bear) for a spot of lunch in one of the pubs and then for a walk.

So that’s what we did. We collected Freyja and the furry ones, then Jenny took us on a simply delightful cross country trip to the A1 and we made excellent progress down to Cambridge.
Then we had a lovely stroll to the Anchor, where we had Sunday Lunch by the river, then we went for a Sunday Afternoon Perambulation along various bits of river and back into the town centre. The weather was lovely. The afternoon was peaceful (apart from a merry altercation The Builder had with a man stood by the side of the canal who was not paying close heed to what he was doing with his Punting Pole and in an inattentive moment nearly knocked a young lad who was just ahead of The Builder for six – this apparently was the boy’s fault!! Oh, and The Builder, it seems, needs to “get a life”, and presumably one in which we don’t care about the health and well-being of young boys). We had a wander in the Build-a-Bear shop and bought presents for the Furry Ones, and G, TB and I pottered in the Sunday Market while Taffa and Freyja visited the Disney Store. We strolled back to T and G’s house, deposited them in their lounge room, collected all the Furry Folks, and returned Freyja to Sheffield. We have hung on to the Travelling Hippoberries and Sleepy Bear. They are coming to Cornwall with us on Friday.

We didn’t go to visit Peter and Joan – by the time I thought about it it was really too late to organise it. We will have to go down again sometime in May or June, have more lunch, more walkies, and arrange to meet them over food or drinks or both!

We have now successfully completed 5 whole weeks without alcohol. Five and a half weeks without cakes, biscuits, sweets, chocolate. We have also, at various points, given up crisps and snacky things (which I did on Ash Wednesday, but The Builder didn’t until the second Sunday), cheese and full-fat dairy, red meat, fried food and now all fleshy things to eat. Counting down to the Easter Feast!

Although – it has to be said that I am enjoying the Lent food. It sits well with spring cuisine. Or it did, until I declared veggie food for this week. We really enjoyed the steamed chicken on rice noodles for lunch on Saturday, and the grilled tuna steaks with tiger prawns, new potatoes and steamed spring green things on Saturday evening. And I have become quite partial to soda water with fresh lime juice squeezed in. I did miss a glass of wine by the river yesterday though.

There may not have been a steam train at the Sheffield Station last week. But there was one on our railway line on Saturday. It went up in the morning (and I just caught sight of it as it went up, under the bridge). Then on Saturday evneing I went into the kitchen to deal with the tuna steaks, looked out the window - and there it was steaming its way cheerfully back down southwards. An investigation into what it was also drew our attention to the fact there was a steam train festival at the Barrow Hill Roundhouse over the weekend. Too late for us to go on Saturday and, of course, we couldn't go on Sunday. Must look out for it next year!

Four sleeps until we go away :-)

Friday, April 03, 2009

We're going on a bear hunt ...

Well, no. We’re not really going out on a bear hunt. But we are going on safari to search for a critically endangered animal. So grab your pith helmets, butterfly nets and water bottles and let’s go.


We don’t want to scare them away.

There used to be lots in the Sheffield city centre. Now there are virtually none. One by one they have vanished quietly. But rumour has it that one has been sighted down near the market. An expedition is clearly called for.

Off we go.

Down the road

Across the tram tracks (carefully looking out for marauding trams)

Down the hill.

Hark – I hear a rustling sound. In there …. Follow the co-op signs. Shhhhhhhhh!!! Listen … … … …

There! In that echoing, cavernous chamber. I think I see … Tsk – there are crowds of people in the way. Shove them out the way.

And YES!!!!!!!!! There is one. A whole, living and breathing POST OFFICE in the city centre. In what seems to be an empty hall at one end of the co-op, but not in sight of any of the co-op shopping bits. Unloved, perhaps, uncared for. And for all the space, there are no shelves selling envelopes and brown paper and sellotape.

But it IS a Post Office and it is within lunch time striking distance from the office (don’t tell the government or they may shoot it!)

Pity there isn’t a breeding pair, though.

You do have to wonder, though, why they thought it necessary to close the one on Norfolk Row. It may have been small, it may have been hidden in a news agency. But the queues were always pretty much coming out the door. The Powers That Be couldn’t possibly have argued it was underused!

Fortunately, the one in Tupton is showing no signs of becoming extinct

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

There was great excitement today, amongst those of us who care about these things. A steam train was passing through Sheffield at about quarter to 12 and stopping for about half an hour or so.

Richard and I pottered down to the station to admire it. Roger pottered down, likewise to admire. There were loads of train spotters - but no train. Well, there were trains, but no steam ones. Eventually, one of the train spotters said that his information was that it had been delayed until quarter to two. I certainly couldn't stay there until that time. I was doing the research drop in session at 1, and was on the helpdesk at 2. Richard, Roger and I headed back to the office.

But Richard had most of the afternoon off. So I handed him my camera in the hope that he might get back to the station while the train was there - if it ever turned up. I wonder if he got any pictures.

The Builder and I are considering buying deluxe tickets for a round trip on a steam train from Leeds to Carlisle on the August Bank Holiday weekend. The deluxe tickets are extremely expensive - but you do get lunch and a three course dinner and a bottle of wine (to share), not to mention first class seats. I might see if I can save up for the tickets - as long as the black holes, which pass through my finances on an almost daily basis, stop eating up all my money!

I was kissed today, full on the lips, and hugged by a rather attractive young-ish man, in the library workroom. :-) Very exciting!!