Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Sunday, July 31, 2011


It turns out that there is absolutely no need to worry if you have a whole 1 hour and 20 minutes to make a connecting flight in Vienna and your first flight leaves 25 minutes late. No need to worry at all. You might need to worry if you are trying to get to Tirana or to Dubrovnic and you have a mere 40 minutes turn around time - but even then, the Austrians are likely to put on a special mini bus and get you to your connecting flight OK.

There is no need to worry about taking the train in to central Tokyo and then navigating the subway system to your hotel.  There are luxury coaches that go to the various hotel districts of Tokyo, and very pleasant they are to travel on indeed. Then a taxi from the drop off point to our hotel, drop the bags, wait for the son and the nieces and nephews to turn up - and off The Builder went with the boys to play golf and snooker, and off I went with the girls to take in the view from a super tall building and to tour the shops.


A bit of a worry though that the restaurant we went into for lunch turned out only to do sashimi during the day.  Absolutely couldn't convince my hand to put spoonfuls of minced raw tuna into my mouth!! Not all that keen on half cooked poached egg either. The egg custard with prawns was ok. The miso soup was fine. But we really should have gone into one of the places with the plastic food outside. At least then you have some idea what it is that you're likely to be offered!!

But it was a good day. Jess and Emily did a grand job of getting us around on the subway. And it was lovely to see them and Cass, and to meet Judy, mother of Austin's best mate Zoy.

In the meantime, The Builder was belting golf balls around a driving range and eating curry with the boys. Not a bad way of spending a day in Tokyo.

Click on the photo for the Tokyo pictures

Friday, July 29, 2011

Getting ready for Japan - yes, really, this time!

Goodness me, thought I on Tuesday evening. We really ought to do something practical about going to Japan, otherwise we'll be spending all our travelling money not on food and wine and tourist attractions, but on clothes and toiletries and things.  I realise I don't usually pack quite so early, but we're off after work on Thursday, and out on Wednesday evening so that more or less leaves now!

So I armed myself with a glass of wine and set to. I packed rather more than I usually do for a trip away, although quite a lot of it seems to be stuff for other people. But even so, there are more clothes than I usually take for us both.  Never mind. It's done now, and at least the suitcases are on wheels.

Marlo, in the meantime, is suspicious!!

I think that's done. I have my laptop at work, and all the travel documents (was exciting when there was a fire alarm and we all had to evacuate! Really wouldn't do for the passports and travel money to go up in a burning building right now this very minute!!). The Builder has the suitcases and his laptop. I have worked out how to get to the guest house. I have checked in to tomorrow's flights (though couldn't print out a boarding card; but at least they know we're coming). I've backed up my laptop on the external hard drive (no point doing The Builder's, alas). All ready to rock and roll :-)

Last evening, then, Taffa, Cally, The Builder and I met at Freyja's allotment, partly so The Builder could inspect the peas and potatoes, and put tape up to deter the pigeons, and partly because Tabitha had never actually found it and didn't know where it was (and she and Gaz are in charge for the moment).  The peas have come up, and so have some of the potatoes.  We're impressed about the potatoes, for they had gone in quite late and had gone a bit soft.

Peas looking quite healthy

Potatoes gamely struggling on
 Then we went back to Nettleham Road for a bit of a sit down, and met Gareth, when he had finished work, at Kito's (where we went with Freyja after that first amazing adventure, hunting for the allotment and not going to Japanese class) for pizza. And then we went home, arriving in good time for me to have my regular Wednesday evening chat with Tony.

Right then.  Time to go.  I hope that the next time we commune, that I will be in Tokyo :-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Not getting ready to go to Japan

So Freyja has moved out of her room in the house on Violent Bank. Or more or less she has.  I dropped round there after work on Friday and helped her shove boxes and bags and bin bags down into the cellar, off into Tabitha's spare room and round at Simon's place. We dusted and vacuumed the room. Then I went home and Freyja went to Motosushi.

And there she and Simon now are, hanging with Austin and Kaori and generally having a good time.

I, in the meantime, spent the weekend not really properly getting ready to go to Tokyo. I really ought to think about packing. We're going on Thursday evening!  I have told the bank that I'm going, and my phone company.  I did organise with Tammy next door to feed the chickens and Marlo - but that was a few days ago. Perhaps I should remind her!  I have printed out the plane confirmation and ALL the hotel confirmations. We have bought presents for Kaori's parents and brother (but not the dog - I forgot the dog!!!). Freyja has a present for Kaori with her. I have passports at the ready.  I have yen.  We're pretty much ready, I reckon! But not packed. And not having gathered up all the chargers and cables and things

We had a nice time on Saturday (not getting ready to leave for Japan). We went to Chatsworth and to Bakewell and sat on a wall by the river in the sunshine and had chips for lunch from one of the new chip shops (not as good as the original chippy, it must be said - but also nothing like the length of queue) and watched the ducks and the trout in the river. It was all good.

I am, however, worried about Vienna

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Away Day, Salford

It is our team's habit to go away somewhere for the day, once a year, to work on the team plan and to visit somewhere relevant to one or more of the subject areas that our team supports.  This year we decided to go to The Imperial War Museum North which is based in Salford, near Manchester. History is one of our subject disciplines, and the history students study (inter alia) World Wars I and II so it seemed an appropriate choice of venue.

It was a more appropriate choice of venue that we had first thought!  I knew that the BBC was considering moving some of its production and program teams to Salford, but otherwise had paid absolutely no attention at all to anything that might be happening there. So it came as something of a surprise, as we approached Media City on the new tram line, to find that they have been engaged in a massive regeneration project around the old docks. In one fell tram ride we had added my subject areas of Planning, Architecture and Urban Regeneration to our subject mix for the day!!

I have to say, I think it all looks lovely. You can see that once they have finished and when the trees have grown and a few boats have moved in and the buildings are finished that it could be quite a desirable place to live. If I had a spare hundred thousand or so, I'd be tempted to buy a flat before the area becomes up-market and the prices go up!  No sympathy with the BBC bods who are complaining vigorously about having to move to the uncultured Northern Wastelands.  They should grasp this opportunity with both hands! (I have some sympathy with the ones who are reluctant to move for family reasons, but none for those who seem to think that anything north of Acton is uncivilised, uncouth and perilous).

We had a good time.  The Imperial War Museum cafe people had been kind enough to set a table aside for us to have our meeting. We made a good morning tea and an excellent lunch.  We spent an hour or so looking at the exhibitions and pottering about. Julia decided it would be a good place to bring her children. I decided it would be a good place to bring The Builder. Rupert and I ascended the Shard to admire the view. We lost Paul. We found him again. Then we all came back to Sheffield.  Was a good day :-)

We even got loads of work done on the annual plan!

It was very disconcerting looking out at the water and this huge eucalyptus tree. Felt as though I should be in Melbourne!!
Click on the photo to get to the album

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A(nother) weekend of feasting

Back in February, when we were in Ballarat, we met our friend Pat for lunch. It turned out that she was heading to the UK later in the year and was planning to come and stay with us. Alas, at the very time she was planning to come to our place, we were planning to be in Japan.  So we arranged to meet in Chester, where she would be attending a conference, instead.  We put it in our various diaries and went on our various ways.

And suddenly, the trip to Chester was upon us.  I had been planning to take a picnic.  I had a menu all planned and everything.  Chicken and ham pie, salad, potato salad, cake, lemonade. Then we saw the weather forecast for Chester for Saturday and changed our minds!  No picnic for us. Not partial to picnicking in the rain are we!

So I sat down and did a quick and dirty Google for pubs serving food in the Cheshire countryside within striking distance of Chester. And came up with The Pheasant Inn at Higher Burwardsley. Never heard of Higher Burwardsley, but the Pheasant looked all right. We decided to give it a go. After all, taking adventurous foodie chances can throw up some delightful discoveries as well as the few that you might wish not to repeat!

In the meantime, Tabitha and Cally had invited themselves along. I think Freyja might have invited herself along too, but then there wouldn't have been room in the car for Pat once we got to Chester.  Seems a bit pointless to go all that way to have lunch with someone, and then to leave them behind while you wander off a-feasting!!  Gaz didn't have the opportunity to invited himself - he was working.

It was raining when we woke up on Saturday morning.  Lovely, steady gardeners' rain. It rained quite hard when we were about to leave Tabitha and Cally's place. We put the departure off for a few minutes.  It poured, briefly as we crossed the Pennines. By the time we got to Chester, the sun had come out. But it was very wet underfoot. We could probably have had a picnic, but we might have got very wet bottoms. We found Pat where she had said she would be, at Chester University, kidnapped her and took her out to Higher Burwardsley.

The Pheasant was beautiful. It's a lovely building with amazing views out in gorgeous countryside. The food was delicious. My burger with the lot soundly defeated me. Had I realised it was going to be quite so mighty, I wouldn't have indulged in the mixed sharing platter that Pat had suggested we have as an entrĂ©e. But I only grudgingly stopped eating it.  I ate the two huge onion rings and all my chips though. The Builder had the hugest, biggest, most humungous piece of haddock that I think I have ever seen. He ate every last scrap. And all his chips. Neither he nor I felt any need for anything to eat in the evening after that.  And feel sorry for poor Pat - it was the conference dinner that evening!!

It is a truth that is pretty much universally acknowledged (That would be a good opening line for a book :-D ) that no matter how full you are, there is always room for ice cream. And along the way to The Pheasant, we had seen loads of signs pointing to an ice cream farm. After lunch we went to investigate.  And found this: The Cheshire Ice Cream Farm  There were about 30 different ice cream flavours. And it was amazing ice cream. I think we must go again one day and have a proper look around.

Then we took Pat back to the conference, Tabitha and Cally back to Sheffield and went home.

We had bought the ingredients for making a raised chicken and ham pie so I decided to make it anyway.  We had it for Sunday lunch, with potatoes from the allotment and vegetables fresh from the garden. And very delicious it was too.

It was nice to see Pat. It was a weekend full of lovely food. All in all it was a very good weekend.

Except that I managed comprehensively to bugger The Builder's laptop.

And I rendered entirely inoperative Freyja's brand new bicycle chain with combination lock.

But apart from that ...

The Pheasant Inn.

(As ever - click on the link to get to the album)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer picnic in the garden

We had some American friends over for lunch on Saturday. I thought it unlikely that the visiting children would enjoy whatever I cooked. Children are extremely conservative, usually, when it comes to food, and expect things that look familiar to taste familiar - and British food and American food I think usually do not taste the same. American chocolate is much sweeter; I am given to understand that bread is sweeter too, in the States.  So I decide to do an Australian-style picnic that we could have in the garden if the weather was fair. And then the children could pick and choose what they ate.

So I did some cold sausages, some chicken nuggets and some chicken legs.  I also made a quiche. Then I raided the garden and the supermarket and the freezer and made a green salad, a rice salad and some soda bread.  Very much to my surprise I found some freddo frogs in the supermarket too, so I made frogs in a pond for dessert.  We were lucky with the weather. The food was enjoyed by the adults (the children enjoyed the raspberries that they found growing in the garden, and the chocolate frogs!), and we are enjoying the left overs. Left over rice salad turns into a rather nice fried rice for Sunday lunch!

A picnic in the garden and other adventures

When I first started working in the Adsetts Centre there was an American working on the team. Kelly. She lived not far from where I lived and we would sometimes walk home together. Then after a time, she moved back to America taking her (British) husband with her. She still has the husband and now also has two daughters.

We more or less lost touch. Then she found me on Facebook and we got back in touch.

So it was very exciting when she announced on Facebook a few weeks back that they were all coming to England for a holiday and did I want to meet up.

They came for lunch on Saturday. We were extremely lucky with the weather. The Builder put up the gazebo. I prepared an Australian-style picnic and went and collected Kelly, Steve, Rebecca and Sarah from the coach station (having realised only the evening before that I didn't actually know how to get to the coach station's car park!!) and brought them back to our place for lunch. Marlo beat a hasty, horrified retreat when he realised there were children about the place.  The chickens were intrigued and watched them with very considerable itnerest - although they were on the other side of a fence!

Kelly and Sarah

Steve and Rebecca

It was lovely to catch up. And nice to be able to sit outside for our lunch

Then The Builder took them back to the coach station and they went on their way. I think they've gone to Bath for a couple of days.

Sunday also dawned bright and shiny so we went into Sheffield to have another look at Freyja's allotment. And for the Builder to have a first look. This was a slightly more complicated adventure than I had anticipated, for the main road between Chesterfield and Sheffield was closed for maintenance. So I told Kathy the sat nav to ignore the A61. Which she did. Entirely. And rather than taking us round the Barlow and then Bradway as I had expected, she took us through Barlow then right around to the other side of Sheffield, via Owler Bar.  This had the huge advantage that we entirely missed the horrendous traffic in Woodseats!

The Builder says that the photos I took of Freyja's allotment on Thursday evening do not do anything like justice to the true horror of the amount of rubbish and chaos and mayhem that is on Freyja's allotment.  So I have taken some more. But she has decided to keep it for the time being and see what happens.  Tabitha and Gareth might be interested in growing some things on it.  And she has some friends who might also be interested. Just not sure what we do with all the rubbish!

The Builder, in his guise as the Under Gardener, is going there this morning to make a start on a bed or two and we'll see how we go

More photos of Freyja's allotment. Click on the photo to get to the album

Friday, July 08, 2011

Freyja's allotment

Something like 4 years ago, Freyja was minded (for reasons I have never entirely fathomed) to ring the Sheffield City Council and ask what steps you needed to take to apply for an allotment.  I don't think she was actually intending to apply for one.  She just wanted to know the procedure.

Somewhat to her surprise, they put her on a waiting list pretty much there and then.

Then certainly I, and I think also she, completely forgot all about it.  So she was somewhat surprised to get a letter telling her that she was now at the top of the list and that her allotment was waiting for her. I was extremely surprised, having not thought about Freyja in allotment terms for at least 4 years!

So yesterday Tabitha and Cally went and collected the key to the allotment site (no keys required in Tupton or, indeed, in Hangingwater) and Freyja and I arranged to meet each other and then Tabitha and Cally to go and inspect the said allotment, before Freyja and I went to our evening Japanese class.

So far, so easy.

Tabitha and Cally had successfully collected the key to Allotment #10, Meersbrook and headed off in the direction the allotment people said the site was.  Hmmm.  Key didn't fit.  So they headed to another allotment site in the same local area.  Hmmm. Key didn't fit. Tabitha rang Freyja.

In the meantime, Freyja and I had no idea where we were going, so headed to Meersbrook Park. Ambled into the Park Office just as it was closing and followed the instructions the nice lady gave us and headed to the allotment site, where we met Tabitha and Cally (who had already been there once that afternoon).  The key definitely did not fit. But the gates were open, do we headed in and parked the car.

A nice man came past and informed us that these were not the Meersbrook allotments but the Norton Lees allotments.  The Meersbrook ones were down that hill there.  Somewhere. He and I consulted our road atlases and decided that we could probably make out where we should be going. It wasn't any of the allotment sites that had been drawn to our attention or that Tabitha had visited!!

At this point, Tabitha and Cally, having spent a pleasant afternoon wandering around various Sheffield allotment sites in the sunshine decided to cut their losses and go home. Freyja and I programmed the sat nav and headed off, determined at the very least to find the site before heading to Japanese.

The key fitted - although the padlock was extremely awkward to get to. But we did manage to open the gate. Of the Heeley, rather than the Meersbrook, allotment site

Right.  So where is #10.  Freyja thought the map she had seen suggested it was up towards the top. So towards the top we headed, passing variously allotments ##64, 69, 239, 375, 420, the number sequences apparently being random.  We went back down and decided to see if we could find any order to the numbers.

Time marched on. We got lost!

We headed back to the gate and tried again. Can't be that hard to find, surely?

Time marched on some more.  We got lost again. And we really, really need to leave RIGHTNOWTHISVERYMINUTE if we are going to go to our class.  But we also by now REALLYREALLYREALLYREALLY wanted to find this elusive allotment.

And how do we get back to the car?

We headed back to the gate.  NO CAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It was the wrong gate :-S

At about this point I remembered that I had a smart phone in my pocket and decided to have a look on Googlemaps and see if that might shed any light on (i) where the car was and (ii) where the allotment was.  It didn't.  But the allotment website did. It had a plan of the site!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We were definitely at the wrong gate.

Eventually we found the right gate (and the car) and following the plan managed to find allotment #10 in short order.  I wonder why it didn't cross my mind to consult my phone until 45 minutes had passed and we had got lost several times?

The allotment itself has obviously, once upon a time, been much loved and much looked after.  I have absolutely no doubt that it was held up as a shining example of a beautiful and productive allotment.  Alas, that is no longer the case.  The rather magnificent glasshouse is in dire need of repair. The shed has no roof. The allotment is overgrown and full of nettles and bindweed and real rubbish.  It would be the sort of challenge The Builder and I would probably relish, had we not already got an allotment and a large garden (and also not living very handily either to Heeley or to Meersbrook). But we would certainly find it a challenge. Freyja is a novice gardener. Many new allotment holders are novice gardeners.  It is no wonder new allotmenters tend to give up quite quickly if this is the sort of thing councils present novice gardeners with!

We will take The Builder round with us one evening to have a look at it, and we can all three have a proper assessment. It is complicated by the fact that Freyja is moving to London to go to Uni in the autumn and will only be around for some weekends.  But if nothing else we can get her some peas and potatoes and maybe even some beans and zucchinis before then.

I'll keep you informed!

Freyja's allotment. Click on the photo to get to the album
We didn't get to the Japanese class in the end. We went to Woodseats and met Tabitha, Cally and Gareth for pizza instead. The poor Builder missed out on all this unexpected excitement. He was at home eating left over pork stew and watching telly

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


We were in the Chatsworth garden centre on Monday and saw that they had some bags of white onion and shallot sets reduced down to 50p a bag. It is a bit late for planting onions, really, but for such a small outlay it seemed worth having a go. The Under Gardener has planted them at the bottom of last year's cabbage bed.

The potatoes on the allotment seem to be being hit by some sort of ailment, so we are digging them up as they get struck. I think this means that we will be eating vast loads of very small new potatoes over the next few months but it doesn't look likely that there will be any to store for the winter. Colin is sure they are blight-struck. I am not so sure. It's not behaving like blight. I think the potatoes, which are notoriously thirsty plants, are not getting enough water.  On the other hand, we are getting a good load of peas and broad beans to set by for the winter and, of course, to eat now. We've also been eating some rather nice broccoli from the plants that we were given from Colin on the allotment a while back. We stuck them in a spare bit of bed in the kitchen garden - and there they have been thriving. Broccoli, or calabrese always seems a slightly dull vegetable to me. I much prefer the sprouting stuff.  But it has to be said that broccoli picked from the garden and immediately eaten is an entirely different beast from anything that you can buy in the shops!

We have raspberries a-plenty. And there looks as though there might be quite a nice crop of blueberries from our small and young blueberry plants.  Must remember to give them another feed of azalea food. They seem to like that!

The aftermath

It was a great evening.  It really was.  The only problem was - Sunday's breakfast!

At the Blue Waters B&B you have to have your breakfast in your room. This is not a problem as far as I am concerned.  You have to order your breakfast the evening before.  Also not a problem.  Except that when I ordered my breakfast early on Saturday evening I was quite hungry.  When my cereal and yoghurt and full cooked breakfast arrived the following morning, I wasn't hungry at all, and wasn't likely to be ever again!  This made Sunday breakfast something of an ordeal :-S  Fortunately, The Builder stepped into the breach and ate quite a lot of mine in addition to all of his.  No more food for him for a while!! You'd think I would have remembered from last year though. Enormous quantities of food and wine the evening before do not leave you gasping for more food the following morning!!!!!!!

The weather continued to be glorious and we drove slowly from Devon and into Dorset.  Ordinarily we would have met my friend Farishta for lunch if we were anywhere in the vicinity, but she has moved to London so no chance of meeting her by the beach on Sunday. We decided to head into Lyme Regis anyway, partly for a walk along the seafront but mostly so we could go to the wonderful fish shop down by The Cobb. Mission accomplished and much fresh fish acquired, we made our way in a seemly manner to Bridport where there is a Waitrose and  I wanted to do some Waitrose shopping. We struggled a bit to find the carpark but parked up eventually.  Shopping accomplished, we mosied from Dorset into Hampshire, in search of some lunch.  And lo.  The Wheatsheaf is in Hampshire. And they do lunch :-)  I'm not sure I really did my lunch justice.  I still wasn't particularly hungry. Even The Builder failed to finish all his vegetables. But I certainly enjoyed my lunch.  And either they were very busy or Matthew has decided he isn't talking to us.  He and his two waiting staff ran about like scalded things. And there seemed to be LOTS of people hanging about at tables outside. (But he did recharge my iPhone, so he can't have gone off us that much :-P  )

And then we came home again.

I had yesterday off to catch up with things. We went to Chatsworth to the garden centre and to the farm shop.  We went to Bakewell to go to the gift shop to buy new wallets. While we were there, I picked up a new peg bag. I realise the peg bag was nearly £7 but it looked quite sturdy and I thought it was cute. Up to the till I went to pay.  I wasn't quite sure that I had heard the lady correctly when she announced the total and sort of stared at her, open-mouthed.  So she showed me the till receipt.  £41?  FORTY ONE POUNDS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! For a peg bag and two wallets?  I don't think so, thank you.  I'll just have the peg bag. Went out into the market and bought two wallets which were absolutely identical from a market stall for £20. Much closer to what I had been expecting!!

They sell zebra meat in the Bakewell Farmers' shop. I don't think it's farmed locally though.  I have never seen zebras wandering around the farms in the Peak District :-P

Chatsworth Farm Restaurant

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Feasting in Devon, Dorset and Hampshire

So, so much food!  Some good, some not so good, some AMAZING.

We headed off on our travels on Friday, early afternoon and stopped at a Harvester pub at about 2pm for a late lunch.  When you go to a Harvester, you know pretty much what sort of standard of food you are going to get, and this was no exception.  I wouldn't go out of my way to go there again, but the food was edible and filled a hole in a rather hungry tummy. The chips were OK, too!

We had dinner in The Harbour Inn in Axmouth, Devon on Friday evening. The Harbour Inn is a beautiful pub but I have to say that the food was a little disappointing. My fish pie had wodges of a very unpleasant "smoked" fish in it which made it taste as if I was sucking on an ashtray. I  say "smoked" because it tasted very much as though it had never been anywhere near a smoker but had been infused with smoke flavouring. It had also been in a microwave, which is never a good thing to do to a fish pie. On the other hand, The Builder says that his steak pie was quite tender. But we didn't finish our bottle of rather indifferent Sauvignon Blanc.  We had better wine awaiting us back at the B&B!

The Blue Waters B&B does a really nice breakfast. It's served in your room on a small table and you make you choices the evening before. We both enjoyed  grapefruit slices as an "entree" and really enjoyed our Full English. The mushrooms were in a buttery sauce which was really nice. The bacon was very tasty. Even the sausages were quite nice.

Grapefruit slices at breakfast

On Saturday we decided to chance the Eyre Court for lunch and were presented with hearty plates of plain, home cooked food. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with plain, home cooked food.  My chicken in a buttery mushroom sauce was lovely. The pub building is nothing like as beautiful as the Harbour Inn - but the food is much better.

The courtyard, Eyre Court Hotel

Saturday night was, of course, the River Cottage summer party. And the food was every bit as good as you would expect.  We were handed a glass each of elderflower champagne when we arrived, together with a freshly cooked cheese straw. There were people floating round with trays of lovely sausages on sticks. And each of us was given a piece of fresh toast with some of the nicest grilled sardines I think I have ever eaten.  Inside the marquee there was a bar selling Stinger ale and English wine. The main course was a Moroccan inspired lamb tagine served with flat bread, lentil stew, tomato salad and green salad.  Alas, I could not eat the lamb tagine. It had almonds in it.  But they knew about my nut allergy and someone appeared fairly promptly with a nut free version for me - by which time I was happily munching on the lovely salads and the absolutely delicious lentil stew.  Lentils are not my favourite pulse, but this was really lovely.  The lamb tagine was lovely too, but I wouldn't have been disappointed if all that had been on offer for me was the lentil stew (Although I might have been a tiny tad disappointed about not being able at least to taste the lamb!!) Dessert was a chocolate brownie mousse thing, which I couldn't eat on account of the nuts and The Builder couldn't eat on account of the strawberries. No worries.  A nut free version was brought my way. And one for The Builder in which the strawberries were replaced with pieces of fudge. They certainly cater for people's allergies well. Then there was a trestle table filled with cheeses and biscuits and coffee and tea. But we pretty much eschewed that and went home.  Full of food and wine, and content, and very, very fat.

Saturday menu

I did not do justice to my breakfast on Sunday morning, delicious though it was.

I don't think I really did justice to my lunch at The Wheatsheaf on Sunday afternoon either, delicious though that undoubtedly was.  The breast of lamb was cooked so it was tender and melting. My Yorkshire Pudding was crisp and light.  The roast potatoes were crunchy. The vegetables were tasty.  There was rather more space in my tummy for ice cream - but everyone knows that ice cream melts and spreads out around the cracks!  I think next year we might stay down an extra day and call at The Wheatsheaf on the Monday. Our appetites should have recovered by then!!

The Builder, happy at The Wheatsheaf

Monday, July 04, 2011

River Cottage Summer Party

So what, you may wonder, had taken us down to Dorset/Devon for the weekend? And what, you may ponder, had caused us to book it while in Melbourne, so much earlier in the year? What might it have been that had inspired me to go wild - and put on a skirt? It was, of course, the River Cottage Members Summer Party which we went to last year and which we really, really enjoyed.

And this year it was even better!!

The weather was absolutely beautiful and we greatly enjoyed our elderflower champagne while wandering around the gardens, nibbling on canapes.  A cat came up to talk to us. There were cheerful chickens. The RC broad beans are not as high as ours, but the gardens were looking lovely. And the borage plants were amazingly flowery.

Borage flowers

I don't think there were quite so many people there this year as last.  Certainly, I wasn't as cramped on my seat as I had been last year.

Not bad for a tent!

And our neighbours at the table were lovely. It was a chatty, happy evening which was worth absolutely every penny the whole weekend cost us. The food was delicious. The English white wine was definitely more-ish (nearly put Moorish, which would have been very appropriate for the Moroccan inspired main course!!). I went outside at one point and found a sunset the like of which you almost never see in England. It really was just a lovely evening. 

Tuscan sunset in Dorset

I had completely forgotten to do anything about organising a taxi for the evening and rather alarmed the lady at the local taxi company when I rang after breakfast to book one.  Getting out to River Cottage HQ wasn't a problem.  "But," she said, "it might be more difficult to get you back. We're pretty much booked up for the return trip.  What time did you want to come back?"  This was a worry. Unless you are a teetotaller you really don't want to be driving back from a River Cottage do.  Fortunately, I have no wish to stay until midnight. I can't hear anything over the band, once it starts. And in any case, my bedtime is usually 10 or 10:30. midnight is usually a great struggle for me.  The lady at the taxi company was mightily relieved when I asked for a return at 11.  But I must remember to book it much sooner next year

No idea what he said!
The photo album is here

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sunny Seaton

For weeks now I've been telling everyone that we were going to Dorset for the weekend. I've been waiting patiently, patiently, patiently for my weekend in Dorset.  I like Dorset.  I also like having weekends away. This weekend was booked way back in February when we were, in fact, in Melbourne.  I booked tickets.  I booked a B&B. I booked a long weekend off.  And now, quite suddenly, the weekend was upon us and it was finally time to head to Dorset.

I'm not sure that we even passed through Dorset on our way down!!  Somerset, yes.  Dorset, no, not that I noticed.

Seaton, where we were staying, is actually in Devon. We were having a weekend in Devon!

Oh well.  Devon will do. And the B&B was beautiful and the weather was glorious and we were remarkably close to the sea and it was all good.

We had dinner sat outside at the Harbour Inn in Axmouth on Friday evening, and breakfast in our room, sat in a pool of sunshine on Saturday morning.  And then we went out to explore.  First, up to Axmouth Harbour which we had driven past a couple of times on Friday evening. Over what is alleged to be the oldest concrete bridge in England (once carried traffic but is now a footbridge) and along the path by the mouth of the Axe out to look at the sea. Then back and along the shingle beach down into town.  The shingles were, on the whole, quite large.  Our thighs, knees and ankles were not entirely delighted with this adventure!! And then for a potter in Seaton itself, which is a delightful seaside town with some interesting shops, more importantly with some banks with cash machines, and a few pubs.

On Friday evening I had been talking to Tabitha on Skype and she had been investigating what there was to do in Seaton. Amongst the things she discovered was a tram system which she thought we should investigate. So we did.  And it turns out it's old trolley cars running up the estuary for about 3 miles. So we bought tickets and off we went.  And it was absolutely lovely. The scenery was beautiful and very, very green. The estuary hosts large numbers of birds. There are bird hides and boardwalks along the way. There were loads of rabbits.  And canoeists enjoying the water and ramblers enjoying the paths and all sorts. It was a lovely way of passing 90 minutes or so.

We had lunch in the Eyre Court, back in Seaton and went for another stroll along the seafront, admiring the blue blueness of the sea and the sky.  I don't think I have ever seen the sea so blue in England. It was just stunning.

And then we headed back to the B&B for a rest and a scrub up before heading out for the evening.

It really was the most beautiful day.

You'll find any foodie news you might be interested in over on the food blog And the photos are here