Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Monday, April 30, 2012

It's been raining

The pond was beginning to get quite low after a long, long time without any real rain. Then it rained almost all April, and especially hard over the last few days of April

The pond isn't low any more! Just as well the rain stopped when it did, or all the fish would have escaped. And it's a long, long way down to the river!!

A weekend gadding about

A few weeks ago we had an invitation in the post to a surprise party in Winchester for The Builder's eldest granddaughter, Chloe, who is turning 21.  Naturally we accepted, and I booked us into a pub in Winchester for the night.

The party was this weekend. (Warning, dates on the calendar are much closer than you think!!)

So we took ourselves down to Winchester on Saturday afternoon, ignored all the culture and history on offer and popped, instead, into an O'Neill's Irish pub for a spot of late lunch and a drink. We also popped into Marks and Spencer to grab a bottle of wine for the party - and found as well bottles of Rhubarb and Custard flavoured fizzy drink. We just had to have one of those as well (and found, rather surprisingly given that there appears to be neither rhubarb nor custard in the ingredients, that it was extremely tasty and in fact tasted exactly like rhubarb and custard sweets do!)

Now, the intention had been to stay in central Winchester, walk to the party so that no one had to worry about driving back, then go to the pub after with The Builder's son Ian, and then walk back to the hotel.  Sadly - this is not what actually happened.  For Barb and Greg, who had been intending to drop into Salisbury on their way to Winchester from Warminster and collect The Builder's mother and bring her with them, alas had to cry off because they were both poorly sick.  So we drove from Winchester to Salisbury and collected Gwen and took her to the party - and then, not wishing to make her walk all the way back in the middle of the night, obviously had to take her back home again afterwards.  Under the circumstances it would have been easier to have stayed in Salisbury!!  But the hotel was booked and paid for so couldn't be changed. And if we had changed it we would have missed out on the little treat that was the Westgate Hotel.  It looks ever so slightly seedy, ever so slightly down at heel. But our room was lovely, the welcome was as warm as toast and the breakfast they served on Sunday morning was absolutely delicious.  We will definitely go there again if staying in Winchester! And Gwen had a super time at the party so it was all well worth it.

The party was great fun. Somehow everyone had managed to keep it a secret from Chloe (though I think she was a bit puzzled by the bottles of wine and beer her mother had brought into the house in preparation!) and she truly was surprised when, expecting to be going out to a family dinner, she arrived in the church hall and found all of us there. There were lots of family there and many of her friends. A surprising number of ex and present partners intermingled happily. We played pass the parcel and ate sandwiches and cakes and drank wine (and rhubarb and custard fizz!) and generally had a fabulous time. Then we took Gwen back to Salisbury, returned unto Winchester and The Builder was finally able to have a couple of very well-deserved glasses of wine

Click on the photo to see the party album
Sunday dawned wet and gloomy and miserable. But undeterred, after our magnificent breakfast, we made our way to Docklands in London where we were meeting Freyja for lunch. We went through the wind and the rain from her room on campus to the nearest DLR station and then headed towards Canary Wharf, to the West India Quay, a former riverside warehouse which is now a restaurant and shopping area on the Isle of Dogs. We had a really nice lunch in a Mediterranean style restaurant - and when we had finished the rain had stopped and the sun was making a shy and nervous appearance. So we mooched back to Freyja's place and took a pleasant stroll across the river (via a bridge, of course) to look at a house that she is considering moving into for the summer. She can't come back to Sheffield when the Olympics come to East London (in mid-June, I think - the American team and its attendants will be staying in her block in the halls of residence and obviously need to be in place well before the games start), because she is, of course, taking part herself.  I have to say that the area she is thinking of moving to is really rather nice.  I really, really covet one of the flats by the river which have terrace gardens on long balconies and truly amazing views of the river and the skyline.  Alas - it would be a long and very expensive commute to work so might not be very practical.

Click on Freyja to see the London album

It didn't start raining again, not properly, until we had got home. And then it rained and rained and rained and rained and RAINED!

I was showing Freyja the photos from the party when we were having lunch yesterday and she made the comment that it was a bit weird that I had this whole other family loitering down on the south coast.  I suppose it must be - I hadn't thought about it like that before. But it's true - a whole other family, some of whom she hasn't met. Must be very strange!

Oh. And an update on Stella and her health. She is now better, blood pressure stabilised, out of hospital and gallivanting about with Tony on holiday at the Country Club in Inverloch. It seems it probably wasn't a heart attack but a particularly nasty angina attack - but it was the seriously yo-yoing blood pressure which was causing the cardiologist concern

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spring is definitely sprung

So the Met Office, Government, and Water Companies announce that most of England is in drought conditions and many of the water companies announce water restrictions.

So, of course, the heavens opened and after a very dry, warm March, April is heading to be extremely wet, and a touch on the cool side.

This, while irritating to the Under Gardener, who wants to get out and dig and tidy and get ready for planting, has been quite nice for most of the plants. We have lots and lots of cherry blossom, and a good deal of apple blossom , pear and plum blossom and even some peach blossom (though we will need a warm, sunny summer to get any peaches). The soft fruit isn't in blossom yet, but is certainly coming into leaf.

The asparagus is sprouting through!!!!!!! Won't be long before we can start harvesting it, although we need new crowns for the third bed we are planning to put in. The ones we put in last year didn't take at all, alas.

In the greenhouse, the poor kiwi vine was hit horribly by the late, quite hard frosts and all its leaves have gone crisp ;-(  However, it is now trying to make new ones so I am hopeful it will be OK.  And so far we have three carrot and two tomato seeds that have germinated.  I am really hopeful that more will come along now that the weather is starting properly to warm up. Three carrots and two tomato plants aren't quite the number I was hoping for!

The onions are mostly coming along well, and the two sprouting broccoli plants are producing enough to keep us ticking over.

The Under Gardener has been doing his best on the allotment, given the rainfall we've had in the past couple of weeks.  He has now dug over all 6 of the beds upwards of the greenhouse and is poised, ready to dig the beds below the greenhouse. Then we can get on with planting potatoes. He's been planting peas and broad beans in th beds above the greenhouse, and a bed of first early potatoes in the garden. He's planning to plant some second earlies in the garden then the rest up on the allotment when the beds are ready.

And we really must get on with sowing some seeds in the greenhouse - we've got lots and lots waiting to go!

[Update: The Under Gardener reports that he has dug the first of the veg beds below the greenhouse on the allotment, and planted the new pear tree which he got for his birthday at the bottom of the orchard, near the fence between us and the farm. Grow well, little pear tree :-) ]

Click on the picture to get to the latest garden album

Poor Old Stella

I woke up this morning and, as is my habit, checked my phone for emails, text messages and for Facebook and Twitter updates.

I was a bit surprised to find that some of my nieces had put messages on Facebook telling their grandmother that they loved her.  Quite right, of course. As they should.  But why did they feel the need to tell her so on Facebook at this particular point?

I set off investigating. And found, way down the timeline, a message from my father to say that Stella had been taken into hospital with chest pains!!  So I got up and trundled off in search of my laptop (my phone is a nice phone, but it is getting on a bit now, in phone years, and is slowing down. My laptop is younger and perkier and quicker - and also bigger!)  And lo - Tony happened to be about on Skype.  So I rang him. They think that Stella has had a minor heart attack, but she is still having tests to find out what's going on.  At the time I spoke to him she was in the Frankston hospital, but I think they are trying to move her back to hospital in Mornington.  When I spoke to Tony, the chest pains had stopped and I think Stell was minded to go back home. The doctors appear to think this is not a good idea, so in hospital she remains. For the time being, at least.

Apart from that, nothing very exciting has been happening. We had a peacefully quiet weekend in which we did very little.

In pursuit of saving for the GWT, I have started a spending spreadsheet, partly to see where the money goes, and partly to see how many days in a month I can go without spending anything at all. This has had the unexpected side effect of turning me into a right miser! Do I want to make a donation to a collection for a colleague who's leaving?  Nooooooooo - that would be one day less of no spending! Fancy lunch out with a colleague? Absolutely not - another day of no spending. How about a Friday after-work pub visit. Again - noooooooooooooooooo. More money on my spreadsheet!!!!!  (I do, of course, do all these things, but that is the first thought).  The other side effect, naturally, is that I have suddenly developped an urgent desire to go out and buy loads of things that I hadn't previously known that I needed!  I'm resisting that one too

Freyja, in the meantime, has discovered that Megabus has now expanded out from the UK and is now offering super cheap trips to Western Europe. Mind you - even if they did offer GWT trips, I'm not sure I would want to go all the way to Singapore and Perth and Melbourne and Nagoya on a Megabus!!  Would take for ever, and definitely wouldn't be particularly comfortable. What we need is a Megaplane :-D

The Builder's Fast Driving certificate


...and The Builder

[Update on Stella: Facebook informs me that Stella has now moved to the Peninsula Hospital, which Google informs me is in Frankston. She's feeling lots better - but still isn't allowed to go home yet]

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Builder's Birthday Present

here it is, Saturday morning and off we are heading at quite an early hour to Prestwold to the Everyman Racing Driving Experience, where Jeanette and Matthew have bought a racing car experience for The Builder for his birthday.  I have no real interest in driving fast cars fast, but went along anyway, for the (not so fast) ride.

Ready to go
If you drew a triangle with Derby, Nottingham and Loughborough as the three points, Prestwold (I keep wanting it to be Prestbury, which is in Cheshire and doesn't, as far as I am aware, have a driving circuit - just as well I didn't navigate us there!!!!), would be inside it, down towards Loughborough and it is much closer to us than I had thought. Moreover, on a Saturday morning at half past eight there is very little traffic on the roads, even on the M1. So we called into one of the services for a stash of cash. And we managed to take a wrong turn at one point which added a few minutes to the drive time - and, incidentally, took us through some very pretty countryside!  Even so, we arrived extremely early for The Builder's 11 o'clock appointment.

The instructions had said to come an hour before time, so we weren't *that* much early. And he went off to register and to sign all the paperwork and to do the various things that he had to do before he went a-driving. And I sat outside in the warm sunshine and the cool breeze, by the American Style diner-in-a-tin-hut, and wiled away a bit of time.

They went round 4 times
All of a sudden - there was The Builder walking across the car area accompanied by other people who also looked as though they were going to go out driving.  I checked the time. It was only ten past ten!!!!!  So I grabbed all my stuff and dashed away from the diner-in-a-tin-hut and up the grassy hill to a viewing area so I could watch and take photos and videos.  The only problem with this was that I didn't actually see which car he had got into!!  So I took pictures of all of them. (I also couldn't actually see what I was photo-ing or videoing for the sun was shining on the view screens - so I more or less had to make it up!)

I did it!!!
There are other cars to drive as well
So off they went. A white lead car, and three little sporting numbers following in procession. And they whipped around the circuit four times, getting faster and faster each time. The cars were only tiny - and The Builder, as I'm sure you've noticed, is not a small person. So they had taken the seat out of his car and he was sat on the floor of the chassis, knees and shoulders all scrunched in so that he fitted into the tiny car. It must have been extremely uncomfortable - and he had a FABULOUS time!!  He really loved it.  Had we thought about it, we would have bought him something else to do while we were there.  But now that we know that it's there and that you don't actually have to pre-book - we might go back one day and let him have a play with some of the other circuit drives!

We came back not along the motorway (so he wouldn't be tempted to vooooooooooooooooooooooooooooom along and get into lots of trouble with the motorway police). We would have stopped and had lunch somewhere along the way - not at the circuit itself because there was only the diner on offer, but at one of the local pubs. But he had had his drive so early that it wasn't lunchtime! So we went to The Nettle instead as a continuation of the birthday festivities.

So that was an excellent birthday present.  Many thanks to Jeanette and Matthew who organised it all. He really had a great time :-)  (And I had quite a fun time too - to my surprise!!)

Post-drive lunch back at The Nettle

And here are some videos

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bluddy Chickens!

For some time now we have noticed that we were getting very few eggs, and on rather more days than we would have expected (even in late winter) we were getting none at all.

Then we noticed that when we did get eggs, they were often very soft shelled.

Then we found that Parsley had discovered that fresh eggs are Very Tasty Indeed and was pecking into and eating the new laid eggs, even when they weren't soft shelled!!!

This was all rather undesirable.  We are very fond of the chickens but are not keeping them as pets. And we do want the eggs for us, not for them. So I made up a mix of hot English mustard, tabasco sauce and super hot chilli sauce and put that inside and empty (not soft!) eggshell, put it all back together as well as I could and put it in the nest box. She certainly had a go at it.  As well, we went to a Farm and Smallholding supply shop near Rowsley and bought some mineral supplement for them. It contains a number of things which are meant to encourage egg production, including oyster shell and other calcium bearing things.  I have to say it smells wonderful - and the chickens love it. We've mixed it with their treats which they have gobbled down at super fast speed.

I've bought some more (and cheaper!) mustard and will make up some more egg bombs to deter sneaky egg eating on Parsley's part. And we're hopeful that we might now get a few more usable eggs!  I'll let you know.

We've had a bit of rain recently, but we've also had some quite spectacular frosts to say that it's half way through April. The weather people were forecasting a "potato frizzling frost" last night. Fortunately we have only got our First Earlies (Arran Pilot, that The Under Gardener planted during the week) in and they aren't up yet. But when I went out this morning all sorts of things that are usually frost hardy were looking rather sorry for themselves.  The poor kiwi vine, even though it's in the greenhouse and even though we've had the door closed, has lost nearly all of its new season leaves. I hope it manages to grow some new ones

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mainly lunching

So, we got up the day after the party. Or, I got up. By the time Barb and then The Builder emerged I had washed up and tidied up and washed up and put the dining room furniture back in place and washed up and sorted out the lounge room and washed up and been extremely careful with my one remaining clean and dry tea towel and my one remaining clean dish cloth and washed up and made a cup of coffee.

Did I remember to mention that I had done the washing up?

We took Barb out for a round about drive to the Chatsworth Farm Shop (where there was not a chicken to be had at all :-S ) then we came home in a different round about way. And then Barb went home and The Builder and I made a start on eating up the party left overs (there was lots of party, pasty and sausage roll filling left).

On Wednesday we went out to Bakewell to have lunch with some friends. They have a beautiful house on the edge of Bakewell up at the top of a hill. As we got there the clouds darkened and the heavens opened - and we abandoned our plans to have a post-prandial stroll through the countryside to a convivial pub and settled in for a lovely lunch and conviviality at their place. And, of course, as we eventually headed home (via the Chatsworth Farm Shop, where we snapped up the very last remaining chicken - what is it with people bulk buying chickens this week???), the clouds cleared and the sun came out.  Next time we'll go for that walk!

It had once again crossed Freyja's mind earlier in the week, that Thursday would again find her, Tabitha, Cally, The Builder and me (but not Gaz who was, poor boy, at work) free and available to meet for lunch.  Also - she and Tabitha still had the Aussie party supplies held to ransom. So I baked the ransom of pasties and a veggie pasty and round to Taffa's place we went for a yummy and spectacularly unhealthy lunch of barbecue shapes, twisties, chocolate mint slices and double decker chocolate - a dietary catastrophe mitigated only by the relative healthfulness of my home made pasties!!! (Cally refused the healthfulness and insisted on eating twisties and chocolate biscuits :-D )

Yesterday we mostly pottered about. We went out to a Farm and Smallholding supply shop near Rowsley for some chickeny supplies - and had lunch at home.  And once again I seem to have done none of the useful things I was intending to do during my week off. It has been rather nice and restful though, once we got the party done with.  But now I must get up.  We are shortly due to leave for somewhere near Loughborough, where The Builder's Birthday Present activity from Jeanette and Matthew is due to take place. (At least the weather is looking good for it; it's been predictably cool and showery for most of this week!!)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A 70th Birthday Afternoon Tea

One of the disadvantages of having a relatively small kitchen is that if you want to do ambitious cooking, particularly if you want to make its of different things, you have to keep washing up, clearing up and putting things away as you go.

This might also be considered to be one of the big advantages to having a relatively small kitchen!!

On Monday we had 32 people coming to join us for afternoon tea to celebrate The Builder's 70th birthday. 34 people if you include us. Amongst all those people we had to accommodate various allergies, including nuts and strawberries, a visitor with Coeliacs disease and various vegetarians and pescatarians (although mercifully no vegans),  plus we wanted to include some traditional Australian party treats. So I thought quite carefully about the menu, remembering that it was afternoon tea and not lunch that they were all coming for.

A mixture of savoury and sweet then. On Saturday I made up a batch of rough puff pastry, using grated butter, plain flour and sour cream and left that to sit wrapped in plastic in the fridge until Sunday morning. I also made up a pasty mix of diced potatoes, finely sliced leeks, a little garlic and a very healthy glug of tomato paste which I simmered until not quite done; some pork and sage sausage meat; and a saucepan of minced beef and tomato pie mix. All of these also got left in the fridge overnight so the flavours could mingle.

For the sweet side of the table I made some chocolate and some lemon curd cupcakes from Love Bakery by Samantha Blears which I later iced and decorated and for the gluten free amongst us I made some small meringues, which I filled with whipped cream and caramelised pineapple or kiwifruit slices and grated chocolate. I also made a sponge cake. The Builder is allergic to strawberries - and it was his birthday so it seemed a tad unreasonable to decorate his cake with them - so I used blueberries instead, making a soft blueberry jam for the middle and decorating the top with whipped cream and whole blueberries.

Birthday cupcake treats

The Birthday Boy loves pineapple

But to my mind kiwifruit is more traditional

Blueberry sponge cake
On Monday morning I got up early and made onigiri style rice balls, with cucumber marinated in gluten free soya sauce (which to my surprise I found in the supermarket) and a little brown sugar, or with avocado in the middle. I also made egg and cress, veggie friendly cheese and salmon sandwiches and a small plate of fairy bread (buttered white bread with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on). Then when the visitors were nearly due I made up the potato and cheese pasties, the sausage rolls and the party pies and popped them in the oven for around half an hour. We cut up some celery and carrot stick, and sliced the left over avocados, made sure there was wine and soft drink and tea and coffee and we were ready

A vegetarian platter

Onigiri style rice balls and party sausage rolls and pies in the background

These were filled with avocado slices

My only problem was, that with all the clearing, cleaning, tidying and washing up that had to go on to get all this done in my kitchen, I  ran out of clean and dry tea towels, I ran out of clean and dry hand towels - and I even ran out of dishcloths!

I think the party went well.  There wasn't much food left at the end!

Easter and a Birthday Party

I can't say that I really celebrated Easter this year. I was up spectacularly early and spent most of the morning in the kitchen baking cupcakes and a "Victoria" sponge and meringues. While I was about it I made a pork and sage sausage meat, a party pie filling and a vegetarian potato, leek and cheese pastie filling. Then I made the pastry dough to assemble all those pastry treats. And then I iced all the cakes.

Finally I remembered that it was, indeed, Easter Sunday (though I had listened to both of the Easter services on the radio and sung along to Songs of Praise on the telly) and put a piece of pork into the oven to roast then sat down with a glass or two of wine.

The weather forecast for Monday was atrocious (aside from the fact that we need quite a lot of rain - but not on Easter Monday!)

We were expecting over 30 people to lob in on Monday afternoon.

Our house does not have elastic walls :-S

As we were going to bed I thought: "We could put the garden chairs in the porch and use that for a bit of extra space!!"

Thus it was that The Builder spent the morning of his 70th birthday sorting out and tidying up the porch, half emptying and moving the redundant water butt (something he'd been meaning to do anyway, but possibly not on his actual birthday) and assembling the lovely wooden garden table Lindsey and Ian gave us for Christmas (not much call for garden furniture at Christmas in Tupton, so it and its accompanying chairs got put away until the weather warmed up. Or now).  And I spent it moving everything possible from the lounge room and dining room and moving the furniture to allow for the maximum number of people in each room.

And I made sandwiches and the pies, pasties and sausage rolls.

And at the time the visitors were due we were sat down and ready and waiting.

Freyja and Simon came with Paul and Carol. Paul and Carol remembered to bring the wine glasses they had promised to lend us. Freyja and Simon FORGOT the Australian party food that Freyja had bought in London. Tabitha, Gaz and Cally came with Ginger Rich - and remembered to bring the paper plates and napkins left over from Cally's party but FORGOT the twisties and barbecue shapes. Freyja and I went into the kitchen and chopped vegetable sticks to supplement the party food - until Freyja sliced her hand and had to retire hurt in search of a band aid (how anyone can chop their hand off when slicing up avocado is a mystery to me!) and I made more veggie pasties and cheese sandwiches.

And lots and lots and lots of people came. And ate the food. And drank the wine. And had tea and coffee.

And the house seemed to divide itself up. Calm, quiet, peacefulness in the lounge room. Raucous behaviour in the dining room. And people smoking, drinking and just hanging out in the porch.

It all seemed to go quite well. The Builder's family came up from Whiteley and Winchester. Loads of my cousins rocked in for a mini family gathering. Some friends came. And everyone seemed to have a happy time.

Then people started to drift off until only Barb remained. And she decided to stay over rather than heading out into the wind and rain (which, given that she had come all the way from Warminster seemed fair) and the spare room got to fulfil its function as a spare bedroom rather than a junk room so it too was happy.

Thank you for coming, everyone. And thank you for the wine and the presents. You helped The Builder celebrate his 70th birthday really well.

Click on the cakes to reach the party photos

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


I couldn't with any honesty say that I was shocked to get up this morning and find that it had been snowing. The forecasters have been telling us for days that wintry weather was coming.  But I was expecting to get a little sprinkle, not 5 or 6 cm in the garden!

Looking out the kitchen window at about 7 this morning

Marlo was unimpressed to find that his cat door was snowed up

That's proper snow, that is

Can't see out the bedroom window

Just as well The Builder thought to close it last night!

Looking across to Ankerbold Road
It was odd, though, given that the snow was blowing in from the north, that there was much less snow in Chesterfield and virtually none in the Sheffield City Centre. It was more sleet and icy rain as I walked across from the station (although it is snowing now).

Last week we were sat outside on our patio in the early evening

Don't think we'll be doing that this evening!!!

Vale Wheatsheaf and Swan

I have to admit that I was rather surprised when Matthew from the Wheatsheaf in Braishfield posted on Facebook last week that his pub had closed with immediate effect. I have noticed, of course, that pubs are closing - and in some cases closing quite abruptly. Two of the pubs in Grassmoor have closed over the past few months. One is now (I think) being converted into a house. The other is all boarded up and looking sad and lonely. One of the pubs in our village closed months ago and is also looking fairly forlorn. A Chesterfield pub is now a Tesco and several others are abandoned. As I say - I had noticed. But I was surprised by the Wheatsheaf. Whenever we have been there it has been very busy. It felt calm and secure. It gave absolutely no indication of being a pub under threat.  So surprised and a bit sad. I liked the Wheatsheaf. It did good food. It was a happy pub. It had nice staff.

On the other hand, I can't say that I was surprised to learn yesterday that its partner pub The Swan had also closed. We have been staying in The Swan when visiting Salisbury for several years now and had noticed, over the past few visits, that attention to the little details was fading away. Not big problems - little things like the shower door not hanging properly and the bed linen getting a wee bit tatty. Things that would have been dealt with very quickly at one time. Tiny alarm bells started ringing. We knew things were grim this weekend when we found that there was no pinot grigio or (on Sunday) sauvignon blanc or proper ale. The menu had seriously reduced. The standard of the food had fallen (although I have to say that the breakfasts were lovely - but even so). The place was looking dishevelled. The alarm bells became more like claxons.  So I was entirely unsurprised when Carl posted on Twitter and Facebook that they had also closed. I had pretty much been waiting for it since I learned The Wheatsheaf had gone under - and I knew it was coming after our weekend visit. Any decent pub in England that doesn't have either pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc is a pub in trouble. It is in deep trouble when it also doesn't have any real ale.

So we are very sad. We liked the Wheatsheaf. We liked The Swan. We enjoyed our visits to both pubs. And we like Matthew at the Wheatsheaf and Carl and Maris at The Swan.

I wonder where they will all end up. Maybe they will go to new pubs for us to play with.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Monkey World

We were extremely lucky with the weather on Sunday.

On Saturday, when we had driven down to Salisbury, it was gloomy and cloudy and misty and dull and cold.

On Sunday we woke up to find it warm and sunny and still and lovely.

Which was lucky, because it was Gwen's birthday and we were planning to take her to Monkey World, near Wareham, about an hour's drive from her place.  Not somewhere you would want to go and a cold, grey and misty day.

That scooter that Barb, Greg, The Builder and I gave her for Christmas is something of a Godsend. It opens up lots of different places for us to take her when we go out. You would definitely not have wanted to push her around in her wheelchair somewhere like Monkey World. The scooter renders places that are hilly visitable.

So we met Barb and Greg there and we had chips for lunch and then we ambled off in the sunshine to admire the monkeys and chimpanzees and orang utans and marmosets and other primates. We had ice cream for afternoon tea. Gwen had fun trying to master her scooter - she has never driven a car and while I think the rest of us could have worked out the scooter quite quickly, to Gwen it was something of a mystery. She kept running up against the kerb when trying to go around corners. And she didn't realise that the "accelerator" on the handle of the scooter adjusts the speed (there is also a speed dial on the scooter itself) and if she gripped the handle particularly firmly she tended to disappear off in a puff of power!  On the whole, though, she had a really great day - a birthday well celebrated.

On Monday, when we headed back home, the clouds burbled in and the temperature dropped and it all got a bit gloomy again.

Extremely lucky with the weather on Sunday!

Monkey World.  Click on the picture to go to the album