Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Late May

I have carried on with the rescuing of the garden beds, and have now turned my attention to the bed up by the pond.  Well, I've made a start on it but the weather hasn't been brilliant for digging or weeding on those occasions that I have been at home.

We've also had a couple of late frosts this last week or two.  The Under Gardener had to build little tents for the beans and super-earth up the potatoes

He's weeded the blueberries

Potatoes earthed up against night time frosts

Beans taking shelter inside their tents

These are my cannelini beans under bubble wrap

A "before" photo of the garden around the pond

Thames Barrier Park

We had been thinking of heading out to Greenwich for lunch on Monday. But the day was warm and sunny, it was a public holiday and thus Greenwich was bound to be particularly busy.  Also, we felt that it deserved a whole day trip and not just an hour or so.

Not far from Freyja's place is the Thames Barrier. Entirely unbeknownst to me, the Barrier has its very own park and gardens.  Entirely unbeknownst to any of us it also has a little cafe.  Freyja and Simon had spotted it on Sunday whilst on the DLR.  So we decided to go and inspect it and leave Greenwich for another time.

The gardens are quite unusual. They also weren't particularly busy, from which we surmise that their existence isn't widely know to anyone!  The little cafe served drinkable coffee and quite nice morning tea foods.  The barrier itself is an elegant piece of engineering, although we should perhaps worry that Freyja lives on the wrong side of it.  She'll be submerged should there be a tsunami!

Then we took the train back towards Freyja's place and walked up along the river to her house from the station. And then we all headed back to Beckton, where the Premier Inn had kindly let us leave the car after we had checked out, and The Builder and I kidnapped Simon and headed back to Tupton (via Sheffield which is definitely the long way around but Simon had some sort of objection to being abandoned sad and lonely in the middle of Derbyshire!!).

Freyja, in the meantime, went to see if she could find a way to get the the Chinese supermarket she has seen from the train.  She did find her way to it.  And the last I heard of her, she was wandering around the aisles and clutching her wallet tightly closed!!

All in all it was a lovely weekend.  We were extremely lucky with the weather. That's two long weekends in a row where the sun has shone!  It didn't shine yesterday. In fact it rained more or less all day, which scuppered my gardening plans. So I baked bread and made Scotch eggs and a slow cooked lamb casserole instead

Click on the gardens to reach the full album

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, when I was 8 or possibly 9 (but not 10 because we'd gone to Australia by then) we went on a family day trip to Brighton.  While we were there Tony and someone else (although I don't know who the someone else was, nor, indeed, how many someone elses there were) went out to play in the sea with my beach ball.  Alas, the tide or the current caught my beach ball and took it away and the people playing in the sea were unable to retrieve it.  I was somewhat aggrieved by this!  Stella assured me that the beach ball would be fine.  It was making its way to France to have a holiday with a little French girl.

So when Freyja suggested that we spend the Sunday of the long weekend in Brighton I thought this might be a good opportunity to see if my beach ball had returned from its holiday in France!

We went on the train.  We managed to get super cheap tickets for the four of us and we expected the roads to be busy so it seemed like the sensible option.  Mind you - the train was absolutely packed.  I'm not sure you could have fitted any more people onto the platform at London Bridge station!  But it is a really pretty train trip and it didn't really matter that we weren't all sat together.  The sun shone and people were mostly in an equally sunny mood.

Lunch first when we got there. And then off to a bit of an explore.  I hadn't been to Brighton since I was 9 or so.  I'm not sure why.  I don't think it can really have been because I was traumatised by the loss of my beach ball.  I suppose it's just not very handy from Sheffield.  It's a lovely place to visit. The little shopping lanes are lovely and have interesting shops in them.  We went for a ride on the little electric train and then walked back from the marina. We had ice creams. We pottered about. Then we caught the train back to London and Freyja and Simon went to a barbecue and The Builder and I went back to the Premier Inn and had dinner there.

Oh - and we found my ball.  Well, we found *a* ball.  I don't suppose it really was my ball waiting for me for nearly 50 years.  And I don't recall my ball having trains and tractors all over it.  We found it in a shop and immediately thought of Cally!

Click on the ball to reach the whole album

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ice Age

Way back at the beginning of February I heard a discussion on the Today Program about a new exhibition which had just opened in the British Museum.  It was an exhibition of Ice Age art and artefacts and it sounded extremely interesting.  So I bought tickets to it tying it to the Spring Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May.

And now here it is. The end of May. The Builder and I went down to London on Saturday morning and met up with Freyja and Simon. And we all went to see the exhibition.  And it was absolutely lovely. Tiny, tiny carvings of horses and bison and fish. Tiny, tiny representations of people, mostly women. It was all absolutely beautiful and quite exquisite.  They also had some modern art there to contrast with the Ice Age material - but I have to admit that I didn't pay much attention to that.  Why would you look at a Henry Moore when you could look at this:

Photo taken by Simon
I would say that you should all go and see the exhibition - except that it closes this coming weekend. And I don't know if they have plans to take it touring.  But if they do and if it comes anywhere near to you then you really should take the opportunity to go and see it.

After the exhibition we headed off to the Japan Centre, via a rather strange pub. It reminded me quite strongly of a dated public convenience in its decor and decoration.

In the pub with Freyja, Simon and Freyja's new Woolly Mammoth Oleg Ugh
We had a really delicious dinner in the Japanese Restaurant next to the Japan Centre, then Freyja and Simon went back to Freyja's place and The Builder and I went back to the Premier Inn in Beckton.

All in all, a good start to the long weekend

Monday, May 20, 2013


It was a lovely day yesterday so we took the opportunity to get out into the garden.  I have almost finished rescuing the first of the flower beds and have excavated the first of the paths.  I fear the next garden bed is going to be something of a challenge though :-S

Cherry blossom

We had our very own "hanami" or cherry blossom viewing

although this is apple blossom


Udon, Katsu and Curry checking to see if my boots might be edible

We have a new house down the bottom of our garden. The Builder is quite keen to annex it!!

The newly rescued garden path

And the newly rescued flower bed

Happy out in the late afternoon sunshine

Oh. It's you! Did you bring food?

Did someone mention food?

I shall come and investigate

Musings on homesickness

I have been feeling strangely homesick lately. Not for any particular reason that I can think of, although 18 months of remarkably grim weather probably hasn't helped. And I've been watching Australian food programs on the telly, which definitely hasn't helped.  Nate posting photos of foody fun in South Australia and Queensland on Facebook led me to think about pies and dim sims and Monday steak nights.  I was beginning to wonder if I could make a sneaky trip over for a family Sunday lunch, a cheeky steak night, a quick slurp of junk food.  (I think probably I could just about manage the air fare, and a few days off work - but The Builder might not be entirely delighted if I just upped and disappeared on foody adventures and left him loitering and hungry at home!!!)

Then on Saturday morning I stayed unusually (for me, at least) late in bed, drinking tea and gazing out the window.  This is the view from the bed:

It's not a bad little view.  Quite pleasant to wake up to and to gaze out upon.  And the sun shone for most of the weekend. We sat outside on the patio on Sunday afternoon for the second time this summer - and I have a feeling that might equal the sum total of occasions we could sit outside in the afternoon or evening last summer!!  Maybe I won't go dashing off to Melbourne right now.  I might wait until it's the Melbourne summer instead!  January/February is looking good!

I do quite fancy a dim sim, though

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mid May

Following the lovely sunny holiday weekend, the weather has reverted to cool, gloomy and damp.

We did, however, manage to get out into the garden for a bit of time on Sunday. I have made a start on digging over the beds in the centre of the flower garden. There are lots and lots of buttercups, couch grass, wild strawberries and bind weed strangling the tulips, irises, hellebores and other plants that we want and can't actually see! The paths are very overgrown - some of them have completely disappeared. The patio desperately needs attention. And the wooden garden furniture has definitely come off the loser after a couple of cold, wet and snowy winters and last year's wet and cool summer. I think we will probably just replace it. Once we have rescued the patio and the rest of the garden!

The seedlings we potted on are all doing well, and the seeds are starting to germinate. The Under Gardener planted out the bean seedlings on Sunday - and the weather dogs promptly threatened to deliver overnight frosts mid week :-S  So he has built the bean seedlings little tents made from potato sacks and garden bubble wrap. They do look very warm and toasty in their little tents!

The chickens have settled in very well. They are becoming fairly friendly and are usually laying 4 eggs a day. We've had a couple of days where there have only been 3, but that's not unreasonable. They have settled into a nice little routine that suits us quite well. And so far they are not noisily objecting when we aren't down there as the sun comes up, ready to let them out of their run - mind you, we do let them out fairly early but definitely not at sunrise, which at this time of year is around 5:00

The Under Gardener has planted more peas and broad beans up on the allotment. The original sowings are now germinated and looking fairly happy.

Oh - and we have had our first pickings from our asparagus beds. We just have to remember which plants we put in last year and the year before!!  Those plans I put on here are proving to be quite useful :-D

Hoping to get back out into the garden on Sunday. The forecast for tomorrow is quite wet, but Sunday is looking hopeful.

New Neighbours

Some weeks ago, we realised that it was very quiet in the house that is adjoined to ours. We hadn't heard Spirit the dog padding about or barking.  We hadn't seen Sean for some time. We concluded that they were perhaps away on holiday, or maybe had moved.

Time went on. We still heard and saw no sign of them.  Clearly they had moved.  We thought it a bit strange that Sean hadn't said goodbye.  We hadn't seen a whole lot of him but we had got on quite well.  Still, these things happen.  People do move without saying goodbye sometimes. And people in rental properties often move at short notice, without necessarily having chance to catch up with their neighbours before they go.

The house next door sat empty and silent.

Then one day The Builder saw the owner of the house outside. It seems that Sean (and therefore Spirit) had disappeared with unseemly haste. Indeed, it is alleged that they had Done a Runner. That would go some way to explaining Sean not saying goodbye!

The owners have since spent a bit of time renovating the house - and we have been waiting for a "To Let" sign to go up outside.

Yesterday, we took advantage of a break in the "showers" when I got back from work to go out and inspect the garden.  And in the garden next door there was a young couple who are to be our new neighbours. They seem quite pleasant.  They have dogs and a new-ish baby. They were about to come round and ask if we had any objections to them having some chickens (no objections from us, as long as they don't object to ours - and to the possible arrival of a couple of ducks). They greeted Marlo, who came to see who we were talking to, and hoped that he wouldn't be harmed by their dogs. We are not concerned about this. He managed to evade Spirit and has reached an "Understanding" with Max on the other side (as in - I'll torment you and you will never be able to catch me).  They seem a very pleasant couple.

They're moving in on Saturday week. We shall be in London, but I'll try and remember to drop by with some biscuits or a cake or something when we get back.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A short week at work

I had been looking at my time sheet a week or so ago, and noted that my hours were quite ridiculously high for this month.  Then I looked at my diary - and noted that there was nothing in it for this coming Friday. So I booked a flexiday off.

Last Monday was a public holiday.

Friday was a holiday Just For Me.

That meant I had to be at work for a mere three days during the week! (Could get quite used to that!!!).

It turned out, however, that we couldn't really do anything very much with the day off.

On the Holiday Monday, which was strangely warm and sunny to say that it was a national holiday, I had been rash enough to turn the central heating off. Rather to our surprise, this had the effect of depriving us of hot water. I turned the heating back on again, but with the radiators turned down. This meant that we had, if not hot, at least warm water. This all seemed very odd, so to test it I turned the heating off again.  No hot water :-S  Heating back on and I booked a service call for our boiler.  One was due anyway.

A bloke came on Thursday to look at it and declared that our boiler had a Perished Diaphragm.  Poor boiler.  A perished diaphragm can't be very pleasant.  Alas, the Service Bloke couldn't fix it. He didn't have the bits. So he booked a repair visit for sometime on Friday afternoon.  We, therefore, had to stay in.

And actually, that wasn't too frustrating.  The weather was a bit gloomier, a bit cooler, a bit wetter than the previous weekend so we weren't bursting to get out and about. And there were plenty of things to do at home. I decided that we really needed pies and chips for lunch and, not living somewhere where you can readily acquire acceptable takeaway pies, like Melbourne, I set about making some beef and mushroom pies while we were waiting for the boiler man to come. I had some home made chips in the freezer. Pie and chips it was.  We ducked out to Chatsworth to the garden centre and to the farm shop on Saturday. We actually got into the garden on Sunday (!!) and I made a start on rescuing the beds in the centre of the flower garden.  We had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for lunch on Sunday. It was a lovely, relaxing, quiet (long) weekend.  I could learn to like them :-D

And we have hot water again. The boiler is much, much happier.  It is also, I notice, quite a lot quieter than it's been for a long time. It's been a rattly boiler for years but no service engineer has been particularly worried about that.  I wonder if it had been suffering from an undiagnosed, slowly perishing diaphragm pretty much since we moved in.

Back to work today. I have to work a whole five days this week :-S  That will come as a bit of a shock to the system.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013


Katsu, Curry (Plymouth Rocks, Katsu has a paler chest than Curry), Udon and Ramen (Light Sussex; there's not a lot of difference between them although I think Udon has stripier stripes on her wings than Ramen) have arrived and settled in quite nicely. I was going to call the Light Sussexes Noodle and Rice - but Noodle is already called Noodle and we didn't want to cause confusion, so Udon and Ramen it is :-D We've got them shut up in the little run at the moment, while they get used to us, to their new surroundings, to each other.  They're so far proving to be good little chooks. They arrived mid-morning on Sunday and we've already had 9 eggs!

The first May Bank Holiday weekend turned out to be strangely pleasant, weather-wise  Normally when there is a holiday Monday, it pours and tempests and storms. Not this Monday. So we got out into the garden.  We've done a little light pruning of the cherry trees and the plum tree (always seems odd to me to prune in the spring but that's what the books say to do with prunus tree, prune either in the spring or as they finish fruiting).

And we've made a start on rescuing the poor flower beds.  The Under Gardener is out digging along the side bed even as we speak.

I potted on the tomato and pumpkin seedlings yesterday too. And sowed sweet corn, purple sprouting broccoli, white sprouting broccoli and romanesco seeds. I also sowed some button squash seeds, some capsicum seeds and some hollyhock seeds. We'll see how they all get on.

Click on the picnic chairs to get to the album

Crich Tramway Museum

Tabitha had asked a while back if it was possible that we could look after Cally on Saturday so she and Gaz could go into town to potter about in the markets, drink beer in the pubs and watch the snooker on the big screens dotted around the city centre.

Somewhat doubtfully, The Builder and I said yes. And then began to worry. What if we lost her? What if she cried all afternoon? What if she decided she hated us and ran away? Worryworryworryworry.  And what will we do with her all afternoon to keep her amused?

Tabitha pointed out that I have had three children and The Builder has had two and that probably we are licensed to look after a single two year old :-S

Then for some reason I remembered the tramway museum at Crich. Very occasionally, when we are driving about in rural Derbyshire, we have seen the signs to the tramway museum and every time we have seen the signs we have said that we really must go and have a look one day. But not that day because we are always on our way somewhere else.  And of course, we never got around to going.  But it seemed the sort of place that Cally might like so we griddled our lions, put her in the car and off we went.

She liked it!  She thought the trams were trains or buses but she's only two so we didn't bother correcting her. We went for a ride on one of the trams and pottered about exploring. We had afternoon tea in the tea shop and fed Cally toasted tea cake with apricot jam.

Then we took her home.  She didn't cry even once.  We didn't lose her. She didn't run away. We all had a good time, even in the absence of a responsible adult :-)

You'll find all our trammy adventures if you click on Cally

Gareth didn't get to go into town, though. The electricity into their kitchen decided to die so he had to hang around while an electrician fixed it.

It was a long weekend, for May Day. So on Sunday we went out and collected the new chickens and on Monday took advantage of the very surprising sunshine and warmth (usually long weekends are cold and wet and dismal!) and went to visit the allotment and messed about in the garden. We sat outside on the patio and drank wine and plotted plots. It was all very pleasant. I hope we get a chance to do it again :-D

I've got another long weekend next weekend too - but it's a long weekend just for me. My diary was completely empty on Friday. My hours are rather high. So I booked Friday off. Two long weekends sandwiching a very short work week

Friday, May 03, 2013

Mid Spring

There aren't any chickens in the orchard yet - they're coming on Sunday. But here is a snapshot of what's been planted as of today

There is asparagus up in the asparagus beds.

There is blossom on the plum tree and coming on the other fruit trees

There is blossom on the black and red currant bushes

We have dug up all the leeks and are finishing off the brussells sprouts

I have planted two boxes of purple carrots and one box of rainbow carrots

The cannelini bean and runner bean seeds have germinated and are sitting happily in the greenhouse

My poor early seedlings, sitting in the front doorway in the lounge room desperately need potting on.  A job for Sunday, I think.

There are flowers struggling up through the chaos in the flower garden. And the trees and bushes are slowly, slowly, slowly turning green again.

Spring definitely seems to have arrived in Tupton!