Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Tuesday dawned drizzly and chilly and quite gloomy.  Fortunately, we had pretty much nothing planned for the day so it didn't really worry us very much.

I peeled, cored and chopped a mountain of Bramley apples and made them into apple sauce.  There are none left in the house - but there are at least as many again on the tree on the allotment and twice as many on the tree in the orchard garden :-S

I made a huge big pot of chicken and cider stew, which is now portioned out and in the freezer, ready for ready meal emergencies.

I made up several vegetable stew bags with tomatoes, runner beans and zucchinis.

And I made a not-Sunday roast chicken for us to have for our main meal of the day.

The weather cleared up and the sun came out and it turned into a lovely late summer (or early autumn) afternoon and evening. And I escaped from the kitchen!

And that was the end of my week and a bit off work.  The alarms have all been turned back on, the radio has been instructed to come on in time for the morning Shipping Forecast.  And the Silly Season at work is beckoning from the horizon.  It's going to be even sillier this year because one of our team is on maternity leave and another is retiring.  So we will be two bodies down when the chaos that is October hits us :-S

Freyja, who went exploring in South East Asia and Australia last December and who has spent most of this year studying and working in California, is now back in Sheffield.  I think this has come as something of a shock to her system!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


We had an absolutely lovely day on Sunday. I know we woke early, what with the ducks quacking outside our bedroom - but we also woke to a beautiful sunrise. The sun continued to shine all day.  It was warm and sunny and lovely.

So after a hearty breakfast, The Builder and I took ourselves off for a walk through the Harnham Meadows towards the city centre and the cathedral.

 We pottered around in the city and then went back to the pub by another route, passing rivers and gardens and bridges and trees and beautiful buildings

We picked up Gwen at midday and took her back to The Old Mill, where we were joined by Jeanette, Rebecca, Evie and Ian.  Matthew, alas, was unable to join us. He has an unpleasant bout of flooooooo.  We hadn't told Gwen that the others were coming so it was a nice surprise for her

I have to say that the lunch was absolutely delicious. And plentiful!!

After lunch we took Gwen for a drive through the pretty little villages in the Chalke Valley and then took her home.

We returned to the Old Mill and spent the late afternoon and evening watching (through our window) the people sitting outside the pub, the children playing in the river, the dogs also playing in the river, and families making merry in the parkland across the river.  It was a beautiful late afternoon and evening.

Yesterday was a public holiday in England and Wales.  So naturally it rained and the temperature plummeted! We had nothing in particular planned for the day, so we made a good breakfast and headed off home nice and early.  It wasn't too bad a trip home.  We were, I think, ahead of most people who were going home after the weekend. We just had to be careful because of the occasionally very heavy rain!

We like it at The Old Mill.  It's an atmospheric, quaint building. It's very comfortable. The staff are lovely. The food is fabulous.  So we were not entirely delighted to discover the Simon and Steve, who own and manage the pub - are leaving!!!!!!! End of September ;-( They've decided that they are getting too old to work so many hours, 7 days a week and making sure that everything runs smoothly.  The new people are going to have some big standards to live up to!!

There are a few more photos on my Salisbury album.  If you want to look at them, you'll find them here.  I'll put them on Facebook too.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


We came down to Salisbury yesterday afternoon so we can see The Builder's mum for lunch today. It's a long weekend for us - Monday is the End of Summer public holiday.  That meant that we could stay down for two nights rather than one which would be a bit more relaxing.

We had quite a good run down the motorways. I think most people had gone away on Friday if they were heading off for the weekend, or on Saturday morning if they were heading away for the week.  The mistake we made (and we really should have known better) was to move onto the A303 for five km. took 20 minutes did that little 5km!!!

We're staying in the Old Mill, which is across the meadows from the cathedral. We've stayed here several times before (and each time, I think, in the same room!) and rather like it.  Good food, comfy enormous bed, nice view out over the river and mill leat.

Previously we have come in the winter. This is our first time in the summer and is thus the first time we've slept with the window wide open.  We dined and wined very well last night. And slept very well.  Or at least, I slept very well until about 4.45 when I was woken up by ducks quacking. It's now 6.30 and the ducks are still quacking. Very loudly! I'm glad our ducks don't make that much noise. The neighbours would have been complaining about the noise long ago. Mind you, it's hard to know quite who you would complain to about these ducks. I think they belong to God and in my experience he doesn't pay much attention to complaints about noise. And it's quite lovely, really. It's a beautiful, late summer dawn and I can hear the mill leat running into the river. And the ducks :-D

Speaking of which - we found our first duck egg in the duck run yesterday, unfortunately after breakfast otherwise The Builder could have had it with his toast, mushrooms and tomatoes. He can have it on Tuesday.

Friday, August 22, 2014

What to do now

We had a lovely time when Pat was here.  We went to two farm shops (I think Pat has been collecting farm shops while she has been in England) and had a pub lunch, a Sunday lunch at home and lunch in the Chatsworth farm shop restaurant.

And then, suddenly, she was gone.

What to do? What to do?

So we turned this

into this

We had been wondering for some time what might be behind the green tiles that covered over where once there would have been a proper fireplace.  Turned out there was plaster and behind the plaster, bricks.  The Builder made a hole in the bricks, enough so that we could see through.

And there, covered in rubble, was the original fire place.

The Builder has got out as much rubble as he could, but stopped taking the bricks out - partly because we don't want a gaping great high hole behind the television but mostly because we didn't want the entire chimney breast to come a-tumbling down.  We've been to a fireplace shop in Clay Cross to have a look at what there might be in the way of proper fire places.  It seems we can't have an open fire unless we do lots of expensive structural work to the chimney.  But we can have a wood burner, and new tiles and a wooden mantelpiece.  Well, we can when we have saved up a bit more money.  Wood burners are a bit more expensive than I had realised.   But we can take the bricks out.  They assure us that the house won't fall down if we do  But we still don't want a gaping big hole behind the television so we'll wait until we can afford the wood burned.

So then.  What shall we do today?

Monday, August 18, 2014


I first met Pat when we moved to Beaufort in the 1980s and she was teaching at the Beaufort Primary School.  Then we moved to Ballarat and kept in intermittent touch with her.  Later, in one of those random acts that life throws at you from time to time, she took a flat in Melbourne for weekday use, next door to the flat that my mother in law owned and which we used as a pied a terre when we were in town!  We've been friends for decades.  She's known Tabitha, Austin and Freyja since they were tiny.

So when she said that she was coming to the UK and could she come to stay for a few days we dusted off the spare room, made up the bed and Tabitha, Gareth and Cally arranged to come and pitch a tent on the lawn so that they could play too.  Freyja isn't back from California yet so couldn't come to play, and Austin, of course, is in Japan.  Skype, however, is a wonderful thing :-D

We've had lunch at The Nettle (who accommodated all of our various requirements with grace and good humour).  We had a Proper Sunday Breakfast, and a Proper Sunday Lunch.  It was showery yesterday but nothing that inconvenienced us!  Tabitha, Gareth and Cally have gone home now, but I've got this week off work so we are planning to head to Chatsworth to inspect the farm shop and to have a spot of lunch.  Tomorrow she moseys on down to Cambridge and goes home to Ballarat at the weekend.

It's been lovely to see her.  I think she should come again!

She claims that it's her 80th birthday this coming December, but I really don't think that that can be right!!

Click on Pat and Marlo to get to the Sunday photo album

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I celebrated having Friday off by deciding to clean the kitchen windows and windowsill.  While I was about it, I cleaned the tiles on the right hand side of the kitchen (it's the right hand side if you're stood looking out of the kitchen window!). I was about to go outside and clean the outside of the window when I remembered that we have a window cleaner.  Seemed silly to do it myself so instead I made a few jars of bramley apple sauce, tidied up various hotspots in the house and generally did useful things.  Although I strenuously avoided cleaning the left hand side of the kitchen, which desperately needs doing but which is quite a big job.  I'll have to do it one evening this week.

We went to visit Jeanette, Matthew, Rebecca and Evie overnight on Saturday.  We had a really good run down and a lovely visit.  We haven't seen them since February, so it was good to catch up.  They have acquired a puppy since we were last there.  Bailey is a 12 week old Cockerpoo (cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle). She looks really remarkably like Noodle, my brother Simon's dog.  I fear I caused him much excitement and then some disappointment when I rang him to show him Bailey.  Initially he thought she was ours.  Alas, no.  Our 12.5 year old cat would be less than amused if we imported a 12 week old puppy into his quiet and stable routine. And our lifestyle at the moment isn't really appropriate for a dog. We'll need to wait until we stop dashing about so much and in the meantime we will just have to enjoy visiting Bailey.  And Noodle :-)

Bailey and I didn't get off to a very good start, though. I bounced up to her with my Farley Dog when we arrived - and terrified the living daylights out of her, poor thing.  Still, she forgave me and we were good friends by the time we left.  She didn't ever really take to The Builder though.  I hope she comes round to him eventually!

The Builder's son Ian joined us all for dinner on Saturday night We had a delightful coq au vin for dinner.  He wasn't there on Sunday, though, but we continued the feasting any way with a delicious slow cooked roast pork. We were entertained by a visit from ex-hurricane Bertha, who brought us wind and rain , although not as much wind and rain as she graced other bits of the UK with.  Sheffield and Chesterfield were treated to torrential rain and very high winds. Fortunately, we missed virtually all of that.  We even had an almost entirely dry run home. We could see storms around us, but they kept out of our way.

Breakfast time

All gone? Really?  Are you sure there's no more?

Bailey and Evie

Can I come out of the kitchen? Can I Can I?

Friday, August 08, 2014

Still eating

It was our wedding anniversary yesterday.  (Five years! How did that happen??)  It would probably have been our preferred option to celebrate by going out to lunch, but it would have been difficult to have cleared my diary for yesterday.  Clearing it for today wasn't at all difficult, so I arranged to take today off and booked us a table at The Nettle for a celebration dinner yesterday evening.  I didn't need to worry about having to get up this morning for work, so we could eat, drink and make merry at will.

Thursday is fish night at The Nettle (ordinary menu options are also available). Sandford came over to chat to us and told us what fishy and seafoody delights he had been able to acquire.  Ooooooh.  Please, please, please can I have a seafood platter,even though a fish platter doesn't appear on the menu???????  Yes, said Sandford.  Of course you can.  We settled down with a glass of beer for The Builder and a glass of wine for me to consider what else we might have.

The Builder had a quandary: fresh mackerel or a beef and prawn plate?  Have both, said Sandford.  I'll do you a mackerel starter.

And so that's what he did:

The Builder's mackerel starter

…and his amazing beef and prawn plate
I probably shouldn't have had a starter - but I did!

Asparagus, bacon and poached egg salad

… and my glorious seafood platter
I could tell you that we didn't eat all the chips because they were not up to standard.  But that would be a lie.  The chips were wonderful.  Alas, we were too full from our starters and our substantial main courses to fit them in ;-(

It might possibly be time for me to stop feasting.  I noticed yesterday that my summer shorts all appear to have shrunk!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Mostly Eating

It had been ages and ages and ages since I had last seen Richard. So I summoned him to meet me for lunch :-)  The Builder came too. We went to Tamper at the Seller's Wheel on Friday and had a delicious and convivial lunch.  Then Richard pottered off into town, and The Builder and I went to Waitrose and Sainsbury's and then went home.

I baked a chocolate tray bake, 6 lemon and poppy seed fairy cakes and 6 Victoria sponge fairy cakes. You may notice that I had the afternoon off work!

On Saturday I made 30 mini sausage rolls, 12 cheese puffs, 12 egg and cress sandwiches, 12 ham sandwiches, 12 tomato sandwiches and I iced the cakes.  Then I set everything out on the dining room table and waited for visitors.

And at 2 pm, visitors arrived :-)  For we were celebrating my colleague Paul's forthcoming retirement. He will, of course, have a departmental farewell, but we thought it would be nice to have a little celebration just of our team. So Paul and Morag came. Peter came. Julia, Mick, Jacob and Abigail came. Rupert came.  Caroline came with Chris, Sam and tiny, tiny Joseph. And we ate sandwiches and cake, and drank fizzy wine and tea and the sun shone and I think we all had a lovely time.

Click on the treats table to get to the photo album
The Builder and I had left over sandwiches and fruit for tea on Saturday evening.  But on Sunday I took the left over beef and tomato sausage meat that I had made, and turned it into burgers, which we had with a positive mountain of veg from the garden and allotment. We may possibly also have had bacon and cheese and egg with our burgers.  Maybe :-D

I noticed on Saturday that the tree that lives in our lounge room was getting a touch on the large side

Tree, with Mick and some teddies

It's taller than me now.  I then noticed on Sunday morning that you couldn't actually see out of the lounge room window any more. I was trying to show my mother something outside using Skype and the tree was seriously in the way.  We've moved it.

You can see out the window now - and we are getting lots and lots more light into the lounge room!