Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Monday, September 29, 2014

Weekend Merriment

Earlier in the week, Tabitha sent me a message asking what we were doing at the weekend.  Well, nothing in particular. Tabitha suggested that they might all three come out on Saturday afternoon and stay over night.  And that is what they did.

They arrived mid Saturday afternoon and we had a potter around and then walked up to inspect a children's playground which is off QVR up near the main roundabout.  Cally went on her balance bike and we all had a lovely time playing on the swings and the slide.

The ducks and the chickens and Marlo stayed at home and pottered about in the garden.

On Sunday we got up and had cheesy omelettes with bacon and toast and tomatoes for breakfast.  We spoke to Stella and Tony on Skype.  Taffa, Gaz and Cally went out for some extra supplies while I got on with preparing lunch.  They came back bearing, amongst other things, hummus and ginger.  This caused some confusion when we were talking to Lindsey and Ian on Skype - they thought we meant that Cally had come back with hummus and Ginger Rich.  But no - we meant actual root ginger.  It is difficult to make lemon and ginger chicken when you don't have any ginger!

It was a beautiful, early autumn morning so The Builder lit the barbecue.  Nate and Duncan came by at lunchtime and helped us eat lunch. We had lamb kebabs and chicken kebabs, and pork kebabs and butterflied prawns, with potatoes and salad and wine and beer and orange juice, followed by Peppa Pig cupcakes that Taffa and Cally had made, and an apple and blackberry pie that I had made.  It was a lovely afternoon, in the sunshine.

I was a tiny tad tired this morning, even though I slept remarkably well last night.  I think it was the making of all those kebabs!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

RIP Hoisin the Indian Runner Drake

I woke up at about 1:30 this morning, vaguely aware that I could hear a duck quacking.  I couldn't work out whether it was a wild duck, or one of ours.  Eventually I decided that it sounded like Fennel and was pondering whether I should get up, get dressed and go and find out why one of the ducks was quacking at that time of night, when the quacking stopped.  I have a vague feeling that there might have been a bit more quacking shortly after, but by then I was back asleep.

I have to admit that I forgot all about it, until I went down the garden at about 6:45 this morning to hang some washing out before heading in the car to work and the, this evening, to the first Japanese class of the new academic year.

It was strangely silent.  Normally, when I very first open the back door, which I usually do well before The Builder goes down and feeds the ducks and chooks, Fennel starts yelling for her breakfast.  Celery quacks too, but more quietly.  Hoisin possibly also quacks, but he's very quiet and you can't tell if our chooks are clucking over the clucking of the various other neighbourhood chickens.

No quacking this morning.  No clucking, either.  No quacking even when I got to the duck run, with washing and no breakfast. Complete poultry silence.

I looked into the run.  Fennel and Celery were over by the far fence, peering at me in a subdued way. The chickens were also quiet and still on their side of the run.  There was no sign of Hoisin.  Until I looked in the duck bath, and there he was, floating lifeless and still.

We have no idea what happened.  He wasn't in the duck bath when The Builder went down yesterday evening to check for any late eggs and to make sure that all was well.  We can't think of any reason why he would have decided to go for a swim in the middle of what was a chilly-ish night for early autumn.  There is no sign of anything breaking in or even flying in. No sign of any sort of altercation.  But we assume that whatever it was that happened was what made Fennel start quacking at 1:30 this morning.

Poor Hoisin.  There is a small silver lining.  It does mean that we can now reunite the chickens and the ducks with no fear that the chickens will attract unwanted drake-y attention, and they will be able to be let out into the garden together, instead of having to follow a rotation system.  But I'll miss my two funny Indian Runner duck boys.  They might have been no real use, and even a bit of a nuisance if you were Curry and Dimsim, the chickens.  But they were very cute.

Hoisin and Teriyaki in the garden - before they started terrorising the chickens!

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Some little while ago I had an email from Crosscountry, one of the main British train operators. It included a discount travel voucher, to be used on their routes and by, I think, the end of October.

Pity, thought I.  I don't really need to go to Edinburgh between now and the end of October. Where else do they go?  A stupid question, really.  I know perfectly well that they go to Newcastle, to Plymouth, to various points in between.  And to York.

We are both very fond of York. And I knew that the Food and Wine festival was coming up. So I checked the dates and bought tickets for the first Saturday of the festival.  I was particularly delighted to find that not only did i have a discount voucher but they were also offering discounted tickets on selected trains.  A tad over £40 for us both to travel to York and back - in First Class seats!

So off we went, yesterday morning, through a gloomy, misty day, in our very comfortable seats to York. The train was oddly busy - I hadn't expected quite so many people to be travelling on a Saturday morning in September. But it appear that there were various football matches going on, plus, of course, the Food and Wine Festival in York, plus various festivals and other events in other towns and cities.

Lunch first, in the Olde Starre Inn, where we frequently do eat when in York.  It does nice, sturdy pub food, but we really ought to branch out and try other places.  There is a multiplicity of pubs and a wealth of other eating places that we never try!

Pondering what to have for lunch
I shall have a pie
Well - it was a *wine* festival as well as a food festival!
If we had just gone to York for a day trip, I think we would have been very pleased with our day.  But we had gone specifically for the food festival and when we have gone in the past we have regretted not taking more money with us, or more bags to the festival market and we have come home with lots of really interesting purchases. But this year, the Market Square was closed for refurbishment, so the general market has moved to Parliament Street until the Market Square is available again.  This meant that the festival market, which usually occupies that space, had moved to a much smaller space and had far fewer stalls.  It was also extremely crowded. It was a bit disappointing because there wasn't really anything particularly interesting to buy or taste. Of course the festival is about much more than just the festival market but we hadn't planned to go to any of the events, so hadn't bought tickets.  Fortunately, the general market is a very good one, and we bought meat and fish and various things from there. So it wasn't a disappointing day as such, just a disappointing food festival!

When Matt, Belinda, Sage and William were here we bought tickets for everyone to go to Jorvik. Because I gift aided them it meant that we have unlimited access to Jorvik for 12 months. Fortunately, we do not need to have exactly the same number of adults, seniors, children and infants each time we want to go.  We can't have any more, but we can have less.  So The Builder and I took advantage of the access to get out of the rain and have a nice little sit down on one of the Jorvik time capsules. I don't suppose either of us really *needs* to go to Jorvik. We've both been several times. But I rather like it and each time I go I see something I haven't noticed before, or remembered.  And if we don't have to pay to go in, we might just as well. Fortunately, I had remembered to take the ticket with us!!

We had a nice potter about the city centre streets, then made our way back to the station.  A glass of wine to fill in the time until our train was due, and then back home, where I made fish and chips with some sea bass fillets I had bought in the market.  I have a nice piece of beef for today's lunch.

And today - the sun has come out and the sky is blue and the fog which has been hanging around for several days has finally blown away!

Oh - and I finally managed to buy my monthly train pass. Yesterday, while we were waiting for our train to York in the morning.  The system refused to sell it to me on Friday morning. But I was in no hurry yesterday morning (although I think the people behind me in the queue might have been :-D) and could be patient and wait for the system to get over its sulkiness!!

We met lots of lovely, well-behaved, friendly dogs in York.  This one was being rather naughty :-D

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I caved in on Monday afternoon and went home croaking at my boss that I wouldn't be in on Tuesday.  There doesn't seem to be much point in coming all the way in to work with very little voice and a mighty cough.  And my office colleagues were looking at me slightly askance when coughing fits beset me!

I really wasn't very well, though.  It was as much as I could do to wash and then boil some baby beetroots that The Builder brought back from the allotment. I had to concentrate quite hard!  And I pretty much lost my appetite (not something that happens very often to me!!!).  The Builder, who has had absolutely no voice, did not lose his appetite and had to wait patiently for food to be forthcoming. But I think he quite alarmed Freyja when she rang home and he answered the phone with what sounded like a low pitched growl :-D

I took yesterday off too and came back to work today, but I did begin to think that I really shouldn't have bothered.  The morning did not begin well.  I tried to buy a replacement monthly train ticket.  The computer whirred and groaned and pondered and did nothing.  A weekly ticket then?  Same thing.  By the time the poor man behind the counter and I had decided that my only option was going to be to buy a day return and try again tomorrow - my train had come and gone and I had a long, damp, foggy wait at the platform for the next one.  (Actually, it's less than 20 minutes but that is a long time when it's damp and dank and foggy and you are not feeling at your brightest and your best.)  Then I got to Sheffield, got off the train, and was instantly hit by a coughing fit so vigorous that I could hardly breathe. By the time I actually got into the office I could scarcely move :-S

But, as they say - tomorrow is another day and I'm sure it will all be much better.  And I hope I can buy my train ticket without such a palaver!

The car, on the other hand, has passed its MOT with flying colours (and a new set of front tyres).  It hasn't had its service yet, though. Nich the Mechanic had a bigger cough than mine, less voice than The Builder and looked Very Unhappy Indeed when he turned up to do the car.  So it went for its MOT unserviced and is going back next week in the hope that Nick is feeling much better

Monday, September 15, 2014

Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul (but without the tea :-( )

I went home from work on Friday feeling a bit scratchy.  Scratchy throat, scratchy eyes, that sort of thing.  I didn't pay huge attention though, only enough to think that if I were going to get sick then *next* week would be much more amusing from my point of view, given that it's the first week of term and we're all quite busy.

Still a bit scratchy on Saturday, but not enough to prevent me popping to the shops and pottering around and doing a bit of cooking and a bit of baking.

I went to bed very early on Saturday night, leaving an entire glass of wine undrunk!

And I heard the 9:00 news on the radio.  I heard the 10:00 news.  I heard the 11:00 news and the midnight news.  I heard the Radio-4-is-closing-down-and-going-to-bed Shipping Forecast, and the 1:00 news.  And I arose on Sunday morning, after not really very much sleep at all, quite remarkably well informed about the state of the world, matters historical, matters poetical and many other matters, thanks to the truly wonderful BBC World Service. And my legs ached and my back ached and my eyes ached.  It was a long, long, long night.  With, alas, no tea.

Not as bad as the poor Builder, though, who woke up after a sound sleep on Saturday night but with a vigorously sore throat and absolutely no voice!  He still has a sore throat and no voice.  And I have developed a Kofffffffffffff.

Can't be Freshers' Flu, though.  They haven't arrived yet. They come next weekend, in time for the start of term on Monday week.

It's going to be fun this year.  Not only has Paul left (they held a departmental reception for him, and two others on Thursday afternoon with speeches and presentations and wine and nibblies) and Caroline is still on maternity leave and refusing all suggestions that she might like to come back early - but the law librarian has now been hospitalised. If he doesn't get better and back to work in very short order we're really, really going to have fun!!

The car has gone in for its annual service and for its MOT.  So far it hasn't got as far as the MOT and it's already had to have two new tyres!!  I'm trying to decide whether to walk home from the station this afternoon or whether to take the bus.

Monday, September 08, 2014


So we made an abrupt return visit to autumn on Saturday!  It was cool and misty and rainy and wet!  We were at Bishops' House in the morning and not surprisingly had quite a quiet morning.  We did get a few visitors, but not until later.

Meersbrook Park in the mist and rain
We were supposed to be having a barbecue at Tabitha, Gareth and Cally's house but the weather definitely wasn't barbecue friendly.  So we, they and Freyja and Simon gathered in the kitchen and had sausages and pork steaks and veggie burgers and dippy things and snacky things in there instead. And a lovely afternoon it was, despite the weather!

Summer has made a fight back now, though.  Sunday was warm and sunny.  Today is shaping up to be a glorious morning.  But autumn is making its presence felt, in a Keatsian sort of a way.  Misty in the mornings, and fruitful.

Bramley apples waiting to be made into pies and cakes and sauces

Tomatoes, onions and pumpkin

Sunday morning, early, looking up towards Grassmoor.  (Are they daleks coming over the brow of the hill?)

Raindrops on the bedroom window, glistening in the sunshine

We let the ducks out to forage in the garden

and I used some of the apples to good purpose
I was going to get out into the garden to make a start on the autumn clear up.  But I didn't.  And I still haven't cleaned the lounge room windows, which remain all smeary and sticky.  I did, however, make a loaf of bread, the apple cake, some roasted tomato soup  - and delicious lamb steaks with roast potatoes and pumpkin and various garden veg for lunch. So not an entirely wasted day!

Monday, September 01, 2014

End of summer report

We have had an excellent harvest of runner beans this year

There are pumpkins growing in the greenhouse on the allotment, and on these plants out in the open in the vegetable garden

There are lots of grapes on the way - they're not quite ripe yet

My little "courtyard" garden

We are now getting duck eggs as well as chicken eggs.  The ducks seem to be quite happy, although Hoisin is still wishing to express his affection towards Curry the chicken in a way that she thinks is unacceptable! I'm hoping that now that Fennel and Celery are older, he may turn his attention away from Curry and towards them

We really must do something about the grass growing in the fruit bush beds!!!

We have had an absolutely excellent crop of tomatoes this year, both in the greenhouse on the allotment and out in the garden.

Our zucchini harvest, although adequate, hasn't been as prolific as I would have liked. I like to freeze tomatoes, onions and zucchinis together ready for winter ratatouilles. This year it's going to be mainly tomato, onion and runner beans!

I really must pot on these strawberry runners. And trim back the lavender.

We have also had a good crop of carrots this year, and a positive mountain of bramley apples. But no cherries, plums or peaches. Might be just as well - the freezer is already almost full and there is still stuff to come.


It was an absolutely glorious day yesterday. The sun shone in a dazzlingly blue sky. It was warm, with a gentle breeze. After a week which had been definitely autumnal in feel, it was an unexpected burst of late summer weather.  So we did all of the usual Sunday morning things, and then we went for a walk through the nature reserve, then back alongside the little track that runs along the river Rother.  It was really lovely.

And then we spent the afternoon sat outside in the sunshine. We had salmon and chips for lunch, and a glass or two of wine, still sat outside in the sunshine. It was an excellent way of spending a Sunday

It was, in fact, a leisurely, possibly even lazy weekend. It was the first weekend for absolutely ages for which we had no plans. So we didn't really do anything very much at all apart from potter about.  I must say, it is very nice to have the occasional very lazy weekend.  But I was supposed to clean the lounge room window - and didn't.  And I was going to dust the whole house - and didn't./  I was also intending to turn out the upstairs cupboards. That didn't happen either.  Still, I suppose it's not too late to do any of those things. Later! And also, there is now another bag of apples that needs turning into apple sauce.  I'll perhaps do that this evening