Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Christmas in July

I haven't hosted a Christmas in July party since 2005 or so.  I moved to summer afternoon tea parties in August instead (although I don't seem to have organised one for this year).  I did notice that one of the Tupton pubs was having a Christmas in July party last Saturday but we had other plans so didn't investigate further.

Anyway, Freyja and Simon, who have recently moved into Simon's brother's house in Woodseats, decided that they would have a House-warming Christmas in July barbecue at their new place yesterday evening and invited a few people to join in.  They were fully expecting to have a "barbecue in the kitchen" because the weather yesterday was on the damp side and the forecast for yesterday evening wasn't encouraging.  As it happens, it wasn't raining when people arrived so actual barbecues were lit outside.  We knew the rain was coming though.  We could see it coming our way from the moors outside Sheffield.

Aidan, Simon's brother, jigged up a small tarpaulin to keep the food table dry.  Gaz and Simon put on their raincoats and encouraged the food to cook on the steamy barbecues. The house (four storeys high if you count the attic which will be Simon and Freyja's bedroom when the renovations are complete) has what is effectively a garden room on the bottom storey, so we mostly ate and drank in there.  The rain did not deter our celebrations and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Thank you to Aidan, Simon and Freyja for a lovely evening.  And we hope you will all be very happy in your lovely home.

Click on Cally and Freyja to get to the photos 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tramlines and Trams

It was the annual Tramlines music festival in Sheffield this weekend just gone.

The Builder and I did not go.  Instead we followed our practice of recent years and had Cally with us while her father worked in the Green Room and Tabitha went out carousing.

First, though, I had Friday off work.  We didn't do all that much, a bit of shopping, a bit of pottering and quite a lot of cherry tree pruning.  We have pruned quite hard two of the three sweet cherries. The Under Gardener wants to leave the third one for now, just in case we have killed off the other two, although I don't think we have.  We will probably prune the plum, the sour cherry and the peach trees but at the moment the plum and sour cherry trees have quite a lot of fruit on, and (very excitingly) even the peach tree has some fruit, although the peaches are very hard to see unless you are standing right underneath them and looking directly up.  I hope this means the blackbirds will find it equally difficult to see them!

While we were chopping at the cherry trees, we became aware that the lady from the new single storey house next door at the bottom of the garden was holding a small boy up to peer over the fence. He wanted to see the ducks and couldn't quite.  So she and her daughter and two small, small boys came around and down into our garden so they could see the ducks and the chickens - and feed them some red currants. The chickens and the ducks like red currants and can't now reach any that are left on the bushes.  Harry (about 3) and Luke (a bit under 2) were happy to help out!

Anyway.  Back to the weekend.  On Saturday we dropped around to Freyja and Simon's new place and took them off to Costco for a little light (!) shopping.  We did some light shopping too.  Our freezer and store cupboards and pantry are now absolutely groaning.  No more light shopping for us for a while!  We stopped in the Costco cafe for some breakfast/second breakfast/cup of tea before taking them back and then heading just up the road to Cally's place and picking her up.  She was quite excited about going on an adventure with us but not at all excited about having to come to our place all on her own.  Fortunately the lure of adventure and ice cream overcame the reluctance to venture out overnight without taking mummy or daddy with her!

We took her to the Tram Museum in Crich (near Matlock).

We have taken her there before but she was only about 2 and she didn't remember it.  She had a great time though.

We had ice cream, as promised.

Cally doesn't seem to have enjoyed her ice cream at all!

We went for a ride downstairs on a tram which had a roof,

and upstairs on a tram without a roof.

Sitting upstairs on the open-topped tram

We looked at trams in their big, big house.

We did some colouring in in the information centre.

 And we went to play in the play centre.

And it didn't rain, although it did get a bit chilly when the sun went to rest behind some big big clouds from time to time.

We all had a lovely time

And then we went back to Tupton and watched films and played games and ate home made chips and then it was time for Cally to go to bed and soon after it was time for us to go to bed.  I think Cally had forgotten about mummy and daddy not being there!

And on Sunday morning she was all excited because daddy was coming to have an early lunch (or brunch, really) and then she and he were going to a birthday party.   After they left, The Builder watched the Grand Prix and I did a few useful things. All in all, a good weekend.

Stella caused me a bit of consternation on Sunday morning, though.  It was getting close to the time when I usually speak with Tony, and then after him with Stella on Skype.  I was a bit disconcerted when my phone rang and informed me that Stella wanted a FaceTime conversation with me.  Really? Why?  What has happened to Tony?  This is most unusual!!!  Fortunately, all was well.  Tony was out at a soiree at the church and not available for Skyping, so Stella thought she would ring me herself.  Tony Skyped in some time later when he got back.  We spoke to Austin and Tatsuki as well. But not at the same time as Stella or Tony, obviously!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tupton Parade and Carnival

It was the Tupton Parade and Carnival on Saturday.  Tabitha, Gareth and Cally came over to watch the parade and visit the carnival.

The Parade comes along Ankerbold Road and turns left onto Queen Victoria Road. You can see it from our drive, but you get a slightly better view if you go out and walk up a couple of metres.  I think Cally was a bit startled by the loudness of the marching bands, but otherwise we enjoyed it a lot.

The start of the Parade as it approached us from Ankerbold Road

Traffic waiting patiently along Bridge Street and Hagg Hill
The Builder went down into the garden and put in some new fence posts

After the parade, Taffa, Gaz, Cally and I went up to the school playing fields to the carnival.  It was great fun.  There were rides and stalls and things to do.  There were tractors and a fire truck.  There were owls.  The sun shone and we had a lovely time.

The Builder stayed behind and picked fruit.

Cally was worried that "Grandad Jim has missed out on all the fun!!"

We went back home and sat on the patio in the sunshine and played with the bubble gun that I bought at the carnival and later ate pizza for tea.

When we were on Harris there was a knock on the door one evening.  The house next door was being rented by a family for a couple of weeks.  We had seen the man down on the jetty patiently fishing and had observed that he had lobster pots and things.  Anyway, that evening he had come to offer Paul and Carol some lobsters and scallops that he had caught that morning.  Carol is a vegetarian and Paul has an allergy to crustacea and molluscs (a useful piece of information which had not previously come my way!!).  So lobsters and scallops were no use to them.  But they are to The Builder and me. So we took a few and popped them in the freezer, and then borrowed a cool box and brought them back to wait in our freezer until a suitable opportunity to eat them came about.

Sunday lunch seemed just such an opportunity - seafood being very much enjoyed by all of us except Cally who prefers fish fingers.  So I got in some salmon and some prawns and some squid.  I added the lobster and scallops.  I made a mountain of chips (and a fish finger for Cally). And we had a magnificent seafood platter for Sunday lunch.  (Cally had her fish finger and some chips :-D ).  Cally likes chips as made by her Gamma.

It was the Chesterfield Carnival this weekend too, on both Saturday and Sunday.  So Taffa, Gaz and Cally went off after Sunday lunch to have a look at that and The Builder and I stayed at home and sat on the patio for a bit longer then repaired inside and wiled away the evening watching telly and pottering about.  

It was a good weekend.  You can see the full photo album by clicking on the photo of Cally playing with the bubble gun

Cally is coming back to our place next weekend, alone this time.  It will be the fourth weekend in a row that she has been here.  I think she is beginning to think she'll be at our place at weekends for the Rest of Time :-D

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Back to normal

We had a pleasant, mostly relaxed day on Tuesday.  We went to the allotment and brought back the first zucchini of the season. We went to Marsh Green for a few bits and pieces.  We stocked up at the supermarket. I remembered to turn on all the alarms for Wednesday morning. We pottered in the garden. And we went to the Postal Sorting Office to pick up a parcel that was waiting for us.  It was my new Farley, all the way from Canada.  He looked a bit dishevelled but is fluffing up nicely now that he's out of his box.

Welcome home, Farley
I don't think the Farleys are hand made but they are all ever-so slightly different. Takes a while to get used to a new one.  And I must make sure that this one isn't stolen whilst adventuring in London.  Or anywhere else for that matter :-D

So I am now back at work. It's quite quiet. There aren't very many staff around but there also aren't very many students around.  We've had very few of our Malaysian summer students this year.  Only the Business ones. The lack of the Construction, Real Estate and Computing students has made a big difference in the library.  We do have other summer students but that is a big chunk to be missing.

The Under Gardener, however, is keeping quite busy.  There is a mountain of soft fruit to pick in the garden, loads and loads of nettles to scythe down, grass to cut, potatoes to dig and very soon there will be broad beans to pick and (I hope) zillions of zucchini to gather. It's been unusually dry round our way so far this summer so things aren't thriving as much as we might hope, but coming along. There have been four large freezer bags of raspberries so far. The lack of rain doesn't seem to have upset them!  And if it does rain and keep him out of the garden and allotment - there is always the house painting to get on with!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Saturday and Sunday, and a quick visit to Monday

Saturday is the day that most people who are on holiday in Harris leave or arrive.  Most of the leavers go out on the early ferry. Many of the arrivers come on the later ferry.  This leaves quite a bit of the day when there are few holidaying people on the island.

This makes the roads (which are seldom really, really busy) very quiet.

So we all took ourselves out exploring again.  We went to St Clement's Church in Rodel, at the southern end of the island and pottered around inside it and then went on a little round walk around Rodel.

We went to Leverburgh to look at the ferry port (ferries to North Uist), where we found a fish and chip shop in a bus

Then we went to the Art Cafe in Skoon, where they did us magnificent cheese platters - with Rice cakes for Paul.

Then we made another attempt on the beach we went to earlier in the week.  We got there and the weather was overcast but not raining.  By the time we had got to the top of the first sand dune it was raining with persistence.  We abandoned the attempt and went home!

Sunday, however, dawned bright and shiny.  So we made a third, this time successful attempt to get to the beach.  We walked the sand dunes and wandered around on the beach and had a good long walk.  Paul had a quick swim. We sat on the rocks in the sunshine.  Then we went to the old, coffin road and had a short walk along that.  The geology of the east side of Harris is very rocky so there can be no cemeteries there. They are all in West Harris.  In earlier years, of course, there wasn't an motorised way of getting the dead from east to west, other than by carrying them.  The coffin road has cairns every mile or so for resting the coffins on while the bearers had a breather. It was very interesting and quite easy walking, but The Builder jiggered his knee going over a stile so we made it a short walk before returning home for our last dinner and a last gaze out the windows.

We saw lots of wildlife while we were in Scotland.  Otters, seals, rabbits, sheep, more sheep and a few more sheep.  We have seen many different types of gulls, and puffins, redshanks, skylarks, wheat ears, great north divers, Arctic terns (who tried to drive us off the beach - and succeeded!), all sorts of other birds. And on that last walk along the coffin road, we looked up and there, soaring high above us was a sea eagle.  Such an exciting sight.

We took the early ferry back to Skye yesterday morning (no interesting wildlife from the boat, but I recommend the CalMac ferry breakfast), then Paul and Carol between them drove us back to their place where we collected the car and came on home. The distance from Uig to Loxley is roughly the distance from Sydney to Melbourne, so it was a marathon driving session! We stopped for lunch in the Real Food Cafe (where we had had lunch on the way up; it's a fish and chip cafe which does gluten free and vegetarian options as well. I highly recommend the gluten free fish. The batter is wonderful). Then we didn't really stop again until we got to Loxley.  I think we were all very glad to see a loo when we arrived at the house :-D

Click on the sea to get to the full photo album

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The weather didn't improve at all yesterday. It rained fairly persistently all day. At one point I looked at the three day weather forecast for Tarbert. Then I looked at the three day weather forecast for Melbourne. They were pretty much identical! Tupton was looking good, though :-D

So not a day for walking. A day for exploring by car. Not that Paul and Carol were exploring. They've had their house for over ten years and know their way around. But we went to lots of places that were new to The Builder and me. We went to Scalpay, the island we can see in the background from our bedroom and from the kitchen. You can see the house from parts of Scalpay :-). It used to be that you could only get there by ferry but now there is a bridge. It is the only grown up bridge that I have ever been over which is single laned with passing places. It's very odd. They could have made it a two laned bridge with the addition of a mere extra metre and virtually no addition to the construction costs.

We came back to Harris and went off exploring more of that.  Tumbling waterfalls, raging rivers, misty mountains. I think that the waterfalls do not normally tumble with such enthusiasm, nor the rivers rage so strongly. But we did have a lot of rain yesterday and the landscape is very rocky and not in the least permeable.

It's raining still today. But not as hard. And I think there may be parts of the day when it doesn't rain.

All the shops will be closed on Sunday so we had to go into Tarbert to lay in supplies. Look at what we found in the ferry harbour:

Friday, July 10, 2015

19000 steps

Yesterday we mostly went walking

In the morning we walked around the loch out the front of Paul and Carol's place. We were accompanied for part of the way by one of the local border collies who came to say hello and then came along just for fun. 

In the afternoon we went to a headland and walked through wildflower meadows and then back along the cliff tops

All in all yesterday my pedometer counted 19000 steps. 

It's just as well we don't have walking plans for today!

The view from the kitchen yesterday evening:

And this morning:

Thursday, July 09, 2015

The history of the world in an afternoon

I am not really "collecting" Shipping Forecast areas, inshore waters and coastal stations. Not as such. But I do seem to have gathered quite a lot of them while I have been living in the UK. So when I realized that we were close to quite a remote coastal station I asked if it might be possible to go and look at Stornoway.

It's the largest town on the Isles of Lewis and Harris. I believe it has a population of about 9000. And it's quite cute. It's about an hour and a half from Paul and Carol's place. It has a large supermarket, several shops, a harbour, a castle - lots of things to amuse you. So we pottered about looking at it. We went to one of those shops that is filled with all sorts of things that you didn't know you needed until you went in so that Paul and Carol could get some wood for a new gate.

Then we went off to "do" the history of humanity in an afternoon!

We visited the Callanish Standing Stones, where we had lunch. The Builder and I had steak and ale pies which we had to wait some time for. But they were well worth the wait. Beautifully soft meat. After visiting the stones we went on to the Doune Broch and to the Norse Mill and Kiln and then finally to the Blackhouse Village. We drove around some spectacular countryside and were remarkably lucky with the weather. It was a great afternoon.

Paul's sister Ruth happened to be nearby this week. She's been doing a quilting course in a little hamlet not far from the Blackhouse Village. So we dropped round after her course had finished for the afternoon and scooped her up and we all headed back to Stornoway for an early dinner at HS-1 which managed to accommodate all of our various food allergies and requirements. I had one of the nicest local seafood plates that I've had in a very long time.

And then we took Ruth back to her holiday apartment in the middle of nowhere and mosied on back to Harris. All in all it was a great day

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

The Western Isles

We got up on Monday morning, had breakfast and then headed to the supermarket for supplies for the week. There's a railway station in Fort William. At the station we saw this

Alas, there was no time to go for a ride. We had a different ride waiting for us on the far side of Skye. We were booked onto the 2.30 ferry from Uig to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.

The Skye Bridge

I have long pondered the actual existence of puffins. People assured me that puffins existed. I had never seen one. I would go to places where puffins were alleged to hang out. No puffins. People showed me photos. But I have seen photos of dragons so that wasn't evidence. Puffins on the Telly? Probably CGI. I have never seen a real live puffin. I believe them to be mythical creatures.

There were LOTS of puffins in the waters around the ferry. I think they must exist after all :-D

We misplaced the sunshine yesterday. Instead the weather was rainy and misty. That didn't deter us. We went into Tarbert for a little explore. We went to a sandy beach for a stroll. We visited a friend of Paul and Carol in his art gallery. We pottered around. We watched sheep and seabirds and seals in the waters at the back of the house. It was a good day.

It's windy this morning and it has been raining but it looks as though it might be clearing up a bit. We are off to Stornaway shortly, collecting bits of the Shipping Forecast

Walking on the misty Luskentyre beach

Monday, July 06, 2015

Rushing about

I got home from work on Friday to find that The Vixen had (more or less) been repaired.  There are one or two things that need doing but they can wait until we get back.  But at least she is now driveable which made the weekend a whole lot easier.

Nevertheless there was still much to be done.

The sun was shining brightly so The Undergardener donned a hat and headed out to pick more soft fruit.  It is unfortunate that we seem to be getting massive crops of soft fruit just as we are about to head off for ten days. I made things ready for the freezer. We organised and did things and remembered to have dinner and rushed about a bit more.

We did some more rushing on Saturday morning until Tabitha, Gareth and Cally arrived to pick up some keys to our place (what have they done with their set, I wonder?) and then we headed off to do our stint at Bishops' House for the afternoon.  It had turned into a lovely afternoon and we had lots of visitors.  After we went to Freyja's place in Nether Green, packed up our car with her stuff and took her and the stuff (but not Simon who was going over on his bike) to their beautiful new house in Woodseats, not far from T,G&C's place. They will, eventually, when it's ready, have the bedroom in the attic with its absolutely spectacular view over Sheffield and beyond to the hills and moors. A trip to Trsco and then fish and chips outside on the patio with perhaps a glass or two of wine.

And so to Sunday.  We were ready to leave at 8.15 and made our way to Paul and Carol's place, where we transferred our belongings and ourselves into their car.  Paul drove us up to Scotch Corner then across to Penrith, where we stopped to fill the car and take a coffee break.  Thence up past Glasgow and Loch Lomond, round and up through Glencoe (our house's official name is Glencoe ) and so on to Fort William, pausing for a late lunch at a fish and chip shop which is certified by the Coeliacs Association and does gluten free fish and chips, plus has a tasty vegetarian menu. I had wondered why we had driven and drive. And drive. And driven, well past lunch time to get to this place. All became clear once we got there!

And now we are in the Premier Inn in Fort William. It's a nice little place (the town, not the Inn, though that is perfectly pleasant too!). We went for a walk after dinner yesterday evening, down to the loch and around.  There's a seafood restaurant down by the loch and below that there were two young otters having a meal of some fish that someone had thrown onto some steps leading down into the water.  That was a real treat.  You very seldom see otters in the wild!

Marlo was very suspicious when we left yesterday with one of our big suitcases. That usually indicates that we are going to be away for weeks. I wonder if he will be surprised when we get back next Monday. And in the meantime he has Cally to play with for most of this week

Fort William


Friday, July 03, 2015


We got in the car this morning so The Chauffeur could take me to the coach station.  And an alarm sounded.  A message appeared on the dashboard. "Brake fluid exhausted.  Do not proceed. Brake fluid exhausted. Do not proceed. Brake fluid......." until The Chauffeur turned the engine off.

Now, you don't want to be driving with exhausted brake fluid, so I ambled off in the lovely early morning sunshine to the local bus stop and took the bus into town, leaving The Chauffeur in his guise as The Builder alone at home, pondering

The bus trip in itself was fairly exciting.  The main road was closed for some reason when you got closer into town and the bus had to turn off and go along a load of back roads - including some that I have not been along before, because they are bus roads only and I have never previously been on a bus that need to use them.

I had, of course, by the time the local bus got into town missed my usual bus into Sheffield, so I wandered from the bus stop by the church down to the coach station. There is a closer stop but why stand about waiting for half an hour when you can have a lovely stroll in the sunshine?  From my point of view it was all good.

Not so good from a longer term point of view.  The Builder had a dentist appointment in town this morning at 9:15.  That wasn't such a problem.  He too could take a bus.  But we are due to be at Bishops' House tomorrow afternoon.  We probably could do it by bus but we have other plans as well that make the buses not quite so convenient.  The biggest worry was that we are supposed to be in Loxley at 9:00 on Sunday morning.  Can't do that by bus, though I suppose taxi would be an option. But Nick, our mechanic, has been moonlighting repairing post vans lately.  We weren't sure if he would be able to look at our car between now and Sunday morning.

Fortunately for us, he was able.  And The Vixen is now in his hands, hopefully having her brake fluid replaced.  And the leak which had exhausted the brake fluid repaired.  I am told that there is brake fluid all over our drive, instead of in the Vixen's brake system where it should be.

One more afternoon at work to go.  Then I have 11 days off.  All being well we are off with Paul and Carol for a week in their house in Harris, in the Western Isles (Outer Hebrides).  It's very exciting. I've never been to any of the Scottish Islands (unless you count the tiny Inch in the Firth of Forth, where Ian, Lindsey and I went for a picnic lunch when we were staying in Edinburgh in 2009).  I do not, however, think we are due any of the lovely, sunny, warm, summery weather that we have been enjoying in Chesterfield and Sheffield this week. Must pack jumpers!