Letouttoplay

Life, photos but not the universe

Of cooking and cancer and – downhill mountain biking?

While I was away in the North a few weeks ago, Barney spent an evening cooking.

A friend of ours has advanced, inoperable cancer and has elected to abandon chemotherapy (a toss up if it would kill him before the cancer did) and is hoped to live until (?) Christmas.

He’s managing well so far and has been able to enjoy some quite excellent outings organised by friends of his and one of the things we have been doing is taking the weekly cribbage night from the pub to his house.   Beer is provided in vast amounts by the local micro brewer at no charge.

So that Friend’s wife doesn’t need to provide sustenance for a crowd of greedy crib players, Barney has been making snacks and since his ideas (and his heart) are as large as himself (he’s a big lad*) this tends to be along the lines of  lots of gourmet tapas.  So when I texted him on the second night of my absence at about 9.30, he’d already gone to bed, exhausted after making chorizo puffs, stuffed mushrooms, meatballs, goats cheese and pepper tartlets and sausage rolls for about ten people.

Unfortunately, our friend wasn’t feeling up to crib night so we’ve been eating delicious nibbles as fast as we can.  I believe Barney had them for dinner one night.  Never mind, the chorizo puffs have been frozen (uncooked) and will be available for the next crib night, if there is one.

It is such a strange situation.  One is so aware that while we carry on with life and all the jolly things that make it fun and keep circles of friendship together, there is one family, always part of this circle, who are gradually being dragged further and further apart from the rest of us.  And who will suddenly be broken.  I know, of course, that it’s not really a strange situation at all.  It’s happening to lots of people and sometimes in ways that are even more painful to be aware of.

Oh well, we do what we can and wonder what more we could do.  Barney does his thing with food and organising people and I have hastily made them a DVD of photos from our shared holidays.   Cancer is everywhere these days.   Probably it always was but I think it’s getting a bit easier to deal with, as an onlooker, than it was in the past.  I think people are less scared to be involved with cancer sufferers than they were a few years ago? (Thinking of Lionel Shriver’s shattering book, ‘So Much for That’, a salutary read for friends of people with cancer).

Moving right along, I came across this on a friend’s facebook wall   It’s almost as good as rosie’s Camino Del Rey link on You tube which, infuriatingly I’ve lost.   I particularly like this because long ago, as a  singer in a folk group (no fingers in ears thank you very much – we knew if we were in tune without artificial ears) we sang a song called Valparaiso Round the Horn.  As a result, my current favourite wine, Valdevieso, usually gets called Valparaiso.  At least I remember it when I put it that way.  Anyway, a bike race  from Valparaiso.

All I could say when I first looked was ‘kin’ell!  Eldest used to want to do downhill mountain bike racing but now I think he satisfies himself with triathlons.  (As a small teenager he was rather good at cross-country mountain bike racing) He has taken up climbing recently.  Maybe he’d like to see the Camino Del Ray videos but on the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing I’ve lost the link.**

Here’s another photo from the Reading climbing wall.  I’d be quite impressed to see anyone climb across (under?) the bit at the top left hand corner.  When we were driving around the industrial outskirts of Reading, looking for the climbing club, Eldest pointed out that the easiest way to find a climbing club in most places is just to look for a very high building.  However, the Dutch have gone one better with this climbing wall at Groningen.  Why bother with the building?

Oh well.  Eldest and GIGi have gone to Italy.  Eldest will be meeting GIGi’s family for the first time I think.  As long as he doesn’t let her fall off a mountain I’m sure they’ll love him.  Now it’s time to gather up our scattered wits and prepare for NYE.

Um, just gone to look for some wits.  I’m sure I had some yesterday?  Coffee!  That’s what I need.

*Not fat, I hasten to add, just quite tall and broad shouldered.

**Idiot that I am, I found a link to Camino Del Rey*** and showed it to him and GIGi.  Not only does he want to go there, he thinks I’d like him to take me along it.  Complete with all his new shiny climbing gear.  Makes the wall at Reading look like a little sit down on a bench in the park!

***I could watch this for hours.  (thank you rosie for the original link)  But I don’t think I could actually walk past the first open bridge. 

December 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Just flying by

to burble cheerfully a few moments.

We had a lovely Christmas at Youngest’s ending with watching the younger family dancing to the wii (?) after the children had gone to bed.  This may have been one of the funniest things I’ve seen for a while.

Lovely boxing day here and more madness and silly games.

It was a foregone conclusion but deeply pleasing all the same, that everyone loves Gorgeous Italian Girlfriend and she seems not to have been put off Eldest by his family but enjoyed herself, even coping admirably with the tendency of the Youngests to become incoherant and swear a lot (happily not aggressively) after the third or fourth bottle.   Mr Youngest indeed, laid his head on my shoulder late on in the evening and confided that it made him ****ing happy to see Eldest and GIGi so ****ing happy.*

Ah well, it’s all good.  They’ve nearly all gone home now and I’ve  taken Eldest and GIGi to a climbing wall in Reading.  Climbing is the new thing for Eldest and clearly he’s got GIGi on board.  Turns out there is a famous climbing spot just near GIGi’s family home in Italy, cliffs, seaside, mountains, all sorts.  Where they will be going in a couple of days.  We called at the climbing shop when I collected them from the train last week so that appropriate Christmas presents could be obtained.

Barney is making curry (no change there) and it’s momentarily quiet here.

It’s a funny thing that after years (most of my life really) of finding families a source of all kinds of stress and anxiety, all of a sudden they’ve become the ideal ‘comfort in our old age’ cliché.  Either that or I’ve lost so many marbles that I can’t tell the difference any more.

Here’s GIGi, doing the important thing that the person on the ground does while Eldest hurtles up the wall, apparently amazing the lad next along the wall, who really ought to be paying attention to what his partner is doing. (I expect so anyway)

And there’s Eldest, half way up.  Not exactly making it look easy but not making it look impossible though clearly it is.

Well it does look quite fun.  Possibly a bit beyond me though.

Now, due to a slight confusion about continental and English hours, Eldest is packing and Barney who is driving them to Stanstead tomorrow morning at an even more unseasonable hour than he’d expected has gone to sleep. GIGi has also been sent to sleep because she tells us, if she doesn’t get her sleep she’s very grumpy.  We don’t believe this.  Probably it will only be a problem for Eldest anyway if she is.

 

*That’s the condensed version

December 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Marrons Glacé

Just wondering what you understand by this?

I thought marrons glacé came in a jar of syrup but when I asked for them in Waitrose the other day, I was given a box of candied chestnuts.  It’s a bit of a problem because Barney needs them for an excessively complex feast that Raymond Blanc inspired him to attempt on Boxing day.  (We’re going to Youngest’s for Christmas day).   Much was made of the lovely chestnut flavoured syrup on the TV programme*  but chestnuts preserved in syrup are not to be had in Newbury for love nor money.

I ventured back into Newbury, hoping to complete all the present shopping and most of the food.  Maybe I did?  At this time of year I spend a good bit of time not caring any more, but I think I did get most of it, except the Marrons and a free fix for my broken glasses.  Beyond repair they are and how can it take more than an hour to organise another pair when you don’t even need an eye test???  And what’s with the square glasses look anyway?  Why have they discontinued all the shapes I like?**

Oh well, seeing as how I am, er, how could they put it tactfully….. well, a bit old, I get a discount of 25% and until the new glasses are ready I’m doing quite well with my current ones which seem to balance quite happily on one ear and one nose.

All of which pales into insignificance before the arrival of Eldest and his beautiful Italian girlfriend today and the prospect of seeing Youngest and Mr Youngest and all the little Youngests on Christmas day and then being joined here by Mr and Mrs and Little Middle on Boxing day.  I shall revel, bask and wallow in all this filial company (um, I’m not sure about filial?  I mean the company of our children.  Is that right?)  until they have completely exhausted me (won’t take long but by then I shan’t care, again).  Now I’m going to finish cleaning the kitchen and shorten a pair of trousers and maybe even wrap presents.  Actually, after five hours of Eldest and BIG’s*** company I’m already exhausted and simultaneously feel about twenty years younger.  And I don’t care : )

Happy Christmas.

*Never mind the effect of TV violence on children – consider instead the disastrous effects on Christmas dinners all over the country caused by an addiction to Celebrity Chef programmes.

**I  wish young actresses would please not always wear the same style of  glasses as each other.  Wearing identical glasses does not a look-alike make and some people look better in round glasses or oval glasses or even octagonal glasses (my first pair, perfectly sweet) than square or rectangular ones.

***Oh dear. I can’t call her that.  a) she isn”t ‘BIG’ but b) Beautiful Italian Girlfriend is rapidly becoming a bit of a typoful.

December 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Warming up and counting down (Wednesday)

I’ve arisen in a sulky crepuscular* light (briefly the sun and I glared at each other underneath thick clouds and clearly felt the same way about it) and am about to set off for Reading to battle with crowds and will not be in the least inconvenienced by the cold WHICH I WILL NOT BE HAVING nor by the fact that my brain didn’t get up with me and is still deeply asleep.  I can do shopping without a brain surely?

I am not catching a cold, ok?  Definitely not.  Neither is there any suspicion of a sore throat, cough or any suggestion of queasiness in the stomach.  None.

~

There we go.  No cold, and battle weary, I return laden with parcels, some of which will be entirely appropriate and will give delight and others which will produce glad cries concealing either puzzlement or embarrassment.  Do I care?  Not a jlot.  Also I was quite unable to resist a couple of items which I lusted after when they first appeared and are now reduced in sales.  All in all I feel quite alright about today.  And all the better because I have a nice glass of wine to hand.

A while ago, I was given a £40 voucher for Naked Wines and decided to use it.  This proved more complicated than I expected but eventually most of the wine arrived and it’s been very nice so far.  It was followed by a flurry of emails concerning the voucher and a missing bottle and various refunds which were mingled with a flurry of similar emails from Amazon concerning the non-appearance of a present for Mr Middle.  The one I liked best was the ‘fulfilment’ email from Amazon which refunded the delivery charge.  The present arrived today; very satisfactory all round.

And after a brief but slightly snappy discussion about whether Hampstead Marshall and Ecchinswell could be described as being in roughly the same direction or are in diametrically opposed directions (from here), Barney went off to hand deliver (to the pub) and I checked on Google maps to reveal that if my understanding of diametric is at all correct, I was closer to being right than he was though neither of us was exactly right.  However, I will deliver the two cards in the same journey and will feel justified in pausing to admire a view or two on the way.  Unless it’s raining.

Basically, Christmas as it is understood around here, is progressing in its usual way, in fits and starts and with a reasonable chance of seeing us sort of prepared to celebrate it.  I might just cement that feeling with another glass of wine before hauling the hoover upstairs and making bread and dinner.

Some more leftovers from this year while I consider plans for tomorrow.  (Not having a cold for one)

*It wasn’t really crepuscular by about an hour but it was quite creepy, very dim and felt early to me.

December 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Seasonal

Well my cards arrived finally and then I remembered that I need to plunge once again into the really interesting business of persuading Word to merge my addresses into a label thingie.  Actually, this year I remembered to make all the addresses centred so they don’t all appear minus the first letter of each line and I adjusted all (I hope) of the names so they don’t say John andSmith instead of John and Jane Smith.  And changed the ones whose spouses I can’t remember to Mrs and Mrs.*  What’s more, although I inadvertently bought laser printer labels last year instead of inkjet, they still printed ok.  All I have to do now is sit down and write them all.  Ooh, and get some stamps!

Really, I ought now to go back to Outlook and rearrange the christmas list so it’s up to date before next year but after a whole two hours just getting the labels printed I don’t feel quite ready to tackle that.

And so to bed.

~

You’ll notice, maybe, that I didn’t start writing Christmas cards last night!    My only excuse was that my feet hurt from Christmas shopping but this morning there was no excuse – only a sort of reluctance to get on with it.  So without pausing to get up properly or even to make coffee, I plunged into the heap and have just emerged, still inelegantly pyjamad, with back and elbow aching, for coffee and a pause.  And maybe I’ll finish getting up before tackling ‘The Rest’.   I’ve done ‘Family’ and ‘Abroad’ and Barney can do ‘ The Pub’ tonight.

One year we sent out one of those round robins and I realised after we’d done them all how utterly dreadful it sounded.  This year I was tempted to do a printed note saying “we love you honest but the cards were late and my feet hurt so this is all you’re getting”.  Just as bad really.  Though my handwriting has deteriorated alarmingly since I took to the computer (not that it was ever very neat or even legible) and I imagine that most of our card recipients will have to guess at the content. After all it’s the thought that counts even if you can’t be quite sure what the thought is and the context will help .

I finished the whole lot just in time to hurtle to the post office, buy hundreds of stamps and apply them all before the last collection tonight and indeed the last one for Christmas posting.  Yay!  Almost I didn’t mind that one arm of my driving glasses broke off while I was stamping the envelopes.  Fortunately they still sit quite easily in the right place so I shall be ok with the help of a bit of sticky tape till I can get them looked at.  Indeed I’m not sure that even sticky tape will be required.

I don’t seem to have taken many photos this month.  Oh well, there are a few left over from other months.

I have to go away now and prepare for an attack on Reading tomorrow.  Newbury didn’t yield up enough Christmas presents so I need to cast wider.    I expect you’ve done all yours?  Oh well good luck if your haven’t and well done if you have.  Goodnight.

*Oh dear, I hope I didn’t!

December 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

New things

I’m getting used to the Kindle which Mrs Middle gave me for my birthday.  It’s not like reading a book I must say and will certainly never replace books for me.  Still, I’ve read a couple of free ‘books’ and noticing that the dictionary that comes with it is an American English one* I thought I’d see if there was an English English one.  There is but it costs £20.22 which, after the excitement of downloading lots of free books seemed like a lot.  So I started trawling through Amazon for a cheaper one but gave up when I got to “The Morphosyntax of Complement-Head Sequences;  Word Structure and Word Order Patterns in Kwa“.  I seemed to have gone way beyond the simple, homely concepts of ‘English’ and ‘dictionary’.

Fair enough.  I’ll pay for the English.  After all somebody must have spent a while typing it up or scanning it and they deserve to be paid.  (What an interesting task though; I’d never get through it)

Then the other night when it was very cold, I decided to fill up the hot water bottles.  Sadly, they hadn’t been emptied last winter and when I emptied them into the bath it looked as though some of the bottles’ insides were coming out along with the water.  Probably time to replace them.  I suppose hot water bottles don’t actually last for ever.

Word Press has added a big notice for me to read when I publish a post.  It says I’ve just published my 441st post and my next publishing goal is 445.  Is it though.  This is new and it appears every time I post.  Hmm.

A cold caller rang today and said we’d agreed to talk about getting a website designed.  Oh no we didn’t, I replied rather shortly, being pretty confident about this since Eldest designed our perfectly good website and I occasionally maintain it.  She argued a bit (incomprehensible Geordie) and I got a bit shorter.  Then she said “you’re rather rude aren’t you”.  Oops.  Perhaps I was.  “I’m not lying” she said “I have written down that someone agreed I could call back in a few months when you’d had time to consider”.  Then she put the phone down smartly.  Oops again.  Maybe I did!  [Note to self:  it’s no good sending them away if you can’t do it politely – and permanently.]  After all, the callers themselves aren’t at fault, even for their incomprehensibility.  Not an enjoyable job.

I remember Youngest worked in a local call centre at about the time of the foot and mouth outbreak and the job she started with was to call farmers and ask them how many cattle they had.  This did not go down well, especially when she was told by one tearful man that he had none left since that morning.  Some of them wanted to tell her all about it (she has a sympathetic manner) which she wasn’t allowed to let them do.  Some of them were angry and reasonably enough let her know in no uncertain terms what they thought of her call.  I can’t understand what sort of mindset allowed the job to continue.  It couldn’t possibly have provided any useful information at such a time and even if the call centre managers were callous enough not to care about burdening distressed people the commissioners of the job should surely have seen that it was at best a waste of time.

Anyway we have no less than three new items to be admired in the dining room.  I’ve whinged a bit about helping Barney create wonderful pages to display his stamps.  It really was quite a painstaking business even with Word.  And I was – tepidly interested when he showed me the final result with the actual stamps in their prepared spaces.  Quite nice, I thought.  What a lot of stuff.   So when I came back last night, from Mrs Middle’s bookclub I was vaguely aware of some more, and shiny, stuff in the corner but didn’t pay much attention till this morning when trying to clear out some of the heaps and piles and stacks, preparatory to a major cleaning session.  Then I thought oh, a big silver plate and a sort of cup thingie.  And some little post office vans on a piece of wood.  Now he’s chairman of the stamp club, he must be bringing things home to look after.  Hm.  where is he going to keep all that I wonder.

The answer is, on the mantlepiece.  He won them in the competitions at the stamp club Christmas meeting!  (And it seems I earned a lot of points for his presentation : )  We’re quite pleased with ourselves (not that this will stop me grumbling when we start on the next lot of pages).

I rather like the little post office vans.  And I might take this as an opportunity to throw out a lot of expensive tat which people have given us over the years and then the trophies can live on the dresser.

*Not that I have any prejudice against American English as such, just that there are times when I’d like to know which language I’m using.

December 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

grandbaby

Two days grandbabyminding and I’m quite used up.  I’ve been smiled at, laughed at, covered with blanket, book and kisses, fed “chiz” and “‘nana” and have even been hugged once or twice.  Also I’ve walked all the way to the playbus and wrestled us both up to the top deck and crawled around the floor picking up paper and toys and having interesting conversations with a small ‘pirate witch’ (witches hat, Captain Hook’s hook and large curvy plastic sword) while fending off another small person who had that special blank look which small boys wear when they are intent on toysnatching from an even smaller person and have no wish to hear or understand any naysaying from Mums or Grandmas or strange, old women who happen to be attached to the snatchee.  Listened more or less politely to one young Mum droning on at length about her difficulties with giving up breast feeding at six months and almost in the same breath handing out advice, wisdom and cliches to the other, which didn’t seem to be needed and didn’t sound very good to me.  (It was ok though, I crawled away with NGB and we had a great time with the fishing rod and the magnetic fish).  We also went to the bead shop and a very small curly, coffee coloured person was delighted to entertain NGB by pushing her pram into furniture, occasionally giving me a shy and dazzling smile.

She gives me things to hold as she takes them all out of their box so that she can then put them all in again.  This fills me with wonder and admiration – I’m sure my children (her mother included) concentrated solely on finding more and more violent and urgent ways of getting stuff out of things.

And I’m lost in amazement at her dogged and thoughtful persistance in dealing with all small problems that she encounters.  (Like how to cross the room bringing with her a woolly shawl.  She’s so patient and methodical about the trailing bits and the possibilities of pushing, gathering, pulling or abandoning.  She also considers the possibilities of a Grandma helping but she likes to get on with it herself)  I expect she isn’t really an extraordinarily clever and thoughtful child, I’m sure most fourteen month old babies have similar traits – how else do they almost all learn to walk and talk?)  but I am quite besotted.

Anyway, it seems Mr Middle asked at the Nursery school if Little Middle was walking much there and was told that she prefers to sit and get the other little people to bring things to her.  Who’d a thought it.  She’s perfectly happy to get her own stuff at home!  Got her little head screwed on right, that one!  And she knows all about buckets and washing up bowls too.

Anyway, I won’t be minding again till after Christmas – just as well, when I’m with her I go into a kind of trance and speak in tongues forgetting how people speak out in the world.  Not that we do baby talk, it’s just that I spend a lot of time deciphering the meanings of sentences in which the only words I can guess at are, f”rinstance,  Daddy or Teddy and occasionally, possibly, baby.  Thus, “DaddyTeddy/Baby is there”? could be answered, Yes!!!! Daddy’s back!!! or Nooo, not yet, or Oh the teddy book!, or hello Teddy or yes, that’s a baby.

Now I’m going to rush about a  lot (slowly) and panic a bit.  My Christmas cards haven’t arrived from RedBubble yet and half my family haven’t told me what they’d like for Christmas and anyway, the’s no time for shopping since the house (neglected even more than usual while I’m on baby duty) needs to be dragged into a semblance of tidiness before the family descend in droves together with dogs, children, new and beautiful girlfriends and, oh well that’s enough to be going on with.

Oh oops!  I forgot the toast!

December 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Silent and peaceful nights

I have discovered that Vivaldi is the music of choice for government waithelp-lines and that someone else  (infuriatingly, I can’t remember who*)  is what you get when you phone the Civil Service, for whom once I worked.  Amazingly, the Civil Service pension system remembers me and they will send me forms with which to claim my just deserts!  Equally amazingly, the government is prepared to send me goodies on the strength of a single phone call, backdated, updated and in spite of the fact that they haven’t got my date of birth on their system.

It took me a long time to get round to this but every time I phoned the state pension claim people I got Vivaldi followed shortly by a message saying “we’re all busy, try again later”.  After a while I felt discouraged, nay, rejected – they didn’t even say my call was important to them.  But today I phoned all of them and they all answered and once you get to talk to a real person they’re very helpful, straightforward and efficient.  Well they seem so, I’ll find out next week when stuff should start arriving : )

Anyway, in anticipatory celebration, I’m looking up beds on the Ikea website.**

For the first many years of our marriage, I spent my nights (the sleeping parts of them) in the top left hand corner of our bed, clinging to the edge to avoid sinking into the central pit full of sharp, knobbly, pointed bits belonging to my husband.  I have been known to make comparisons to a volcano.  After about twenty five years we bought a new, flat bed and I realised that we were two halves of a couple instead of one and three, quarters.  After a further two or three years I learnt to let go of the edge of the mattress while sleeping.

The new bed stayed flat for quite a while but now, it’s beginning to sag ever so slightly and I notice a tendency to roll toward my nose when facing inwards.  Also, what seemed fairly soft on the surface when I was fifty odd now feels quite hard and hurts my bunions and my knees. I’ve been wondering whether to broach the possibility of replacing it – possibly a contentious subject as it’s only about ten years old.

And then, when we bought our 1/12th of a boat, Barney waxed lyrical about the foam mattress in our bed.  And I thought, hmm.  Could be time to talk about a new bed at home with a lovely firm but soft mattress.  A flat bed.

And yay!  Thanks to the government (after all those years of grumbling about the monthly National Insurance payments) the time has come because with my backdated owings, I can just go out and buy one.  I could even buy two if I wanted!***  And this time it’s going to have slatted base so that all we will ever need to replace is the mattress.  And what’s more we’re going to have some of that magic memory stuff on top so that we’ll both have just as much squashiness as we need.  Talk about icing on the mattress.  I feel quite cock’a’whatsit.  Hoop?   You know the expression I’m sure.

Oh look!  A chicken!

But we’re having Pork Vindaloo tonight.

*Oh idiot!  It’s Mozart, of course.

**It won’t save me from having to spend several hours wandering the Ikean labyrinth like a lost soul, wailing occasionally (but quietly in case people think I’ve gone mad) but it does mean I will have decided roughly what I need to look at and measure and ask questions about.

***I’m almost tempted, like when you find a pair of shoes that fit and want to buy several pairs so you can wear them for ever instead of having to do the whole shoe shopping thing over again when they wear out.

December 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Butchers – no bakers or candlestick makers.

In between rain a while ago I went to the Pork Butcher’s.  One of them has a deeply mournful and weary face and voice – if it weren’t for the ears he’d be a dead ringer for Eeyore.  “Stopped raining has it?”  he asked as he weighed out the bacon,  “Looks like more coming soon.”  He started wrapping and added “I’m going home in a few minutes.”  Pause for thought and bag tying and then he said “back to my darling” .  Somehow he managed to convey a world of irony in this without the slightest change of expression or tone.

I always enjoy shopping there – partly for the theatre of it.  Not just Mr Eyore but also the quite different and almost intimidating jollity of Mr Pork himself  and his younger brother.  The elder Mr Pork may well be a bit of a fly boy and certainly likes to give that impression, but his pork is good and cheap.

I prefer squaring up to them than waiting on the ever so ‘umble but remarkably deliberate old chaps at the Game Butcher’s out in the woods.  The game butchers  have a much better selection of meat than the supermarkets and it’s usually better quality and cheaper by a long way.   But it takes for ever to get served and then forever again to get your choice wrapped and labelled.  Whole aeons could pass while you wait, politely agreeing  to whatever they say in the hope of not distracting them further and then you’ve still got to wait for the lady at the till to return from wherever she goes in her head between customers.  Very old-fashioned types in there, even the younger lads.  Two of whom left and set up on their own in Thatcham because they found it frustrating working there, and I believe they are doing well (Though their prices reflect the costs and uncertainty of running a specialist business in a small dormitory town; very steep.)

Now our favourite sausage butcher is a completely different kettle of – er, sausages.  He lives just up the road from the ancestral home of a certain, recently wedded princess* and his prices are matched to his exalted surroundings.  His bluff and hearty manner fits in well too – a very  caricature of  ‘Butcher to the Princess’s Mum’ (but no ‘umbleness when he’s talking to us less celebrated mortals).   And (except when the royal wedding hove into view) he’s commendably brisk.    He has plenty of good looking game and expensive meat, no doubt obtained at special rates through his hunting and shooting mates, and feels no need to pass on any savings to his customers.  We only go there for the sausages which are without doubt the best in the area (and you can tell we have a  good selection).

It’s nice that local butchers seem to be doing well these days,  possibly a boost from all the cheffy programmes extolling the virtues of local produce and meat which is readily available at home.    I imagine that the same programmes have added more nails in the coffins of local greengrocers by stressing the excitement using of unusual veg and by burbling on about local, seasonal freshness while preparing totally unavailable goodies on screen.  Really, only supermarkets can obtain huge amounts of  exotic vegetables all in reasonably good condition.  It’s a shame that most of the veg I see in the smaller shops are looking fairly sad and withered, particularly in one or two of the local organic shops.  Reminds me of complaints from supermarkets that customers are too picky.  If they would take the slightly less perfect veg there wouldn’t be such a lot of waste.

Anyway, the purchase of sausages and bacon was all in aid of hot, sustaining breakfasts on board the Magnificent Mr and Mrs M’s boat, where we were to be at an unseasonable hour the following day.  Perhaps even a breakfast hour?

~

It was indeed a breakfast hour, albeit a late one.

Here are some  photos from the trip.  It was very cold but nice all the same.  I do like Mr and Mrs M’s Magnificent boat.

~

Now  I am going to the pork butchers again – Oh no I’m not!  they all close on Monday.  Bother.   Lamb from Waitrose then?  It’s curry night here.

*Well I assume she did become a princess when she married ?  Oh no.  My ignorance is so huge.  I guess Mr Sausage is butcher to the Duchess’s Mum then.  

December 12, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

A walk in the Park

When I got to Leeds, I had an hour or two to spare so I went to Roundhay Park.   It was all pink and blue to begin with.  A breath-takingly icy wind swept the lake and fluttered a crowd of seagulls in the distance.

There were dog walkers.

It seemed like a good idea to wander up the hill on the windward side.  The wind seemed keen to go right through one ear and out the other.  The light darkened on the pink side and chilled to cold grey on the blue.

And then turned decidedly spooky and red (I promise, it really was this colour)

I thought, I’m going to get seriously wet in a minute

and hurried back towards the car park – others were hurrying too

The sky became darker and the light more ominous and just as I reached the car park, I met a young woman setting off with her dogs and precious little in the way of warm waterproof clothing.  As I got into the car (after dancing around it pressing the unresponsive remote for a minute or two – another reason for hating the wretched thing) and closed the door, a hailstorm descended upon the park and blotted her out.  When it was over, I could see no sign of her – nor anyone else.  Must ask Sister-in -Law if, later, there were any stories of people vanishing during the storm.

I do like Leeds.

December 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments