Friday, 27 April 2012

Porch - more slow progress

Because of the weather I have not been able to get out much this week. We did go to B&Q and buy the window furniture for the porch (why is it called furniture please someone?). I managed to get it all fitted without too much grief - much to my surprise. I had expected to have problems getting the latch pins in the right places but with care it all worked.

Before any observant people tell me that the latches are the wrong way round... I know that, you know that but the wife wanted them this way so please tell her!
I also managed to get a little more plastering done, enough to finish the bag I was given from Freecycle and enough to get me ready  to put a 'one coat' on the ceiling... well half of it anyway.

When the plastering is done then it will be time to consider some painting, but plater drips make painting a little time wasting just yet.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Allotment before the rain comes.

The forecast suggests that in the next five days we will get a month's rain. They don't seem to say what month though. August would be good! But I suspect not as it amounts to about 60mm or 2.3 inches in English.

Having cut Granddad's grass today as well has planted his row of Alderman peas, I decided it was time to do mine.

I slipped down there for an hour today before the dreaded rain arrives because it may be some time before the ground is drive enough to dig after it does. I dug a small strip but I also planted a couple of 'weeds' from Granddad's garden - two gooseberry bushes that had self set.

I also moved 2 holly bushes from our own garden. Apart from deterring intruders from climbing the allotment fences I have used holly leaves to protect peas and beans. After planting the seed simply scatter the leaves on top where the mice would dig. It appears to work for me after having lost some to the little blighters and doing this after replanting. I didn't make this up, I heard it somewhere so thought I would give it a go.

Apart from that I also managed to find time to pick our first radishes of the season.

Now to hope the forecasters are wrong.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Dinner at Haddon Hall and NOTHING to eat

Today The Tudor Group (They are also on Facebook) prepared dinner at Haddon Hall. Seems like a small thing, but as their name implies, they do things the Tudor way. No gas ovens, running hot water, electric mixers, food blenders but PLENTY of muscle.

It was fascinating to see and to talk to the people involved about the way they believe things were done. But I did say believe. Do you know that no-one wrote down whether they used a funnel (made for horn or made from wood or anything else) to stuff sausages? Well of course they wouldn't. They did these things daily and everyone knew how things were done. Except us of course. We are left guessing. But they try to make things work and if it works they may try an alternate method to see if they COULD have had the technology to do it more efficiently. But sometimes the first method proves to be the best. In preparing marchpane from boiled almonds, if you chop them with a knife before pounding in a pestle then you are bound to save effort... but if you just crush them in the pestle you get a better result and a better control of the texture.

For their recipes and dress and customs and table manners they research extensively and then work to fill in the gaps. While they have featured several times in various TV programs about history they are a delight to see and more importantly to speak to and ask questions of.

If you get the chance do go and see them. I should warn you though that they favour Haddon Hall as one of the most important Tudor buildings in the UK.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The newly born #ChipLitFest

We heard of Chipping Norton organising a literary festival over twitter. Such events deserve to be encouraged and so re-tweets were the order of the day and as a result my wife won a golden ticket. With this ticket she had free reign to attend as many events as she wanted and also had access to the green room.

The first I heard was 'How far is Chipping Norton?'.
'About 100 miles' I replied, 'Why?'

Oh dear... With family and pets and other stuff it's difficult to to just drop everything and take a weekend away so some deep planning was in order.

After discussions with our daughter it was decided we would do just 2 events on the Saturday. One was "Making a Living without any Serious Work" and the other was "How to break into freelance writing". With just these 2 events chosen we could take Dylan to the in-laws in the morning, drive leisurely to Chipping Norton and perhaps take in a little of the ambience and then return home collecting a very licky Dyl on the way. Regular readers will know of Dylan who really should get some blogging done! These events were also chosen because our daughter is at that age where she is expected to know what she wants to do and children of her age never can be reasonably expected to. She does write very well though - but I'm partisan so feel free to make your own mind up HERE - and she expressed positive interest in these two.

Chipping Norton seems to exist in a spatial anomaly. Traffic is slow, unhurried and polite - just the way traffic never is. The streets are olde worlde, eclectic and can't fit in the space they occupy. The people are slow and unhurried or rushing - nothing in between. And their dress seems to span the last 50 years yet doesn't look out of place. It is a quiet little town with an atmosphere.

The second event was scheduled to finish on the minute when the second event started so it would be a rush to get across even this small town. When they emerged, just a little early, from the first event smiles seemed to be the order of the day. (I had no interest in either event and planned to explore other things around the town, and in fact the town itself) Unfortunately the heavens decided to demonstrate their capabilities at almost that point so I made a dash for the town hall while they just made it indoors to the second event.

The town hall was the centre for the non-event items of the festival - publishers, book stalls and other related promotional stands. While the town hall is an old and interesting building, it is not the largest of buildings and so there was not a lot in there but what there was rather limited in space and the room felt a little like a jumble sale rather than a literary festival - sorry chaps! I am sure that the festival is going to demonstrate credibility to publishers this year and be better supported next year so maybe more space will be given over to these things which, for me, are an important part of such festivals as Hay and Edinburgh - think big is my motto.

The second event was rather cramped in its venue but equally enjoyed by both wife and daughter and daughter came away with something. You are never sure what it is you get... confidence, understanding?

We never did find the green room! Mind, we had no 'golden ticket' to identify ourselves at the green room had we found it!

A good first year but next time perhaps more ambition and with everything learnt from this year a bigger and better festival?

But chaps... please leave a gap between events so people can get between them in the Chipping Norton fashion of relaxed and unhurried?

Friday, 20 April 2012

Allotment update

The fruit trees that were left by the previous plot holder are wll in flower bud - except the plum tree. The Pear is going to be magnificent again

The overwintering onions are doing very well as well - now they have been weeded a bit!

The rhubarb we got from Freecycle is doing very well indeed.
The Purple Sprouting Broccoli has produced an excellent crop this year too.
The first Broad Beans are well in flower now. These were set in January straight into the ground and have survived the weather. But they were protected by a cloche.
And this rhubarb was a birthday present from my Mother and Father in-law.
To break a bit of the wind I am using some pieces left by the previous plot holder to make a screen.
But today, apart from weeding, We have put the first crops into the polytunnel. We have also put them under a 'tent' of fleece in case of cold weather. 2 Money Maker tomatoes and 1 Telepathy Cucumber. We are hoping to get early crops. The mess of pipes is a self-watering system hooked up to a water butt, fed from the shed roof.

Also had to raise the netting on Feltham First peas as the plants are getting too big and starting to grow through the netting.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Shopping should not be frustrating and depressive

When our second child was born we switched to Sainsburys because it felt a lot more relaxed a shopping experience. Wider isles, quieter,  brighter, shorter queues at the checkout etc. OK it was probably a little more expensive and we certainly bought more items because we weren't in a rush to get out.

Today we went shopping for the first time in a fortnight after a holiday and we see new freezers.. You know? The kind that short people can't reach the top shelf of and that applies to so many of the elderly. It's a great way to frustrate them - and a lot of their customers are elderly. I'm not tall and I'm not short either and I have to stretch!

Apart from that some of the things on top of the freezers have been moved to shelves so... more shelves... so narrower isles... one of the reasons we switched. The number of near collisions today was frustrating and being hit with a trolley today was a first for me! The store now feels darker and less welcoming.

Couple this with a slower checkout process than when we started using Sainsburys and the reasons for continuing to shop there start to disappear.

Now... a year ago they had a 'Basics' swiss roll for 13p, it's now 45p - that's a 346% increase. What is inflation running at please someone? And apples get more expensive every week! Hang on... we've all heard how the big supermarkets tell the farmers what they will pay for this years crop and that was decided ages ago so how come... OF COURSE! They need to make X amount of profit in fruit and veg and so with less stock they need to increase their profit margin! By the way that is accountancy speak for 'fleece the punter'. These increases are typical and get worse every week.

A couple of years ago there was a shortage of tomatoes and so many prices went up. After a couple of good seasons the price has managed to stay up. Well done Sainsburys.

Enough is Enough.. we are walking!

PS  A facebook friend has just pointed out another cunning price increase method... The number of slices of ham and such like drops periodically while the price stays about the same. Drop a six pack to five and see the size of the price increase. Or cut the slices thinner... another one. Not just meats though... elsewhere in store too.