Illustrated blog post

Today’s blog post is quite an illustrated one, so apologies to those with slow internet speeds.

We had a very busy and productive 4-day weekend, which started on Thursday evening with us getting the weekly shopping out of the way. On Friday, the poet went fishing, and I spent much of the day faffing with the blog – did you notice? Let me know what you think. My day started with housework, as usual but without the rush to get it done in time for work. I emptied and reloaded the dishwasher – twice – and I put just one washload through both the washing cycle and the tumble drying cycle.

I had intended not to go to my desk, but I wanted to see what the blog can and can’t do and what the website can and can’t do. And while they both have pros and cons, at the moment the blog is winning. There are features not available unless I pay for a premium membership, but the blog facility is by far more superior than the one that comes with the website. So when my website and domain come up for renewal next May, I may move everything over to WordPress.

The poet got back at about teatime, but we went out on a date night just as soon as he was presentable (and not smelling of fish). We started at an old favourite of ours, Pizza Express, and finished at the pictures. There were 3 films on our list, depending on what time we finished at the restaurant, Maze Runner: The Scorch Files; Legend; and Sicario. We came out in time to see the last one and were home by 11:30pm.

P1040179On Saturday morning we went out to get my dad a birthday present and to buy some vinegars and some spices we didn’t already have or that needed replenishing.

When we got back, we used up all of the sloes and more of the apples in a sloe & Bramley apple jelly. We used this recipe from the Cottage Smallholder, but had to adjust the recipe to match the weight of the sloes we had. It seemed to work, though, and we left the pulp dripping through a jelly bag overnight.

We also used some tomatoes and more of the apples to make a ripe tomato chutney, and the rest of the tomatoes to make a basic tomato ketchup. Again, we were restricted by the weight and tried to adjust the recipes to suit, which we got from Easy Jams, Chutneys and Preserves by Val and John Harrison.

The chutney worked really well, but we had to add cornflour to the ketchup as it wasn’t thickening. We’re going to try that recipe again, though, but with the right ingredients because it’s absolutely delicious. We won’t know what the chutney is like for a few weeks, but that’s quite a lot of chutney we have in the spare fridge now. And, of course, we still have apples left …

On Saturday evening, Monkey Dust played a gig in Doncaster. WordPress wouldn’t let me embed a video directly (this is one of the complaints I have with the blog at the moment), so I had to upload it to YouTube and embed it from there. I hope it works for you.

This is a fairly new one for them but a song they got comfortable with very quickly. I think they do a lovely job, even if the video is a bit wobbly (that’s me, as is the phone-freeze at the end of it all).

I drove back from the gig and thought there was something wrong with the poet’s car, so I mentioned it …

Sunday morning we were up early to finish the sloe & Bramley apple jelly. Because of the limits we had with the fruit content, we only managed just under 2 jars. It set perfectly and tastes gorgeous, and we’ll be having it with meat – hopefully at Christmas too. Then we were off to Birmingham, where we had a nice visit with my parents for my dad’s birthday – we even had birthday cake!

On the way back, the poet’s car started to act very strangely. Warning lights started to come on and he thought the clutch was slipping. So we said first thing tomorrow (aka Monday) he was going to book it in. As we slowed down at the next junction, which was literally just yards away, his clutch pedal disappeared. And, still in 6th gear, we limped off the motorway and pulled into a layby on an A-road just as the engine caught fire …

Fortunately I’m in the AA and was able to call them for breakdown rescue. Even more fortunately, he apparently is too. The car is only 8 months old and part of the dealer warranty includes AA breakdown membership. And yet more fortunately still, there was an AA man just finishing another rescue on the other side of the road! He couldn’t do a roadside repair, so instead dragged the car to a garage of our choice, dropping us off at Meadowhall on the way so I could collect my car (which I’d left there to go to Doncaster on the train on Saturday night).

We got home at about 7:30pm. Fortunately again (Fortune was certainly with us on Sunday), while we were out, the poet had left a lamb shank in the slow cooker. He was going to cook it on “high” but I’d convinced him to cook it on “low”, so by the time we got home, the meat was perfect, falling away from the bone. He’d infused it with mint and garlic, and – again – it tasted gorgeous, with baby new potatoes in butter, peas and sweetcorn, and a lamb gravy.

Monday was very much a lost day. We had to get the car keys to the garage where we’d abandoned the car, and we had to wait around until the car hire company (also via Ford’s AA warranty membership) arranged a temporary car for us. Once the hire car was sorted (for a 2pm delivery), off we went to the garage.

We had a chat with the service department, who were shocked that a car only 8 months old had lost its clutch in such a manner. They’re 99.9% sure that it’s covered by warranty, but you know how some of these dealers can be. It’s currently being looked at in the workshop and we’ll find out later today what’s going to happen to it. Once the clutch is fixed, if we book it in for its first year service (which we did), we get another year’s AA membership included.

At about 1:15pm, we received a phone call to say the hire car had arrived, and within 25 minutes we were home to take delivery.

P1040172This cut the day in half really, so we weren’t able to go out for the day as we’d hoped. Instead, we decided to do some much needed DIY around the house – only tweaks, but things that have needed doing for a while but been neglected.

The poet started by removing a coat rack that was on this wall in the living room, and replacing it with a mirror that came up with me to Yorkshire when I moved 11 years ago.

The curtains you can see in this picture (in the mirror too) were made by the gig buddy for my last house. She adapted them to fit this house. Her business is The Sewing Room. And she does loads and loads for us, including my wedding dress.

The table you can see is one we got in a swap with son #1 when he moved into his last house. We jokingly call it our “telephone paraphernalia table”, and it matches the television unit and the stereo unit, which we also swapped with son #1. (Not for him, with him!)

P1040175The coat rack was moved to the hall, which to us is the logical place for coats. The picture to the left shows it now, but before, that was just a white expanse of wall. This puzzled us very much, and now we’re half-waiting to see if there was some structural reason for this rather bizarre decision.

He also put in some new hooks for the dog’s leads and collar and for one of our walking sticks.

I went through this little lot before it looked like this and moved 4 pairs of shoes, 2 coats, a hat and 2 pairs of gloves to wardrobes and cupboards upstairs. I also managed to transport a pair of his shoes to the bin … I’ll have to check later to make sure he hasn’t retrieved them … (I did tell him, I even made him take them himself. It was very good therapy for him. 😉 )

Now our wellies are in the hall too, having previously taken up space in the kitchen. Can you guess which wellies belong to whom?

P1040173While he had his DIY head on, he also did a job on this bookshelf, reducing it by one shelf so that the wall-light shows over the top of it. I’d already gone through the books as they originally filled the extra shelf on here and spilled out into the surrounding area. Along with his shoes probably went over 100 books to the bin. Definitely a job I should have done 2 years ago.

This is sort of the poet’s corner … (do you see what I did there?). It’s where he was keeping all of his art supplies too (that’s the current work-in-progress on the easel). And, like the books, this also spilled onto the floor, onto the stereo and under the stairs. Now his current supplies are tucked tidily away in a drawer beneath the stereo.

The easel is a lightweight portable easel that packs down so it can come on holiday with us, or on days out. The stereo unit is another third of that furniture collection we swapped with son #1. The turntable was the poet’s; the mini-stereo was mine; the 7″ vinyl was all his. Now they’re joint.

P1040169While I had my tidying head on (we do need to take advantage of these brain murmurs when they happen), I also de-cluttered what I suppose is “my” corner, for this is where I sit when I’m working on hard copy downstairs, whether editing, reading or writing.

The poet put the floating shelves in several months ago, but he still needs to stain and secure those extra lengths of dowelling he added for extra safety for when there’s a certain toddler visiting us.

Some of the books that were on here also went into the bin, and all of the office clutter was moved upstairs to the office. (Incidentally, I would normally take books to a library or to a charity sale, but many of these would have been of no interest to anyone else and, had we bagged them, it’s likely they’d still be cluttering up the garage this time next year. So we made an executive decision this time to just dump them.)

This corner is stuffed full of trinkets and memories. The painting is the first one the poet did following our honeymoon. If you look closely at the new slide-show in the sidebar, there’s one of the 2 photographs that inspired this piece of work. On the top shelf is an enamelled jug that also came from our honeymoon, but from the Cyprus leg. There’s also a stone jar my mom bought for me from a pottery in Wales and another little stoneware pot.

On the next shelf down, from the left, is a totem pole I bought in Canada when I went to visit my brother and his family, a London clock that my parents bought me a few Christmases ago, a book about Snow Hill Station (lying on its side at the bottom of the pile) that an old writing friend of mine had published in between the station closing and reopening again (the friend was also one of the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974), a part-works on Scotland I collected many years ago and have used quite a lot in short story work, and a colourful vase that came from the Algarve that we both thinks is quite cheerful.

The 2 hampers were Christmas presents from my sister last year. They’re proving very useful for storing things like birthday cards we’ve received. Then on the bottom shelf, you probably can’t see it very well, but there’s a black enamelled music box that used to belong to my grandma. Her stepson brought it back for her from his National Service in Malaysia – and it still works.

P1040180The final job I did yesterday, while the poet hauled out the incinerator and started a fire in the garden, was another quick and easy job that’s wanted doing for AGES – new batteries in 3 clocks.

The silver clock was just a cheap one I got from Tesco and it sits in my office. The blue glass clock came from Venice. The white wall clock is one another friend made for me one Christmas. They’ve all been with me for a very long time, and I really can’t do without knowing what the time is, for some reason.

Even in this picture is the edge of another memory. The photograph on the wall is one the poet took on our first holiday together. I’d taken him to Wordsworth’s house (for obvious reasons?) in Grasmere, and this picture is one of the garden gate leading to the cottage.

So, in the end, we had a very busy day, and – as usual – a very busy weekend. Our reward was a pizza each from Domino’s.

How was your weekend?