Saturday, 22 July 2017

Cooking with gas

I cooked the first meal in the new house today, and what a delight it was to be cooking with gas again. With turnips in the veg box again I decided to make a lentil shepherds pie with a turnip topping. Never having done this before, I had no idea how it would turn out. The last lot of turnips went into a turnip and lentil stew, which was ok... but any further ideas about what to do with turnips (no, not that Baldrick) would be most welcome. They still feel to me like the sort of thing only slightly desperate people would eat.
So anyway, I boiled some green lentils, and was able to adjust the heat precisely so they didn't boil over, which was a great novelty after five years of a primitive electric hotplate. Then I gently fried some onions and carrots, then simmered them in a little water until the carrots were just done, when I added some stock powder, Hendersons Relish and finally some Bisto mixed with cold water, brfore stirring in the drained lentils. That's the filling. For the topping I peeled, chopped, and boiled the turnips, then mashed them with some leftover soft cheese with onion and garlic, spread them over the filling, and topped with grated cheese. It turned out quite nice, by which I mean it didn't taste discernably of turnip at all. I am also loving my deep china sink:

Friday, 21 July 2017

Cabinet of curiosities

The flat that I shall shortly be leaving is one of six, in a large Victorian house that has been in the same family since the 1940s. A few years ago, in the basement, I came across a mahogany cabinet, with a mirrored back and glass fronted sides and doors. It was in poor condition, but I fell in love with it (I do love a bevelled mirror, especially if it's surrounded by mahohogany). So I asked the landlord if I could have it in my (nominally furnished) flat. He readily agreed, and I believe it had belonged to his mother.

So I gave it a good clean and recovered the shelves, which were dressed with faded and worn green velvet, and set it up in my living room, to display my nice glass and small collection of curiosities (and not so curious things - and not the rivet collection, that's different).
Here are just a few of them.
A souvenir of Vienna, brought home by my parents in the early 1960s. This lived in their cabinet when I was a child, and was one of the things I was allowed to get out only when ill. I was fascinated by it.
It may well have been on the same trip that they bought Wolfgang the polar bear in Salzberg. Handling him was another rare and treasured priviledge.
This was my father's lighter, which lived on the table next to his chair (my mother likewise had a table by her chair, but a pocket rather than a table lighter). He smoked Woodbines, heavily; she Players No 6. He started smoking in the army, when he was told, on being promoted, that he should grow a moustache and take up smoking in order to look sufficiently mature for his new rank.
Finally something else which tickled my fancy as a child - and as a rare treat I was permitted to use this glass, which was also my father's. I don't know what drink it's intended to measure, but it has gradations up the side which are labelled in increasing order of size: Ladies, Gentlemen, then a small pig, and finally a large pig at the top.

Fortunately these treasures will not be rendered homeless when I laeve the flat, as I have done a deal with my lovely landlord to buy the cabinet, so it will shortly grace the front parlour of my new house.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Paper chase

This morning's task was sorting out the pile of paperwork that has been accumulating while I've been preoccupied with the house, filing it, and dealing with numerous changes of address. Then I moseyed over to the house and met Jim and Ricky taking a stroll in the park.

Jim asked me, did you measure the height before you ordered that new toilet?
Me: Yes, most definitely.
Jim: Did you measure it with the top on the cistern?
Me: Yes... why, is it fouling the window sill?
Jim: Yes.
Me: I took the measurements from the website. I was so careful because I knew it would be a close thing... Oh, hang on, that was before we raised the floor.....

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

It'll come out in the wash

I've started packing up at the flat and as of yesterday it was in a state of chaos - packed bags of clothes, boxed of books and collapsed empty cardboard boxes everywhere - when I got a text from the letting agents saying was it OK for them to come and take some new pictures of it today. I said yes - as long as it was the afternoon - and spent the morning giving the place a long overdue tidy and a superficial clean (I can't be bothered doing that properly until I do the final big clean now). I must say I do feel much better with it tidy again, but it was achieved by the simple expedient of shoving everything into the tiny utility room. Which meant that I couldn't get to the washing machine.

Never mind, there is a spanking new shiny washing machine freshly installed in the house, and one thing I have really missed these past five years is hanging washing on a proper outside line. I'd also found a hank of washing line (bought years ago to repair the garden chair, aka the crap (sic) bed, but that's another story), so once young Will from the agency had done his snapping I loaded up my rucksack with a load of washing, the line, a tub of Persil and a bag of pegs, and set off for the house.

First I had to work out all the potential settings on the machine, so that I could decide on the one which will be the only one I ever use (not quite true, I do do woollies specially), and they were a trifle too electronic for my taste. Having decided that, I loaded it up, switched it on... and nothing happened.  It is plumbed in, isn't it, I mused? But if it is, where is the hiss and rush of water? We'd both assumed that the plumber had plumbed it in along with completing the rest of the kitchen plumbing, but quickly realised that this was based on a rather flimsy foundation - i.e. that he'd pushed it back into place.  So Jim discovered that it is possible, just, to pull out and manoeuvre behind the machine in the very narrow corridor of kitchen, confirmed that it had not in fact been plumbed in, and rectified the situation.

So then off it went. We were sitting out in the garden enjoying a cup of tea when it first started to empty, and watched the suds well up through and overflow the drain and run along the side of the kitchen... ok, we thought, there's yet another possible cause of the damp, and Jim put his drain rods on the list of things to bring up from Sussex. He tried sticking his arm down (try stopping him) but couldn't reach anything.

Nonetheless, the machine finished its cycle with a very satisfactory 1600 spin, and I did get to hang the washing on the line - probably just in time for a thunderstorm.

Monday, 17 July 2017

First bit of gardening

A workmate came to see the house today, and brought me a lavender plant.
Which I have planted at the top of the steps, opposite the rosemary bush.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Kitchen continues...

I kno0w this is rather dull, and I'm sorry I'm not boating - but if nothing else, this will be a record for me to look back on. The kitchen is coming along very nicely - in fact, the tiling is the last major job outstanding, and then there will be the shelves to fit. This is what it looked like this afternoon.

I have a new oven, hob and washing machine, but the firdge and freezer are from my mother's. The units are from Travis Perkins' Benchmarx range, and the worktops and sink from Worktop Express in Chesterfield. The worktops are iroko, which I really liked on Warrior. It feels very grown up having solid wood worktops. I'll try to remember to fcus in on some details tomorrow.

Meanwhile, back at the flat, I am sorting and packing. Yesterday it was clothes - and I have already transferred all my hanging clothes to the house's built in wardrobes. Today I did books and have filled five of my smaller boxes - but that's without my canal books collection. I do tend to be quite unsentimental about books, and it's a very rare novel I'll keep once having read it. I've got quite a big pile to be divided between Oxfam and the Alvecote book swap, and a couple of bags of clothes went to Oxfam yesterday, so I'm taking the opportunity for a bit of a clear out as I pack. Tomorrow... paperwork. Plus I need to go and pay for the bedroom carpet - once that's fitted, that will be the first room finished (apart from picture rail), and buy some tiles for the bathroom. Possibly a new piece of vinyl for the floor too - a design rethink means getting rid of a fitted cupboard, meaning the original piece won't be big enough for the new floor area. It's an exciting development though, all inspired by a fortuitous find at Braunston.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Working in the West Midlands

I'm back in the West Midlands but for once I'm not boating. I've spent the last two days at a conference at the University of Warwick, which as most people know, is not in Warwick, nor really anywhere in the immediate vicinity. It's not really in Coventry either, but rather on the outskirts of Kenilworth. I guess Universities didn't have to worry about what the Competition and Markets Authority checking to see whether they were mis-selling themselves back in the sixties. I have to say though that they laid on the best conference I think the Foundation Year Network (for that is us) have ever had - and we rose to the occasion it's some really good papers and presentations. It's always good too to catch up with other people from across the country who are labouring away in that much overlooked and oft misunderstood corner of HE. It was quite exhausting though as well.

Then tomorrow - this is exciting - I've been invited to act as the external 'expert' on the panel validating a new Foundation Year at a university in Birmingham. I've been booked into a lovely hotel, where I've just had a lovely dinner in a lovely old fashioned hotel restaurant, and they're sending a taxi for me in the morning. I must be careful not to let it go to my head.

When I get back to Sheffield I've got two weeks off work which will be consumed by extensive house-work.