Saturday, 5 August 2017

Stimpy sitting in Derby – August 2017

In Derby with Tim
We’re now on our third housesit since arriving back in the UK at the end of May, this time at our friends Tim and Jill, who have a lovely house just outside Derby. We’re here for the month of August while Jill, Ellie and James are in Australia, for half of July and August and Tim joins them sometime on Monday (7th August). Jackie’s niece, nephew and her mum joined us for a few days while Tim was still here and, below are their comments from their stay:

Jackie with Charles and Caroline
Hello, this is Caroline speaking. We have been with AJ and UB since Wednesday and are getting on the train this evening at 17:13 precisely. At the moment all the mad people are fighting to win the game of Boggle Slam. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. I am sitting here protecting my toe from AJ who wants to squeeze the pus out. Ewwww. We went climbing yesterday and I got sunburnt on my face and arms, same as everyone.

I think that Stimpy is THE most talkative cat I have ever seen. She just never shuts up. Anyway, I feel slightly left out of the mad game they are playing and will join in. see you soon, bye… JJJJJJJJJJJJJ

Caroline, Jackie, Charles and Gran (Jackies mum)
Jackie and Brian were very good however; I must say that the meal variety was rather limited as I remember the spaghetti Bolognese from our last outing. I must say though that the cooked breakfast was rather fine and all the house facilities were in good working order. The planned outings were acceptable and the visit to the national memorial arboretum was very moving whilst the climbing excursion was rather fun. However, their keeping of a vicious and dangerous cat has to lower their overall service meaning I can only give a 7/10 with a recommendation to visit. Upon visiting one should demand a crumble from the secret menu which the chef Brian can whip up with ease to an exemplary standard making the cooking a solid 8/10.

Bye, bye Sooty, for a while
To pad in the detail around the above, Abi arrived home on Saturday, not Friday as expected as she too had had a dodgy tummy, I'm sure we are twins separated at birth, so can't tell a lie we thoroughly enjoyed sitting in front of a movie after an easy dinner. Saturday back to it and out for a yummy Chinese. We shared the meal for two between three and were all thoroughly stuffed! 

Hello Stimpy cat
Sunday we packed the car and waved bye bye, though we'll be back for the end of September, so it's not for long. Arrived at Tim's where Stimpy greeted us outside which Tim seemed to find funny as we sat on the floor talking to her rather than coming in to him! Well she is our main charge.....

We had a lovely couple of days with Tim, it really felt like being on holiday, we cooked a roast when we arrived after a short positioning walk. Monday was a lovely day, so we went for another gentle walk along the canal from the marina, to a pub, rude not to have a pint, before returning to the marina for a lovely tapas lunch. The promised pub crawl fell short in the evening as Tim realised that a few pints before his blood tests may not be the best plan, though we did have to walk the village to check the pubs and have a couple as my stress level was through the roof. As commented in the last blog 'can we both possibly pass the TEFL assignment as they are so different?' The answer was no, he did with flying colours, but I had to resubmit my first lesson plan! Not happy. So worked very hard, till we had to go out, tried to drown my sorrows with a couple of pints and some great pizza, which sort of worked till bedtime when I only managed four hours sleep! Oh well, assignment resubmitted by 11.00, fingers crossed! Shopping and prep for the arrival of Charles and Caroline before a trip to the cinema with Tim to see Dunkirk. Really glad we saw it, though it's one of those films you don't 'enjoy'!

Jackie and Tim outside the Hilton House Hotel where we went for our beer and pizza
Well, it was outside the pub, we had to do it!
Up bright and early to get the kids, and gran from the train station, a whole new experience for the kids, train travel on their own, but they seem to survive the experience, as did Gran despite her journey taking longer and cost more while covering a much shorter distance. 

Intersting history of the Hilton House Hotel
Apple and blackberry crumble and custard (and beer) with Tim
Rosliston Park in the afternoon where we followed Caroline map reading us, with what turned out to be a very bad map, round a good wood sculpture walk. Back for the traditional Spag Bol, as mentioned by Charles, it's just one of those things I know they will eat, and I can cook in advance! 

Can we go climbing? Hope to, but not today, the forecast is not up to it, so off to the Heights of Abraham at Matlock Bath, a good plan as it turned out, up the cable car and into a cave as the rain poured down. By the time we came out though it had stopped and the rest of the day was clear. Lots to do, something for everyone, and home tired!

Jackie and Caroline being silly, Charles being cool and gran, well, just not wanting to look at the camera as usual
At Rosliston Park
Friday, hurrah, good forecast so off to Birchen edge for some climbing, though as we went through Chesterfield the road was very wet, but that was the last we saw, did anyone bring the sunscreen?
Having not climbed for a long while we sent the kids up the first route, then Charles tried the harder start, perhaps not, except then Caroline did it, so did I. He tried again and succeeded, no pressure on Brian then! We had a great time, Gran going on the scramble up and down and Charles leading a route and belaying Caroline up while she removed the gear.

Caroline sliding down the pole in the playground
Back to the chicken pie, that Brian had made the pastry for and Charles had made the filling for the previous day. Tim back from his cultural sojourn with his mum we sat around the dinner table talking till bedtime. 

As Charles said, the National Memorial Arboretum today, which was very moving, though we could have timed it better as we did get very wet, but hey, we're not made of sugar. And now? Kids and Gran all packed off on their respective trains, Tim has left for the airport for his three weeks in Oz and it all seems very quiet!

Who took that photo of me sliding down the pole?
Oh yes, and my assignment was remarked on Thursday and I too have now passed with flying colours. Just hideous looking assignment number two to go....

Stimpy helping Brian write the blog
Charles showing us how to do pull ups. I managed 5, Charles managed a few more (lots more actually!)

Brother and siterly love!

Waiting for the cable car to the Heights of Abraham at Matlock Bath

On they get. Did you know, the Heights of Abraham is so called after a famous battle at the place of the same name in Quebec against the French in the seven years war where General Wolf lost his life
Exiting one of the show mines
Fabulous selfie!
Lunch stop
Gran, Caroline and Charles posing, but obviously Charles is too cool to show his face
The Victorian tower at the Heights of Abraham
Caroline at the top peering over the edge at gran below (Jackie was hanging on to her!)
The view down to Matlock Bath from the cafe
Charles abeiling down Trafalgar Crack at Birchen Edge
And then climbing back up again. Its a V. Diff 4a climb
Jackie showing Caroline the starting move on Barnacle Bulge, HS 4c
Away she goes...
Charles on the same climb
And me making a bit of a meal of it. It was hard and pumpy!
Caroline on a very polished Diff that went up through a cave at the top
Caroline seconding up the climb that Charles led, watched over carefully by Brian at the top and Jackie below
Last climb of the day a Severe 4c, one of the top 50 climbs in the Peak District
The National Memorial Arboretum
Unfortunately the rain and hail came down
But we did find the tree planted by Tim's family in memory of his great-grandad who was shot below the heart and lived while a stretcher bearer in the Royal Army Medical Corps in WWI
Here's the plaque
The 'shot at dawn' memorial. The statue represents Private Herbert Burden, one of the men shot at dawn in the First World War for breaking the rules. There are six trees facing him that symbolise the firing squad of soldiers. The wooden stakes represent the other soldiers that died in this way, some under 18 years of age. Today we understand that many of these were probably suffering from combat stress, also known at 'shell shock', but it wasn't understood until much more recently
The huge armed forces memorial at the national memorial arboretum
On one side is this sculpture. The slit between the stone doors is so aligned that sunlight shines through to the central pedestal at 11 'o' clock on 11th November each year
The wall on the left lists service personnel killed since WWII
A final shot of Stimpy relaxing at the top of the stairs

Friday, 28 July 2017

Still in Birmingham - July 2017

Good times with good friends. Crystal, Manu, Jackie, Ian and Helen
Since the last blog entry I think I have cooked three times, the last fortnight has been a whirlwind of socialising and eating, which has been great, but I think yesterday my body had finally had enough, half a day of a very poorly tummy, but the toast I risked at 14.00 was fine so that was it, I could still go out with Helen and Ian to Blue Ocean (Blue-Ocean-Cafe-Restaurant) for a very authentic Malaysian mee goreng!

The leg of kurzi lamb at The New Dilshad, Alvechurch
We've been for a Monday Club beer at the Old Mo (Old Moseley Arms) followed by a curry at Diwans (Diwan Balti) and to the New Dilshad in Alvechurch (New Dilshad) with Sarah and John for the kurzi lamb, this is a set meal, a whole lamb leg that you have to order at least 24 hours in advance so they can marinate and slow cook it to a tenderness that can be carved with a spoon! We did make a mistake, we ate the starter, not that it was bad, but we should just have had it put in a box to take away, as along with the rice, the vegetable dish, the mince gravy and the dessert and coffee it was all too much, MUCH too much.
Jackie doing her usual gnawing at the bone. Can't take her anywhere!
The lamb is a magnificent sight, obviously not seen before by the new, young member of staff who was taking loads of photos. It was also a talking point with the couple on a nearby table, she was thrilled when I took them a taste, but I have been that person! This was after I had said to Sarah at the works buffet meal that perhaps not Indian as we'd had a few, but this was different.... Add in to that that one of the meals I have cooked (and we ate twice so was actually two of the three meals) was tandoori chicken from scratch and vegetable biryani as living where we are on the edge of Sparkhill (Sparkhill High Street) it is possible to get any ingredient mentioned in any Indian recipe in either huge quantities, at a ridiculously cheap price, or both!

Sooty cat enjoying some fuss
We've been out for two lunches, one with Terry and Sue, (Brian's ex work partner), which lasted until the car park ticket ran out at 17.00! Then to Judith and Richard's in Ledbury where we had a rapturous welcome from all the animals, Fred cat running back 25 metres over the, horrible for cats, gravel for some special Fred love. Richard was very impressed when he actually witnessed Lottie, wuss cat, trotting towards me squeaking. The dogs were meanwhile being just as welcoming to Brian. As ever the time flew with loads of chat and good food. 

In Birmingham's China Town for a Sunday evening beer
Brian did a day helping Paul put up an archway in the garden while I sat and put the world to rights with Denise. Guess what? She did lunch, not as big as the previous two but with the leftovers from our Monday Club curry for dinner, perfect! We've had two meals with Manu and Crystal, one at theirs, and one a Sunday tea club with Helen and Ian, where we sit, like royalty, in one of many small Chinese restaurants in China town while Crystal orders amazing food in Chinese for the table. We say it every time, but she is fantastic and the meal gets better and better. 

Sillyness with the home grown veg Helen had brought for Manu and Crys
The evening started well with a pint in the pub, Helen to Manu "what time are we eating?" Manu "eight o clock, so plenty of time for another beer" Helen "which one are we going to?" Manu "haven't decided yet!" He wanted another beer and Helen was hungry, but joined up thinking? No, lots of laughter? Yes! After a second pint we drifted down to Helens favourite restaurant, which, unusually, was empty save for a young lad on his own. Helen started talking about tai chi when the lads ears pricked up as apparently he is a keen student of tai chi, he was soon demonstrating and manipulating Helen and Brian while the rest of us laughed and took pictures! (Birminghams Chinatown)

Helen doing tai chi in the restaurant
This isn't going well!
So apart from lunches out, daytimes have been taken up with the gym and bike rides, buying a car with mum, taking Sooty to the vets - she's lost 400 of the required 500 grams. I had coffee with Alex while Brian had coffee with Andy Vine who he managed to sell two of the four bike carriers that we'd bought (along with some roof bars) to. This week though, has been quite stressful and hard on the brain, having completed all the modules of the TEFL course and passed the exam with flying colours we were then presented with the first of two end of course assignments. This was not one but two lesson plans, we had foolishly thought two assignments, two lesson plans, but no, and until assignment one is marked we don't know what assignment two is! I know teachers rattle off lesson plans, but not us. We have spent hours on this, they say you can work together as long as the plans are different, we found it better to work separately and our plans are so different, can we both possibly pass? 
Jackie on her bike - yes it really happened!
We suddenly felt really under pressure as although we have until the middle of September to complete the course, they take a week to mark them, we move to Derby on Sunday and then have Charles and Caroline to stay so we had given ourselves till today to submit so they can be marked next week. If we hadn't got them in it would all have been getting very tight with trips to Scotland and then to London from August bank holiday.... The relief yesterday after submission was fantastic. Better get on and clean the house before Abi gets back and then welcomes new housesitters. The bed will barely be cold, we leave and they arrive on Sunday!
At Earlswood Lakes, about 10km away
And all looking a bit low in water level. Up to July there hadn't been much rain, but July has made up for it!

Sooty walking precariously round the edge of the wash basin. It's a bit blurred, Jackie took it, she's not used to taking photos!