Team meeting two

Today, Mirinda hosted another management meeting at the house. This week, amid the wild winds, it was Sarah and Ian. And, because of the wild winds and almost solid grey sky, they didn’t need to don hats to sit at the dining table.

It’s been over a year since I last saw Sarah. It was a very warm greeting. It made me more determined to have her and Nick over for lunch sometime soon. In fact, to that end, later, in the evening, Mirinda managed to send off an invitation for one of the middle weekends of November. My fingers are crossed. Actually, at one point all the November weekends were free then, in the space of about ten minutes, two had gone.

So, anyway, I spent most of the day in my office while they batted ideas back and forth. Well, apart from having lunch together. And they did take the girls for a bit of fresh air to the castle and back while I washed up*.

My quiché worked well and was met with universal approval, even with a burnt crust. I included stuffed baby peppers, which I think everyone liked. Well, they ate them, anyway. And Ian told us about his sister-in-law’s habit of leaving used tea bags on teaspoons, which made for an entertaining lunchtime break.

Of course, I was supposed to take the girls up to Kate for a haircut this morning, but her daughter had to have a PCR test this morning. Sadly, it came back positive, so it’s isolation for them all. Kate is furious. Having locked themselves away for almost two years, her daughter picked it up at school.

Fortunately, she and her husband are ‘double jabbed’ as she called it, so they are protected. And her daughter’s symptoms seem minor, so all should be okay. I hope so, anyway.

One thing I realised as I wrote this: Kate had a much more exciting day today than I did.

* Actually, I just rinsed things and put them in the dishwasher.

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Spit and post

One year ago we first set foot in Sweden. It marked the beginning of an excellent nine month adventure. From beaches to islands, from cardamom buns to raka, it was one big period of discovery and joy. It’s fair to say that I miss Sweden.

We were going to mark the occasion with a meal out at Pulpo Negro. Unfortunately, the popular tapas place is closed on a Tuesday. We are, therefore, going on Thursday night instead.

So, rather than enjoying a bit of Spanish delight, I knocked up a frittata using the leftover chicken from yesterday as a base. It wasn’t the only egg based dish I made today. Mirinda is having Sarah and Ian over for a management meeting tomorrow, so I made a lo-carb quiché as well.

Normally I would have made it tomorrow, but I’d arranged to take the girls to Kate for a haircut in the morning. Then, late on, Kate messaged me to say that her daughter had tested positive on a lateral flow test, meaning she’d have to have a PCR test first thing in the morning. Hopefully they’ll all be fine, but it may mean a rather lengthy postponement if the family has to go into isolation.

Speaking of the girls, they had an appointment at the vet today for their yearly booster shots. It’s been a while since our last trip down the lane, but they were eager to head off.

As soon as entered the vets, Freya’s eagerness vanished, to be replaced by shivering and shaking. I don’t know why. She’s an odd dog. Emma, by comparison, sat happily and patiently, watching the people and pets coming and going.

It was the same during their examinations and shots: Freya shaking, Emma chilled. Though they were both overjoyed to head back home after it was all over.

Mirinda had book group today and arrived home about ten minutes after us. Emma gave her usual greeting, but I think Freya was telling Mirinda about the awful time she’d had with me. I think she’d have had something to complain about if she knew that the vet and I had been discussing the possibility of having her spayed.

Today also marked the day that we finally took part n the Ancestry DNA project. I sent off our spit samples and registered them, ready to find out where we came from. Mirinda is hoping for a Viking heritage, while I’m looking at Rome.

So, a pretty busy day which started with an excellent coffee, beautifully created by Sandra.

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The Sunday shit wagon

One morning, not too long ago, as I walked into town, I passed neighbour Dave and Ian returning from their walk. Dave had Corky on a lead. This was unusual, so I asked about it. Dave explained that Corky couldn’t be trusted in traffic. If danger was present, rather than running away, she’d race towards it. I asked him what traffic, given they were walking in a park.

The shit wagon,” he said, pointing back the way they’d come.

This is a council vehicle which drives along the all weather path (mostly but not exclusively) and empties the bins which are mostly used for the deposit of dog poo. You quickly learn to hold your breath when it drives by.

I used to see it every few weeks but always during the week. This morning, on my way into town to buy a chicken, it was out and about, collecting. A bit odd, on a Sunday, I thought.

Then I ran into the Lady from St Mawes.

I started seeing her quite regularly during Lockdown. She was the one who took up long distance walking in order to escape her husband who was suddenly at home all the time. I didn’t know her name so, after she told me she was born and brought up in St Mawes, she became the Lady from St Mawes.

Well, not any more. I now know her name is Lynn. We were chatting about this, that and everything else when she asked if I was heading for Waitrose. Yes, I said, after my usual visit to Starbucks. I explained it was like my second family.

She then said I might now her friend, Andrew. Know him, I said, I shouldn’t think there’d be many people in Farnham who didn’t know him. She’d known him for about 35 years. They used to work out at the gym together.

We parted ways at the corner of Park Row and Castle Street, and, as she started to head up towards the castle, she told me to tell him that Lynn said hi.

And so, now she will henceforth be referred to as Lynn from St Mawes.

A little later, I sent Andrew a message and included Lynn’s ‘hi’. He asked which Lynn and should he be worried. When I explained she had a small child with her and looked harassed, he thought I was being serious.

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The danger of chia

Ages ago, Mirinda invited Lisa and her partner Rupert over for lunch. I’ve been planning the meal every since, adding bits, subtracting others, until I had it right. Ignoring the fact that my menu board needs a thorough clean, this was the result of my deliberations.

I wasn’t happy with the scallops. I used too much Serrano ham and the scallops didn’t brown enough. Still, they tasted okay.

I’m also going to have to not feed people our lo-carb desserts. The carrot cake chia pudding was not a success. Which was a shame because I thought it worked out very well. But Rupert didn’t eat his because his tongue reacted to the taste.

He said he suffers from dysgeusia, which causes a distorted sense of taste. He blamed the chia seeds though Mirinda thinks he may have bitten into a cardamom seed. In future, I’ll stick to pastry options like the plum puff. That never fails to satisfy.

Still, that aside, we had a wonderful visit.

Mirinda took them both on a tour of the garden before heading off for a tour of Farnham while I cooked (and indulged in some very loud rock music), filling the house full of delicious smells, awaiting their return.

The afternoon was full of laughs and experiences. My two favourite stories were how Rupert sent his kids off to Kenya to teach them about something other than the middle class and how Lisa lost most of a convoy of trucks due to her terrible navigation skills.

I also loved Rupert’s story about where guardsmen keep their swimmers and towels when heading for the Lido in the Mall.

And the girls were very happy as well. Especially Freya, who always appreciates a welcoming lap.

They’d also been to Marrakech but, disappointingly, didn’t see the goats in the olive trees on the way to Essaouira. They shared my general opinion of Essaouira but doubted the goats in trees. I mean, really.

Given they’ve both been in the army, we swapped lots of tales. Principally of the First World War, from my perspective. We also got onto how officers who had bought their commissions were not always the best leaders. I said that this was borne out by the Richard Sharpe books where he’s clearly an excellent leader though he came up from the ranks and a lot of the poncy boy, privately educated, tossers from rich families, are just as clearly not.

Not wishing to wear out their welcome (they wouldn’t have, no matter how they stayed) they left for home before the sun set.

An excellent day.

Lisa, Mirinda, Rupert
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In the Autumn-ish garden

Ages ago, we had a compost bin set up near the greenhouse. It was perfectly placed for me to empty the kitchen scraps in and, I thought, it was well hidden behind a rather sizeable bush in The Former Residence of Xun Ma. Mirinda thought otherwise. She decided the compost bin should go behind the greenhouse, in the working area. Which doesn’t have a name. Well, apart from The Working Area.

She had the gardeners move the compost bin to the new location.

All was well for quite a while. Then, Mirinda suggested that we get a new compost bin because the old one was rotting away. I ordered one and it turned up yesterday, just in time for the gardeners to assemble. And, guess what?

The above position is pretty close to where it was originally set up. Which, of course, means it’s once more easy for me to dump my kitchen scraps.

Today also marked the first time I’ve seen the gardeners since our return from Sweden. Dave the Gardener was overjoyed. According to Mirinda, he asks after me every time they come. She reckons that, while he likes her, he’s in love with me.

We had a long chat about Brexit, Prince Willie (as he calls him) and Al Jazeera, where he gets all his news. Robert, his fellow gardener, was somewhat mystified but, I like to think, entertained.

As well as the compost bin, they did a lot of weeding and cleaning up down Carmen’s Sweet Escape.

And, of course, they cut the grass.

While we were in Sweden, one of our house minders used the grass for Pilates. I often wonder how she could have done it, given the general state of the grass. Then the gardeners cut it and I realise it actually does look quite attractive.

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It’s always the penultimate cut

We’ve been hanging on and hanging on but, finally, with holes big enough for rocks to fall through and a punctured tyre that just makes things ever so ridiculous, we decided it was time for change. And my sheet metal skills came in very handy because I had to reduce an old, rusty and useless wheelbarrow to small enough pieces to fit into Max.

That started after the new one arrived in a big box. After I put it together, it looked like this. The wheelbarrow, not the big box.

Of course, at first, I tried the more conventional course by attempting to loosen the nuts and bolts. That got the wheel off. The rest of the connections were rustier than the Titanic.

Time for the WD40.

WD40 is excellent and will do many, many things. Today, it did nothing. Well, that’s not entirely true. It made everything oily and slippery.

Time for the hacksaw.

I needed to make four cuts. The blade snapped after three. This is one of those really annoying things that often happens. It’s always the penultimate cut.

I sat on a log and despaired. I then went and checked to see if I had any spare blades. I did. I packed up my despair, attached a new blade and finished the hack job on the dead barrow.

An excellent few hours work.

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We’ve reached maximum pizza

One of the things that our house minders left at the house, hidden away deep in one of my kitchen pan drawers, was a pizza tray. I’ve never had one so, unless it arrived by magic, it has to have been left by them. Given this joyful boon, I made a pizza tonight.

Of course, it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill carbi pizza. I knocked up a keto pizza base consisting primarily of cheese, eggs, and a few herbs and spices. The recipe (which I’ve tried before in 2019 and once during Lockdown last year) is American, so it needs a few tweaks, but I’m not frightened of slapping my own stamp on things.

The previous times I made it, I just used baking paper, but the pan made it easier to turn over.

Apart from it needing a little bit longer in the oven, it turned out delicious.

Possibly I overdid the toppings. Both of us were too full to have cheese and herring afterwards. And that’s even after three days of OMADs.

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Posture at the keyboard

The chair in my office has stopped going up. This means sitting very low down and reaching up for my keyboard. Not an ideal situation. Add to that the fact that, today I spent a lot of time sitting and working in my office and, by the early afternoon, my back was aching. I learned the importance of posture at the keyboard many years ago. It was just one of the general lessons to prevent long-term injury that I was taught early in my IT career.

I told Mirinda, thinking she’d suggest I get a new chair. To my surprise, she came up with an excellent, cheaper solution.

Mirinda sometimes does a bit of yoga and has a special cushion. She also had one at the flat. Of course, I brought the one home from the flat. She doesn’t need two.

So, she suggested I use one of them on my office chair. And it worked a treat! Much cheaper than a new chair. Even cheaper than a new gas cylinder, if that’s the problem.

Also, the weather was lovely while the garden continues to be verdant. So, being in the middle of it was a lovely, comfortable way to do admin.

Apart from sitting in my newly modified chair, this morning I was up early enough to go into town before 8am. This means, among other things, that I pass all the parents taking their kids to school. As I walked down Park Row, I must have been greeted by at least ten different people (and some kids). Given my responses, that’s a lot of good mornings. Which is not at all, a bad thing.

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Alcoholic tea

I walked into Farnham twice today, and I managed to visit two new shops, one per walk. Both were excellent. In one of them, I discovered a previously unknown and delicious beverage.

One new place was the new butcher in East Street. I felt a bit bad about going to a different butcher but, given Smallbone’s isn’t open on Monday, I figured it was allowed. As it turned out, there’s no competition. The new place is more a deli than a butcher. It had some interesting things, including smoked meats and decent sauerkraut.

The visit to the butcher was early on.

My second trip into Farnham was in the afternoon, with Mirinda, for a visit to the lawyers with regard to the hell that has become the Sale of the Cottage. We met Mark and Amy (his assistant), Harriet having left. Which makes the second time Harriet has left during our two attempts at selling.

Mark was as excellent in person as he has been digitally. Amy took a few notes, which, given this is her first job following law school, is only to be expected.

Having discussed extreme plans for an hour, Mirinda and I wandered back to Downing Street, wondering in which cafe we’d have a much needed coffee. It was then I discovered the second new shop of the day.

It’s called Hamiltons and it’s a Tea House. And it’s where I was introduced to Rød from the Copenhagen Sparkling Tea Company. It’s tea that is then mixed with grape must used in wine. It’s a sort of wine/tea hybrid. It tastes a bit like Kombucha but is 5% and very refreshing. In fact, the guy who served it and told me all about it, asked if I’d have it again and my response was a very enthusiastic YES! It’s very good.

Mirinda also loved her wellness tea.

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Drama at the roundabout

It was just as we left the M3. There’s a big, very busy, roundabout. We were stopped at the lights when, suddenly, an explosion of emotions in the car beside us resulted in a young fellow leaving the car and walking off in a huff. His last word was the slamming of his door.

Beyond the roundabout, when it was safe to do so, the driver pulled over, presumably to wait for his passenger to cool down. Mind you, he could have been waiting some time. There was quite a lot of distance between the two.

It was the most excitement during our drive home. No traffic problems, a beautiful day, listening to lectures ranging from neurology to bitcoin. It went very smoothly and was a perfect end to our holiday.

There was this pair at one point. They decided to match speed in two lanes beside each other just to irritate everyone else. I guess it’s the new power of the HGV driver. Mirinda reckons they were chatting. For about 20 miles.

Of course, the best bit of getting home is collecting the girls. I think Emma wad worried that we’d gone off to Sweden without her. She was very excited to see us home. Freya was very excited as well but, to be honest, she always is.

I spotted this late in the afternoon. The relevant bit is ‘…little immunity‘.

It comes as the NHS launched its biggest ever flu vaccination drive amid fears flu deaths could be the worst for 50 years because of lockdowns and social distancing. More than 35 million people will be offered flu jabs this winter, amid concern that prolonged restrictions on social contact have left Britain with little immunity.

Officials fear that this winter could see up to 60,000 flu deaths – the worst figure in Britain since the 1968 Hong Kong Flu pandemic – without strong uptake of vaccines. There is also concern about the effectiveness of this year’s jabs, because the lack of flu last year made it harder for scientists to sample the virus and predict the dominant strains.

This was from Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England. She should know.

What did people expect? If you remove all contact with nature, then you effectively remove your ability to exist alongside it. We are part of this planet, like it or not, and if you ignore the natural symbiosis, you lose your natural defences.

Man-made cures are merely sticking plasters that make other people richer.

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