Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spooky Soup

I turned once again to my favourite cook book, Rosamond Richardson's 'Seasonal Pleasures - Recipes from a Farmhouse Kitchen' to find a recipe for pumpkin soup. She didn't disappoint me.

Her recipe serves 8 people so I halved the quantities. I also substituted the butter with olive oil and the double cream with half fat creme fraiche.

Spooky Soup

2 large onions, sliced.
2 oz butter

1lb pumpkin flesh
8oz turnip, sliced
12 oz carrots, sliced
3pts vegetable stock
salt and pepper
ground nutmeg
half pint of double cream

Saute the onions in the butter in a large saucepan until they soften. Cook for about 10 minutes but don't let them brown. Add pumpkin flesh, turnips and carrots and stir until the vegetables are well coated with the onions. Cook gently for five minutes to soften them, then stir in the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for fifteen minutes, then liquidize to a puree. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg, Stir in the cream. Heat through and the soup is ready to serve.

The smell of freshly ground nutmeg is wonderful.

The finished product served with chunks of Paul's home made bread and glasses of apple juice. It was very tasty and there is some left for tomorrow.

Paul couldn't resist reliving his childhood and made a face in the hollow pumpkin, so tonight I'm going to put a candle or tea light in there but first I'm going to make another of Rosamond's Halloween recipes - Devil's Cake. I'll report back on this one tomorrow.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Which Way?

Ever since the ban on smoking in public places came into force earlier this year I've noticed that hardly anyone stands inside the bus station part of the Longton interchange anymore. This bus station, just opposite the railway station (hence the use of the word interchange), is a modern state of the art building paid for by Tesco as part of their huge Tesco extra store on Baths Road. This store has been extremely popular with visitors and the car park is always full as, like most other towns, the complex also includes Matalan, Argos and Next outlets too.

The approach to the complex has recently become fraught with problems for pedestrians as the powers that be are demolishing an unstable building at the Times Square end of The Strand just opposite the Town Hall. This means that those of us who walk have to cross to the opposite side of the road and back again to get round it. The other way is to walk along Baths Road and up by the bus station. The only trouble with this is that the gap between the wall behind Argos and the glass walls of the bus station is not very wide and more often than not blocked by people standing smoking whilst waiting for their bus.

Whilst walking this route I've also noticed that the small wall backing on to the car park is full of Tesco employees sitting with their cigarettes - well away from the store - but causing as much of a fug of smoke as you would have got in an old pub tap room. It has become quite a meeting place with lots of merry banter and I wouldn't be at all surprised to one day see one of them clutching a pint pot of beer and nibbling a bag of crisps or pork scratchings. I just have to take a deep breath and rush by until I'm in the middle of the car park and then breath.

The only other route is from the back of the store, past the car wash and under the railway via a tunnel and on to a back alley which passes some old derelict pottery works complete with weed covered brick bottle oven, before coming back out onto the main road. I've been this way a few times but earlier this year I read a book by local author Priscilla Masters wherein the murderer, held and tortured his victims at the top of this old factory building and whilst held there the heroine could just see, through a chink in the boarded up windows, the cars in the Tesco car park. This has added an extra dimension to my uneasiness of walking this way.

So, demolition site, smoking circle, or possible scene of crime scenario, which would you choose? I'm getting quite good at holding my breath :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Just by Chance

I took this photo this morning from the window at the top of the stairs, across the hedge into next door's garden. I saw the ginger cat playing with the empty coconut shell bird feeders, it wasn't until I zoomed and cropped the photo that I saw the other tabby cat behind keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings. Yes, it is our Tommy Tank. As you know from my posts earlier this year Tom was very ill and we nearly lost him so it's great to see that he can still get up into trees.

This week has been quite strange. Paul has been working very odd hours whilst training for his new job and I've been recovering from banging my head and spending most of Sunday afternoon and evening in the walk-in hospital followed by A&E. Sunday isn't a good time to sit in A&E waiting for your name to be called. I was surrounded by young men in shorts or track suits with swollen knees or ankles - all injuries sustained whilst playing football in the Sunday league. We spent two and a half hours at the walk-in and three at A&E - but, thank goodness - no lasting damage done. I think today is the first day I've felt almost normal again.

In the middle of all this we had an offer on our house from couple two. Unfortunately they wanted us to reduce the price by four thousand pounds, as we've not long since reduced it by six thousand we thought this was a bit much as it would certainly lessen our options on any property we want to buy so we have had to say no.

We were going to go to Pumpkin Day at Ryton Gardens on Sunday and I was hoping to take some pumpkin photos for next week but as Paul has to go up to Bradford on Monday for more training I don't think it would be wise to drive so far the day before so we are planning to perhaps have a gentle stroll somewhere instead.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An Apple a Day

Today is National Apple Day so I thought I would share these photos with you - aren't apples wonderful?

This is the apple barrow outside The Country Larder at Trentham retail park.

Most of the apples are local grown.

We bought a couple of spartans, a couple of red delicious and a couple of coxes - oh, and a bottle of cider too, made with cox apples.

I used one of the coxes to make an apple cake.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Viewing Houses

Today we have been to view three properties; a new build house, a well kept bungalow we could move straight into and a dormer bungalow that needs lots of work to make it habitable.

We viewed the new build house after we had wandered around the show home - which was lovely but out of our price range. The downstairs rooms of the new house were fine - a large kitchen/diner, a lounge with french windows onto the garden and a downstairs cloakroom. Upstairs the bedrooms were quite small, the master bedroom had an en-suite shower room, the other two rooms were even smaller but the bathroom was a good size. The smaller bungalow was really nice and clean, with good size rooms and low maintenance garden in fact, it had everything we needed. But - you knew there would be a but - we really liked the scruffy, dirty, unkempt and unlived in for ages dormer with its ugly wood panels and overgrown garden. It has so much potential for improvement. It has to be thought about.

In between viewings we had time to visit one of Paul's childhood haunts - the pretty area of The Carrs at Church Warsop. We parked up and walked around the church and the mill.

Above is the church of St Peter & St Paul and below is Warsop Mill with the church in the distance.

Below is the mill pond, with the mill and the mill house over the bridge, the Carrs - an open area of grass land stretches out behind the pond.

The day was warm, the sun was shining - it was lovely. Of course, we must look at more properties over the next few weeks, we may get an offer on our house soon or we may not but at least we have dipped our toes in the water and started to feel that now we can begin to look.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Window Cats and Happiness

Max and Tom in the back bedroom window this morning.
(sorry not a great photo because of the glare)

Psychology researchers at Nottingham University have completed a study commissioned by the National Lottery amongst lottery winners and others and found that money can't buy happiness. The study found that after the initial excitement of buying things it was the small things in life that brought real happiness. Things like a soak in a warm bath, an afternoon snooze or a gentle stroll in the park. I think we already knew this but it is nice to have it confirmed. I would also like to add to those items a good book to read and a cat on my lap. Who could ask for more?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Selling Houses

Ever since we reduced the asking price on the house we have had several viewings and lots of encouraging feed back from the estate agents. The last two couples to view have both expressed an interest. Couple one have to sell their house first, they really want this house because it is on the same street as the girl's sister and they have their son's name down at the local school. Couple two have sold and are in rented accommodation. Couple one walked by on Sunday just to have a look - I was on next door's drive chatting to my neighbour when I saw them - and have phoned the estate agents a couple of times to see if we have had any interest or offers yet. In the meantime couple two are sorting out their finances and coming back for a second view. My heart says that I would like couple one to buy the house but my head says that if couple two make an offer then we have to accept it as we need to lose our mortgage as soon as possible. We are venturing out to look at some houses at the weekend because if couple two do make an offer I'm guessing they will want to move pretty quickly. I don't really enjoy all this.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I'm absolutely speechless with anger. I wrote a couple of posts ago about the dental surgery giving me the wrong time for an appointment over the telephone and when I turned up an hour late they treated me as if I was in the wrong and I had to make another appointment for the Friday of the same week. Yesterday I received a letter from them telling me that they had considered my case!!!! and that this time I wouldn't be struck off their list but that if I failed to turn up for an appointment again I most certainly would be, and that I was to make an appointment immediately for a check up.


a) I didn't not turn up, I turned up at the time they told me - not my fault if they had made an error
and I turned up an hour late.

b) I made another appointment on the day, went to that appointment, and paid in full.

c) I've been with them for 10 years and never not turned up for an appointment.

d) I've just realised that they must have thought I was telling lies about why I was late. (I think this hurts the most)

I just had to get this off my chest. Writing it down here has stopped me sending them a really strong letter - which would, I suppose, give them even more grounds for taking me off their list.

Where has trust, politeness, consideration and customer care gone? I can see that loyalty and a good attendance record in the past don't stand for anything nowadays. You are only as good as your last breath; what went before means nothing to them.

Now my anger has subsided I find their attitude rather sad and a sign of the intolerance in the society we live in today. It's actually quite worrying isn't it?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Magpie Mine

As you know from previous posts one of my favourite contemporary writers is the crime writer Stephen Booth, mainly because he writes so well and I like his two detectives Cooper and Fry but also because he sets his stories in the Peak District. I've been reading his latest novel 'Dying to Sin' a great story which interweaves ancient customs and superstitions with the present day social conditions of post foot and mouth outbreak farming, migrant land workers and the breakdown of village communities. One of the settings in the book is the Magpie Mine near the village of Sheldon.

Lead mining was one of the main industries in the peak district and Magpie mine is one of the earliest mines. Its records start in the 1730s but the mine was there long before then. It is now scheduled as an ancient monument and is one of the most complete lead mine works still standing.

The mine can be seen from miles around across the fields. We managed to park on the roadside just near the designated footpath over the fields to the mine. Halfway across we realised that the cattle in the field were not all cows, as we had thought but that one of the animals was most definitely a bull. We remained calm as we passed by; the cattle never even looked at us but carried on chewing grass, thank goodness, whilst we crossed the cattle grid and went through the gate near the agent's house.

The mine has had a very colourful history including being cursed. The story goes that early in the 19th century troubles and rivalries broke out between the Magpie miners and those from neighbouring mines in particular the Red Soil mine. Apparently there was a claim to a particular seam of lead and when miners broke through from other mines to claim the lead action would be taken.

There was a long, drawn out court case involving the miners from Magpie mine who were accused of setting a fire to smoke out men from the Red Soil mine. Three of the Red Soil miners were killed and when the Magpie miners were acquitted through lack of evidence and intent their widows supposedly put a curse on the mine. The mine was dogged by troubles throughout the rest of the 19th century.

The cottage is now a field studies centre open at weekends and heritage days and manned by members of the Peak District Mines Historical Association.

After a good look around we wandered back to the car by the cattle, now even closer to the path but still extremely uninterested in our passing by, and drove on through the villages of Flagg and Chelmorton to the wonderful bookshop at Brierlow Bar.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ashford in the Water

Ashford is a very pretty village just off the main Bakewell to Buxton road. We had visited once before a few years ago when we were doing some family history research but we decided to drop in again today to have a walk round.

We passed Holy Trinity church where, on our last visit, we had found some of Paul's ancestors in the churchyard. Then we popped into the village shop for a newspaper and a bottle of water. Outside the shop were racks and boxes full of fruit and vegetables.

The shop is fascinating inside, selling all sorts of things like newspapers, greetings cards, ice cream, gifts and there is also a deli counter with meats, cheese etc. There was hardly any room to move around as every available space was full of goodies.

The back of the shop was covered with this lovely russet coloured vine, growing all over the walls and up to the roof.

We crossed the sheep wash bridge over the River Wye. The people on the bridge were feeding the swans and ducks on the water below.

By now the mist had cleared and the sun light was glinting on the water.

The cottage behind the old market stand is next to the bridge and has a wonderful garden spreading down to the river.

When we left Ashford we drove up to the village of Sheldon and then walked across the field to the Magpie Mine, an old lead mine whose workings and disused buildings are still in situ. From there we drove back towards Brierlow Bar and spent some time browsing in my favourite bookshop - I will write more on the mine and bookshop next time, as there is a connection between a book I've been reading and the mine.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Walking Again

This morning we returned to Greenway Bank Country Park this time parking our little car at the lower car park and walking the stretch of the path way which goes right around Kynpersley Reservoir. This reservoir holds water, not destined for our homes but as top up for the Cauldon and Trent and Mersey Canals. It was designed by Thomas Telford and opened in 1827. Like the canals it feeds it has become an area of leisure pursuits rather than industrial ones.

Unlike the first walk we did where we only saw a couple of dog walkers the lower part of the walk was a hive of activity. There were joggers, weight lifters, bird watchers, anglers and families out for short walks with their children.

The views across the reservoir or pool as it is called were stunning, we walked round to the bridge in the picture above and back round to where we had started. A complete circle.

Under the trees someone had left crumbs and grain for the birds.

We diverted to look at the now abandoned Warder's Tower which looked beautiful in the dappled sunshine.

As squirrels scrambled up and down trunks and branches, ducks entertained with their almost 'guffaw' like call and a stately grebe was diving and disappearing we sat near the pool and drank coffee from our flask and ate my homemade date slices whilst watching the trees reflected in the bright, still water.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Oh, well....

I was hanging out the washing in the unusually warm sunshine earlier today when I came across these little fellows. They seem to have appeared on the side lawn over night, because I could swear that they weren't there yesterday. There are several little clumps of them just like the one below. A good sign that autumn is really with us.

On Wednesday I had to go to the dentist for my check up. I'd made the appointment over the phone, written it on their reminder letter and put it on the calendar. When I got there for 11.55a.m. it turns out I should have been there at 10.55a.m. Now I know the person on the other end of the phone said 11.55a.m. because I wrote it down and read it back to her but I was made to feel really guilty for not turning up at the right time. I'm guessing she was thinking 10.55 and 5 to 11 and conflated the two, who knows? They made me a new appointment for 10.10a.m. today so I was up early with plenty of time but just as I'd washed my hair the electricity went off. I had visions of going into the dental surgery with dripping hair as I knew it would take a long time to dry, it being shoulder length and quite thick, but about 10 minutes before I had to leave the house the electricity came back on and I was able to dry my hair very quickly and dash off - scared I was going to be late again and get treated like a naughty schoolgirl once more. Oh well....

Above are the Rudbeckia or cone flowers in the very bright afternoon sun.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Poems and Animals

As today is National Poetry Day and also World Animal Day I thought that perhaps I would combine the two in a poem I remember from my school days:-

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake (1757 - 1827)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Red Squirrel Week

This week is Red Squirrel week. The photo below was taken at the National Trust's Formby site on the Lancashire coast last June, so the squirrel has his summer coat with wispy tail. The squirrels on the Lancashire coast are a nutty brown colour rather than the brighter red colour of the ones further north in Scotland. These little creatures were quite friendly and inquisitive and very used to human visitors but in general the red squirrel is shy and secretive. I think they are wonderful.

Pinch, punch it's the first of the month, although I forgot to say white rabbits this morning. Hope everyone has a great October. Things are looking up slightly here we've had two house viewings over the weekend and another booked for this evening so I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed that someone will want to live here.