Week 49

22nd November, 2009

Do you remember the chimney sweep coming to the fireplace in the Dining Room of 81 High Street? I can’t work out how many of you are old enough for that. It was the first time I learnt the word BRUNCH. It must have been 1956-57. Being sent to bed about 7.30 pm (at the age of 5 or 6) and told that tomorrow we would not be allowed downstairs until the chimney sweep had come and gone. Mum always got het up about the Plan of Campaign she had to put into operation. When we were finally allowed downstairs for BRUNCH it was hard to see what all the fuss was about. One fireplace; one chimney; a few dust sheets; job done. But Mum was certainly red in the face and noughty throughout the whole process.

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23rd November, 2009

This morning we had a Plan of Campaign. We had already emptied the loft of literally dozens of boxes containing warranties dating back to 1994 and tens of rolls of carpet off-cuts in the most lurid colours and patterns imaginable. At 7.00 am there was no breakfast, no huge cup of tea or bowl of porridge. All the hall, stairs, landing had to be covered in dust sheets – not for the chimney sweep but for the loft insullation man. Our house was built in 1990 and the loft was insullated to an industry-standard 4″. Currently the industry-standard is 12″. Kirklees Council sent a little man round with twelve huge rolls of Rockwool.

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It took him three hours of hard labour. Our loft is boarded but I never go up there so he just laid it over the boards. Throughout the time he was here, neither Pauline or I got red in the face or worked up. The whole thing, after all, was done completely free of charge. Seems strange really that such money should be lavished on a middle class household who could easily afford to pay for it but who are we to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Pauline is loving having the time to indulge her real passion (no, not me!), cooking. She has always made our bread and pasta but she has cured our olives to perfection and the quince jam she made is delicious.  Now she is making minced meat, Christmas Pudding and Christmas Cake. It is a few years since she bothered or had the time to do that. We don’t even celebrate Christmas other than nominally. We do have a Turkey or a Goose. A couple of years ago we had a trendy five bird roast with turkey, goose, pheasant, partridge & pigeon but that was just greedy. We are very keen on game birds nowadays. We usually go to our local farmshop and buy pheasant, mallard, partridge, etc. They are so cheap and low in fat and wonderfully tasty. A brace of pheasants up here cost £5.00 and a couple of partridge would be £6.00. We buy rabbits for £2.00 and they almost give wood pigeons away. Game Pie or Game Pate is wonderful or maybe pheasant breast wrapped with Parma ham.

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 Pheasant breasts wrapped in Parma ham

Serves 6

Ingredients

6 pheasant breasts
12 slices of Parma ham
12 large sage leaves
Salt and pepper
Butter
Olive oil

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  • Season each breast and place two sage leaves on each one. Lie two slices of Parma ham out flat and place a pheasant breast at one end. Roll the pheasant breast up quite tightly. Repeat with each breast.
  • Melt a little butter with some olive oil in a large frying pan and sear the pheasant parcels on each side for 1 minute or so. Then place in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Allow to rest for 2-4 minutes before serving.

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Served with garlic mash and red wine jus you can’t beat it. I’m starving!

24th November, 2009

After two hours at the Health Club this morning, we went off to Hinchcliffe’s Farm shop for meat. It’s only a couple of miles away from us and wonderfully stocked. We came away with groaning bags:

  • 6 Pheasant
  • 4 Woodcock
  • 2 huge belly pork
  • 2K of best minced beef
  • 4 Lamb Shanks
  • 8 Lamb chops
  • 8 Chicken Livers (for pate)

Should see us through to the weekend! I’ll have to save some and invite Jane BG around. Hinchcliffe’s Farm Shop is renowned round here and well worth the visit as you can see below. They are very happy butchers.

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25th November, 2009

I’m sitting in Sainsbury’s carpark after going swimming. Pauline’s gone in to buy some mint sauce for dinner. I’m reading The Times and suddenly I hear a crunch. A scruffy, maroon car comes to rest against my bumper. Out steps a spotty youth who can’t stop saying sorry. I felt sorry for him, really. His car – which turned out to be his Mother’s car – had a small scratch. Mine had a small scratch above and below the bumper. It also damaged the numberplate and its mount. His car was already time-worn and, to him, it must have seemed like nothing. Our car was less than it was before he hit us and is valuable enough to maintain properly. We exchanged insurance details and he went back on his way to College. We went to Honda for assessment. The body man said, I can disguise the scratches for next to nothing but it won’t be the same. I advise a new bumper unit, a new numberplate and mount. We don’t have a price yet but it will come to something around £600.00 – £700.00. The lad’s Mother will think I’m taking them for a ride but it has to be done.

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26th November, 2009

A cold, blustery and intermittently soggy day. After an hour or so swimming we prepare to drive over the Pennines to Oldham. Pauline’s Mum is still struggling badly. The shingles are still giving her awful headaches and making her very fed up. We are going to cook lunch for her in her flat. Lamb chops and mashed potato is all she can manage to eat. In fact, she struggles with one, small lamb chop because her appetite is really diminishing. Pauline made a lovely lunch and then her Mum settled down to watch Darling Buds of May. She has seen every episode at least three times but it is rather warm and comforting to live in a perfick world and she is watching it again. We left her to it and she was almost falling asleep before we got out of the door. She is spending more and more time sleeping now.

As we drove home, we had the wild Pennine Moorland in our eyes

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but we still had her and her frailties in our hearts. Growing so old is no great fun if you become increasingly dependent. If she thinks of doing something, it doesn’t matter what the time-frame is, she has to do it straight away. When she was strong enough to travel, we only had to say to her in October that we would take her to Surrey in December and she would select her clothes and pack immediately. Her suitcase would be packed and under the bed for a couple of months. We received a Christmast card from her two weeks ago and a card for our 31st wedding anniversary on December 30th at the same time.

27th November, 2009

One of the things we have lost by retiring is that ‘Friday Feeling’, a phrase that  originated from a ‘Crunchy’ advert and used to sum up a host of feelings like: Thank Goodness for That’, ‘We can actually put our Life (Garden / House / Etc.) in order’. Friday night was eating out or Chinese Takeaway night depending on how tired we felt. It was probably two bottles of wine evening and general wind down evening. When the weekday constraints no longer pertain, the weekend loses a little of its edge. I still love Saturday sport and Sunday papers but the release of Friday evening is not quite the same.

We have found a way to put Feeling back in to Friday by making our morning trip to the Health Club the equivalent of going to work. We have to get up at 7.00 am each week day. We have to leave the house by 8.30 am and do a solid 30 mins swimming. In that time we complete circa 50 lengths of our 20 metre pool or one kilometre. We spend 10 – 15 minutes in the huge jacuzzi and about the same time again in the steam room. After that the day purrs. We only do this Monday – Friday so Saturday & Sunday are indulgence days restoring the demarcation by that Friday Feeling.

28th November, 2009

Pauline & I have always tried to avoid the crowds. We would always go to Sainsburys at 7.30 am on Saturdays when we were working just to avoid the crush. When we retired, we thought that we could access services off-peak and avoid the crowds. We were totally wrong. Sainsburys  at 11.00 am on a Wednesday is an absolute nightmare. It is jammed with old people who think doing the weekly shop is the social event of their week. They shuffle down the aisles and stand in groups chatting and blocking the way. They are slow in thought and slow in movement. After all, they’ve got all day and all week! We have reverted to Saturday at 7.30 am when like-minded shoppers zip around, grabbing items for their list and fight to be first out of the car park and on their way.

We set off today at 7.30 am in a blizzard of snow. It was 4C and thick with snow. Although it quickly melted around our house, all day the Pennines were covered in white.

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Pauline’s Mum was unwell and Pauline went over to see her. They spent the day in hospital and Mum will not be home until tomorrow. Irritable Bowel Syndrome has been diagnosed. She was so dehydrated from constantly going to the loo that they are keeping her on a drip all night.