Driving through history

I ended up in Beeston this morning after I took the wrong road (the Nottingham one, not the Cheshire one – once I see Beeston castle I really have gone wrong!). As a result I was able to eat breakfast (see Pies and Prejudice for more details), drive past a former silk mill (burnt down in the riots of 1831) and have a look at the new tram system.

We were actually on our way to Chilwell (a name you may recognise if you are into the history of shell-filling factories in the Great War) to do some shoe shopping. I need big shoes, have no sense of style and dislike spending money, so it’s off to Sports Direct for a selection of their discounted size 12 Karrimoor shoes.

Having secured my shoes I was then struck by an idea.

It wasn’t the best of ideas, but a while later we found ourselves in the car park at Denby Pottery. It was a visit of mixed fortunes.

They are changing things round so we weren’t able to look round the museum, which is being relocated, and they didn’t seem to have a very good selection of animal models. This was a shame as I like to look round the museum and I was hoping Julia might express a liking for one of the animals as I’m desperately looking for presents for our wedding anniversary and her birthday. Check the 1930s section of this page to see what I mean.

On the other hand they do have a new farm shop run by prize-winning pie makers Walter Smith. They also have meat, black pudding and a fine selection of oils and stuff.

As a result I now have a pie to test and a bottle of Cranberry Balsamic vinegar that is so good I’d be happy to drink it neat.

No pictures today – I originally set off to buy shoes, not photograph them. I really must remember in future.





Farewell to Mark

Mark is leaving us, as he is moving to the coast and it will be too far to come. It’s always a shame to lose someone, but it’s hard to be sad about it as he will be moving to a place with a nice sandy beach and an excellent chip shop. There are other things too, but with a beach and a chip shop what more do you really need?

Here are a few photos.

The cheery looking lady who keeps cropping up is Julie, who brings him across to the farm. We’ll miss her too, though she is a bit too cheerful for my tastes.


Right, that’s enough emotion for one day. Back to work.


New Recipes


I had a go at empanadas  over the weekend. They turned out well, but then it’s hardly rocket science.

After whipping up a savoury filling – onions, mince, smoked paprika, chilli powder and tomato ketchup – and cutting some circles out of ready rolled pastry, it was just a matter of egg glaze and 20 minutes in the oven. If I do it again I will make my own pastry and do something more impressive with the filling, but for a start I was quite happy. Julia was happy too, as she had something to snack on when she got home after a ten hour shift.

We also had Indian Shepherd’s Pie. I pretty much followed the recipe on this one, though, as eagle-eyed readers will see from the photo, I couldn’t be bothered to dice carrots for the filling.

I’m not quite sure what the origins are for this pie. Most recipes seem to imply it’s British Shepherd’s Pie with Indian spices, but one, from Jamie Oliver, calls it Masala Kheema. This doesn’t mean anything of course, as I could throw some spice into a cauliflower cheese and call it Gobi Paneer.

One thing that is clear is that the marketing genius who came up with the name Empire Pie could have done better. Enough has already been said on the subject, so I’ll leave it there.

Enough has already been said on the subject of the baked Brie and berries, mainly by Julia. I took the recipe from another blog (which I can’t find at the moment to thank) and made a mess of it. I didn’t add sugar to the berries (which turned out to be a mistake) and I didn’t seal the pastry properly. None of this was the fault of the recipe, but it did result in what looked like a small explosion in a biological warfare facility.

I didn’t take a picture of that one.




Escape to Derbyshire (Part 2)

After lunch, the sun went in, which was a shame because I had wanted some shots of autumn colour and what is scarlet and gold in sunlight is just shades of brown when overcast.

After buying our selection from the shop we decided that the cafe, despite some excellent reviews on Tripadvisor, looked a bit busy and cramped so we decided to give it a miss.

At that point I decided to chance my arm and mentioned in a casual manner that the refreshments at the Brierlow Bar bookshop were always acceptable.

“We aren’t buying any books.”

“Nothing, my dear,” I said, “could be further from my thoughts.”

As a salesman I was always told that sincerity was the hardest thing to fake, but I like to think I’m pretty good at it.

Half an hour later we stepped into the shop, turned to the toilets (it’s my age, you know) and…

…they have built a whole new cafe.

My jaw dropped.

Change, I find, is not the same thing as improvement. However, in this case the change does seem to be an improvement.

We had prize-winning Novus tea, served in a pot, with extra hot water, tea strainers and milk in one of those little bottles that looks like an old-style school milk bottle. The tea is bright and golden when poured and tastes very pleasant. I’m afraid I don’t have a wide vocabulary of tea terms.

Being (a) surprised and (b) thirsty, I didn’t really take in much else about the place. The tables have good chunky tops and varied ironwork supports and the chairs are a mixed bag of second hand items (or an eclectic mix as we bloggers call them). However, the important things to note are that you can browse the cookery book titles whilst seated, no important books have been lost to the cafe and after two large cups of tea we still couldn’t see the bottom of the pot. I like that. Quality is good in tea, but quantity is even better.

In the end I was allowed to buy four books – two for me and two for Julia, so I’m still wondering who did best out of this visit.




Escape to Derbyshire (Part 1)

As I was sorting laundry this morning (another day off – we really are spoiling ourselves) we had a postal delivery for Number Two son.

“Why don’t we nip up to Sheffield and give it to him.” I suggested. (Having already suggested Stoke on Trent, which is usually a winner, and Bakewell as days out, I was becoming desperate at the thought of another day of housework).

It worked, and Julia texted him to arrange it. After waiting for a reply and wondering what would happen if she rang him in the middle of a lecture, she finally rang him. Me? Well, to be honest, at 10.15, I didn’t think there was much chance of catching him in the middle of a lecture.

I was right. What actually happened was that we woke him up.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we popped up to Sheffield, got caught in traffic,  dropped off the letter, took him to lunch at KFC, lectured him on the importance of eating properly (yes, I know…) and did various parent things.

I also took a photo of one of the gardens in his street. The one with Virginia creeper growing up the telegraph pole was quite impressive but the one with the beans was more interesting.


The garden next door to the beans had a fine display of fuchsias, which was a coincidence as we’d been eating fuchsia berries from our garden this morning. I’ve eaten fuchsia berries before and not been impressed but these are supposed to be juicy and delicious. To be fair, it’s been a poor year, and they aren’t in a great position, but they didn’t seem any different to the others I’ve tried. Interesting idea though – plenty of flowers and a claimed 300 berries per plant. It’s the one in the header picture.

After that, having cunningly secreted the postcode of the Riverside Herb Centre in my shirt pocket, I entered the details in the satnav (I’m finally moving into the 21st Century) and set off. It was a visit of mixed results, with virtually no plants available. Fortunately there is a shop selling a variety of products, including oak-smoked rapeseed oil. I’ll cover that in a later post, once I’ve decided what to do with it. I checked on the internet and the main suggestions are to use it for salad dressing. It doesn’t seem very imaginative.

We also bought black onion seed, garam masala, beeswax hand lotion and a packet of ginger creams. They will probably appear in reviews on the other blog.

After that, well that’s going to be Part 2.




A married man and a day off

We’re having a day off today, the first we’ve managed for while. Naturally my thoughts turned to a lie in, leisurely breakfast and some light shopping. Julia is working this evening, so the trip to Stoke on Trent will have to wait until we can organise a full day. That’s Julia’s annual treat – touring factory shops. It’s an annual event for me too, though I find it falls short of treat status.

Hopefully we will have several more days off before Christmas because it’s been busy recently, and with Julia working weekends it’s easy to let the week slip by without taking time off. My workload is such that Julia says it will be difficult to tell the difference when I retire. I dispute this, but am willing to admit that I’m not going to win any prizes for industry.

Anyway, my plans all came to nothing. I woke early by accident, and as I was wondering what to do about this undesirable state of affairs, I was hit by the jobs list. Seems she’s been planning it for a while. Mostly standard stuff, and I did my normal nodding dog routine until…

“Your books in the living room need sorting out, and taking to the charity shop.”

She’s always had this unreasonable prejudice about me stacking books on the floor. To her, it’s an eyesore. To me it’s a logical place to put books, and it doesn’t involve a trip to IKEA for a bookcase calle Billy. ( I’m in total agreement with the Lancashire Hotpots on the subject of IKEA. Follow this link to find out what they think).

This quickly turned nasty.

“But me no buts, you pusillanimous worm. If you don’t have shelf space you can’t keep them.”

(She didn’t actually use those words, but you could tell she was thinking them).

So I’m working slowly and stacking carefully. With any luck I’ll get away with a few dozen books, particularly if I cook a large lunch.

I do so love these rare days off…








Alasdair and Vampire mask

What we did next

So, what have we been doing apart from egg-based humour?

Well, we ate doughnuts, made Halloween masks, and I tried to take a photo of a green woodpecker through dirty triple glazing. The doughnuts and masks were successful. The photographs weren’t, as the glazing and dirt mess with the autofocus. When I went out to try for some clearer photos the woodpecker (a) hid and (b) flew away.



later I saw a kestrel perching on the brush shaft of the hooded youth statue. I got my camera, I switched it on…

…and got the Battery Empty message.

So I swapped batteries…

…and got the same result.

I then remembered that I hadn’t recharged them, because they’d run out late one day – too late to recharge at work and too stupid to remember once I got home.  Bah!

Can’t really complain though, as we got great views of kestrels and a buzzard perching by the roadside on the way to work. The buzzard was on a fence post along the new A46, perching at about eye level. We couldn’t have asked for a better view.

Later in the afternoon we cleared some beds, played a Dracula-themed snakes and ladders game (Julia kept winning) and finished off Monday’s biscuits. They had kept well, and we really should have left them a few days longer, but you know how it is.

I can vouch for most of my biscuit recipes lasting three days. If you ever find me vouching for them lasting longer, ask yourself why they are still not eaten.

At least, having seen two small falcons today, Julia was able to make a quip about the coming of night and the fact that we would be having Orkestrel Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Pop music puns can be tricky as they are sensitive to the age of those listening, but for those of us who remember the band, it’s a quality pun.