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Well, I suppose technically Winter is here, and Spring is coming, but the other makes a better headline.
It was bitterly cold last night, and I was expecting frost, but woke up this morning to find we had actually had a sprinkling of snow. 


After which he apparently decided that the others would have watched, and learned their lesson, and that he didn't need to catch and kill all of them, so he came back indoors to try out his new cat bed.


I *think* it meets with his approval.

Snow Day

Jan. 18th, 2013 05:59 pm
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The BBC has been forecasting heavy snow for today, in tones appropriate to an impending apocalypse. I have to admit that I was a bit sceptical, and was expecting to wake up to a heavy frost, or a dusting of snow. However, just in case, I did decide that I would do my grocery shop on the way home last night, rather than on my way home tonight.

However, it turned out that they were right, and I woke instead to about 2" of snow (Not a lot, by the standards of those places which have proper winters with 6' drifts, I know, but a lot for us here)

still thought that I would be able to go into work, but by the time I was ready to leave, 90 minutes later, I decided that would not be such a good idea, as it had been, and still was, snowing quite hard, in additional to which the local police were advising against any but essential journeys, and I saw my opposite neighbour leave, slithering all over everywhere, so I decided that working from home would be the better option.

I think I made the right choice - we ended up closing all of the offices at 2pm so everyone could get home, and I think all of those who were able to get in were either close enough to walk, or had 4x4s.

It continued to snow for most of the day,and we ended up with about 5" of snow, and the bits of road around my house had just enough traffic to compact the snow into a icy mess.

I spent the morning working, but did go out a little later for a short and chilly walk in a monochrome world.

There were lots of bits very decorative bits of ironwork, and the few other people out and about were all friendly. And of course, getting a bit of fresh air and exercise is always good!
I'm not sure Tybalt agrees about that part. He approved of me being home all day, and he approved of the heating being on all day, but he very definitely didn't approve of my poor management in allowing all this cold, wet stuff outside the back door and the front door at the same time!

I was supposed to go to the theatre this evening, in Bath, but that isn't going to happen, as I can't drive there (It's further, more hilly, and on smaller roads than the trip to work would have been, and it's now dark and freezing...) and although I could potentially get a train in, it would involve a cold, dark walk to and from the station, and probably a wait of about 40 minutes for what would be the last trian back, which of course may be cancelled. Fortunately the theatre was very understanding and I was able to change my ticket for one for tomorrow's matinee (when, assuming the snow hasn't gone, I should be able to get trains both ways). It's not such a good seat, but much better than missing the production altogether (tomorrow is the last day).
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Saturday turned out very wet indeed, so there was no incentive to go out, but today was milder, and the sun even came out for a short while!

I caught up with a little shopping (standard, non-christmassy things) and tidied up the garden a bit - it's been so very wet and cold that I haven't had any opportunity to clear up the last of the leaves, for instance.

This evening, I decided to go to the the Service of 9 Lessons and Carols at the local church - I'm not a frequent church-goer, but there is something special about singing carols with lots of others, and to take a little time for quiet reflection.

I had mixed feelings about the service. On the one hand, the church is beautiful - I forget, between visits, that it has a roof full of angels with gilded wings, and they had some beautiful crimson and gold flowers today, too.

The church was pretty full, which is always good for the singing. And the carols we got to sing were all "proper" ones - the traditional ones which everyone knows. I was however disappointed that whoever is in charge if the choir had decided that this would be a good opportunity to show off their skills, and make more than half of the carols 'choir only'. This is fine if you have maybe one or two less well known carols which the choir can perform, but to have seven and a half (out of 14) restricted to the choir, including  3 and a half well known carols (which were sung to the usual tunes, and with the normal words, so there were no special circumstances to justify excluding the congregation) seemed to me excessive. Particularly as the choir's level of talent and skill was not so great that you could lose yourself in the music.  So that was a little disappointing.

Still, despite that, I did enjoy most of the service, and I'm glad I went. It never feels quite like christmas without at least one church service..
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The past few days have been bitterly cold (at least by the standards of this country!)

Tuesday was horrible - lots of ice, and fog. However, Wednesday was very different -  I drove into work in sunshine, and as there was a very heavy hoar frost it was a drive through beautiful scenes.

I saw a group of roe deer in one of the fields - I haven't seen them much recently, so that cheered me up.

I had to drive across from one of our offices to another at lunch time, so I took a few minutes to stop and admire the scenery (particularly as the sun came out again) Despite it being mid day, very little of the frost had melted, and the trees looked as though it had snowed.

 It was almost lovely enough to make one forget just how brass-monkeys cold it was!
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OK, I bet that got your attention!
I've been following Russell Tovey on twitter for a while (he plays George the Werewolf in 'Being Human', was Alonso in the Doctor Who / Titanic Christmas episode, and Henry Knight in 'Sherlock') and he has been tweeting about the play he is currently starring in, 'Sex with a Stranger', by Stefan Golaszewski.

It sounded interesting, so I booked myself a ticket, and set off to London early this morning. It was cold. Very cold. The journey took a little longer than expected, as my first train got delayed, so we went rather a long way round, but fortunately there are plenty of trains from Swindon (where I was changing), and I'd left myself lots of time. I enjoyed sitting in a nice, warm train as it travelled though wintry landscape, especially as it was a beautiful bright, sunny, clear day.

London was freezing cold - literally. There was ice on the fountains in Trafalgar Square, and snow still lying under some of the trees in St James' Park. The mounted sentries at Horseguards looked rather cold (although not as cold as the poor un-mounted chap. I suppose that the fact you are sitting on a horse, even if you have to keep completely still, must give you a little warmth.

There were a lot of people in Trafalgar Square, as part of Amnesty International's day day of solidarity with Syria - and massive numbers of police, although there seemed not to be any problems, so far as I could tell.

After fortifying myself with some good beer, and mediocre fish and chips in a pub just off Whitehall, I popped into the National Gallery for an hour or so. I like it there.

Today, I looked in on a couple of my favourites: Rousseau's 'Surprised!' and Stubbs' 'Whistlejacket', for instance, and checked that the Van Gogh 'Sunflowers' doesn't say 'for Amy' on it, then wandered (via 'The Ambassadors' and a completely unexpected (to me) Da Vinci cartoon ) into the Sainsbury Wing, where they keep the medieval paintings. It's amazing to see paintings which are over 500 years old but still so bright and clear.

Richard II's diptych, painted in around 1395, is stunning, for instance.

I then headed over to Trafalgar Studios for the play itself.

It's short, and has just three cast members.

Adam Russell Tovey
Grace Jaime Winstone
Ruth Naomi Sheldon

We start with Adam and Ruth, making their way back to Ruth's flat, via night buses and cabs and a kebab, making awkward conversation to fill that all-to-long gap between picking one another up in a night club, and getting back to Grace's home so they can have sex. There are a lot of awkward silences, and both actors are very convincing. It's funny, but in a slightly unsettling, too close for comfort kind of way. Ruth originally comes across as brash and confident, but as time passes exposes her own insecurity.

As the play continues, there are flashbacks to Adam preparing to go out, from which we learn that he has a partner, Ruth, and see the build up to his night out, including Ruth's half-formed suspicions, and Adam's angry response to them. There is a scene where we see Grace compliment Adam on his shirt, and then jump back, to see Ruth, alone on stage and in total silence, carefully ironing it for him, ready for his evening out.

The play doesn't resolve these issues - we don't see any of the aftermath of Adam and Grace's one night stand.

I was very impressed by all three actors. The studio is tiny, seating fewer than 100 people (in 3 rows) so it's very intimate, and there was very little in the way props (and no physical scenery at all - just light and sound) which must make it harder to capture and keep an audience's suspension of disbelief.

I'm glad I went. (oh, and for what it's worth, Tovey takes his shirt off, twice, allowing one to admire more than just his acting skills...!)
(There are some amazing pictures taken by photographer Elliott Franks, of the cast, here)
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Winter has arrived properly, now - we have had several nights with temps of -5 or -6 (Celsius, but this is Southern England, it counts as really cold) and thick frosts.
This morning I walked into town to go to the library - it's National Libraries Day, although the Library didn't appear to have any special events on.

The decorative pond in the park had icy teeth around its perimeter, and an isolated few icicles above where the fountain plays.
The pond was full of ice-bubbles.
I hadn't planned it, but as I went past the butchers it occurred to me that in this kind of weather, one should be eating hearty, warming stews, so I popped in for some steak, which is now in the slow but glorious process of being transformed into Boeuf Bourguinon.
Walking home, it occurred to me that when it is this cold, almost every bird one sees is a robin.. I must have seen 6 or 7 of them altogether.
Admittedly, I did also see some swans, regal and monochrome on the stream.
And shortly after I returned home, it started to snow. It seems to be settling, and I am determined to stay safe and snug inside. Fortunately I did grocery shopping yesterday, so I have food, and beer, and toilet roll, and cat food, so we should be fine even if the snow is still here tomorrow.
And of course, having been to the library, I also have a good supply of as-yet-unread books.
it could be worse. . .
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Last night I headed over into deepest Somerset in order to collect our Christmas turkey, which has been wandering around the farm, eating all sorts of interesting things, flying*  and generally doing turkey things, for most of the last 6 -7 months. 
Last weekend, it was called to its forefathers, and last night I went to get its mortal remains, which will be translated into glory on Christmas Day.

The drive over was fine - one or two icy patches on the roads, and some interesting patterns of drifted snow on some of the walls and hedges.

However, arriving in the village, things were a little different. There was absolutely no way I could have got up the lane to J's farm - it is narrow, twisty, and has very unforgiving stone walls and cliffs up both sides, so instead I walked up, and J, out of the kindness of her heart, walked down to meet me:

SCENE:  An Icy lane, by moonlight.

SECOND MYSTERIOUS FIGURE:  (Cradling a swaddled bundle) We must stop meeting like this.
FMF:         You know why I'm here
SMF:         Yes .
FMF:          Do you have it?
SMF:          I do.  (Hands over swaddled bundle)  
They part.                   

I wonder whether cold war spies did this. I felt I ought to be giving a password.                      

*Turkeys are not the most aerodynamic of birds, but if you have a turkey-house at the top of a steepish slope, and the kitchen garden at the bottom, they can show you one hell of a glide. There is nothing like being dive-bombed by low-flying turkeys to reconcile one to the prospect of eating them, I can tell you!
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So, I had Monday & Tuesday off work, as I had guests.

My plan for Monday went something like this:-
1. Wake up. Revel in the luxury of a Monday morning with no work, and the freedom to sleep late
2. Get up. Wallow in hot bath, then do last minute bed-making and stuff before guests arrive
3. make mince pies
4. Buy bread, milk & cheese, post final parcel
5. Amble down to railway station to  meet guests, walk home with them
6. Give them tea and mince pies, be sociable
7. Have extra friend round, eat, drink and be merry.

I was highly sucessful with items 1-3 on that list, and managed 4, although it was harder work then expected as the streets were quick icy, and it was very cold, and snowing, so walking into town & back was much harder work than usual, and the going to the station disappeared altogether, as guestas were delayed, and in the end got a taxi. However, from then on, things progressed as planned.

As fiends already know, my guests were Jess and Mr Jess. They were due to arrive mid afternoon on Monday, and actually made it around 6, after a journey with many delays - I'm most flattered that they didn't give up half way, to be honest! And they brought wine, and chocoloate, and the poster I had ordered, and which they kindly carried across the Atlantic for me. They are Good Guests, and will be welcome back any time :-) And they entertained Tybalt a lot.
Me & Jess, for the 'pictures or it didn't happen bunch

Cheryl  came over for supper, and brought chocolates. She, too, is a Good Guest.

here was a certain amount of eating, and even some drinking and some making merry. 'Twas fun.

On Tuesday we decied to go & be a bit touristy in Bath. It turns out I suck at being a tour guide. I suggested we see the Herschel museum, but failed to find out in advance that it had, in fact, closed for the winter*. 
Then afterwards I suggested that we go look at the titthe barn in Bradford on Avon, which turned out to be being locked up just as we got there. Still, we did look at the Abbey, and there was a very nice pub lunch with some festive beer, and a nice independent bookshop, so all was not entirely lost.

And the outside of the tithe barn looked pretty in the snow, and we walked a little by the canal, which was frozen, (and we were not foolish enough to try to walk on the ice).

It's possible that there may have been a little more making merry that evening, too.

Sadly, on Wednesday, I had to go back to work, and Jess & Paul to go back to do family Christmassy things, but I enjoyed myself, and hope they did too.

(*Actually, their website doesn't mention that they are closed for the winter either, so I maybe don't suck quite as much as I thought)

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It has mosty been a fairly dull week - cold, and uneventful, and I have mainly just been going to work, and trying to remember to go to bed early, being knackered.

Friday, however, was a little more interesting -in the evening was our work Christmas meal, and earlier, we were having snow forecast. It did snow a little - just a sprinkling, enough to make eveything look pretty, but not enough to stop me going out.

I'd left myself a lttle extra time to drive to work, in case of snow or ice, which meant I had time to stop to take a picture or two as the sun came up, as I drove across the hills.

By the time I got home it was much colder, and my enthusiasm for the work Christmas party was rapidly waning - I alwayss end up fretting about what to wear, and the possibility of being over- or under-dressed, and knowing how foolish this is doesn't seem to make much difference. However, once there, I quite enjoyed myself - although I was glad to get home.

I didn't sleep well, and woke up very early; after giving up on the prospect of getting back to sleep I got out of bed and looked out of the window to find that it had snowed, quite heavily (for England) overnight, so I  got up to go out and play in the snow. It was early enough that the sun wasn't yet up, and no-one else had been out, and there is something irresistable about pristine, unmarked snow...
I went down by the stream behind the houses opposite - as you can see, the sun was just coming up and gave everything a pinkish glow.

Livng in a town, as I do, you rarely get to her silence (yes, I know. But you know what I mean) it was lovely to be out with no sound but the creak of the snow as I walked, and birdsong, and the trickle of water from the stream.

As I am quite practically minded, even when admiring the beauties of nature, I took the opporunity to walk down to the paper shop and buy some milk, as I guessed (correctly, as it turned out) that my milkman would probably not be making any deliveries.

On the way, I found myself reminded that even the most prosaic of things, such as a streetlight, can turn out to be unexpectedly beautiful, in the right conditions.                                                                                         

It seemed as though most households were still asleep as I walked past - those few where there were lights on all seemed to be people who had got up early in order to watch the Ashes si as I walked by, in the snow, I could see glimpses of  bright sunshine, and cricketers, as though a little piece of summer was spilling out into the winter landscape, to remind us that all things will pass...

A little later in the morning, as I was making coffee and looking out into the street from the shelter of my nice warm kitchen, I saw the little girl who lives across the road come out of her house. she had, I suppose, just woken up & seen the snow, as she came bouncing out in her pyjamas and wellinigton boots, bouncing around like an excited puppy. (She didn't stay out for long - so I didn't need to get too worried about her lack of proper winter clothing)

I spent most of the rest of the day catchinng up with housework, and then dressing my Christmas tree and wrapping presents, which, together with the snow, put me in a properly festive mood.

Now, if everyone could keep their fingers crossed for the snow to go (and for  no more to fall) by next weekend, so that we can all made it down to the parent's house for Christmas.... (Once we're all their, it can snow as much as it likes, just not before, please. 'Kay?)

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We haven't  had any more snow, which is a relief, but it has been very cold, so the hoar frost didn't melt, most days, so we ended up with frost  on frost. Chilly, but very pretty!

I have spent most of the week busy with work stuff, which is time consuming but doesn't make for terribly interesting bloggage.

I did, however, get to see my parents, who came to stay overnight on Wednesday, en route to a funeral. It was good to see them,  and gave me an excuse to make a nice hearty casserole (Beef in Guinness, if you're interested)

Although this week has been relatively uneventful, I do have lots of nice things to look forward to.

Tomorrow  evening  I shall be heading into Bath to the Theatre Royal to see The Merry Wives of Windsor - the production is the one which was on at the Globe Theatre, and is now touring. It should be fun.

And then, on Sunday evening, I am going back to Bath, back to the Theatre Royal, to see Handel's Messiah . Every year, around this time, there is a performance of The  Messiah by musicians using period instruments,  in period costume, by candlelight.  I've been wanting to go for several years, but as it is only on for one night, I've never managed to be organised enough to get a ticket, before.

Then, on Tuesday, I shall be going to see the historian, Bethany Hughes, talkng about her new book about Socrates.

Should be fun.

 And of course, the week after that, I shall have lovely, fiendish guests :-)

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So, those of you who follow me on twitter may remember that several weeks ago I bought some Medlars (left) becuase they seemed interesting, and then when I got home I looked them up to see how they should be cooked or eaten.

They are not very attractive fruit. Apparently they were, in medieval times, known as cats arse fruit, (and in French they are cul de chien which is no better)
And, as I learned, you can't use them stright away, but have to wait until they have "bletted" - effectively this means waiting for them to start to rot.. they go darker, and much softer.

I had some reservations, but decided to press on, having aquired the things, so they have spent the last few weeks sitting in  a paper bag in the shed, bletting away to themselves, and today I decided it was time to move on. The most common recipie seems to be for Medlar jelly, so that's what I decided to make, although you can eat them raw, or bake them, or make 'cheese' out of them.

They looked even less appetising when I cut them up: completely borwn inside, whereas the flesh is white (like an apple) before they are bletted, but I did taste one - a rather unplesant 'wooly' texture, but the taste was OK - a bit like spiced apple,.

The recipie I used also included apple, and was pretty straightforward - you cut up the apple and medlars and simmer in water until they go soft, then strain them overnight before boiling up the juice with some sugar and a little lemon juice.

I ended up wih more liquid than I'd expected (the recipie didn't specifiy, just said to use enough to cover the fruit) so I was concerned that the jelly might not set, but it does appear to be doing so.

I haven't tasted the jelly yet, but it looks pretty. Mine is a little cloudy, but I think that is purely aesthetic, and won't affect the taste.  It apparently goes well with game or lamb (as one might use redcurrant jelly) but I suspect it might be rather nice on toast, too. 

And on a cold, icy, day there are worse things to do than to fill the house with a warm, spiced-apple aroma!


Dec. 2nd, 2010 08:25 pm
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It is very, very cold.
Not, of course, for those of you in truly cold places such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, or Iowa, but cold-for-England. It's about -3 celsius, And feels every degree of it.

Lots of parts of the country have had snow - unusually early and heavy. We had a sprinkling on Friday night, and a little more on Monday night - just a few milimetres, but enough, having frozen overnight, to make driving the first little bit of the way to work ....interesting.

On Monday,when I had a day off , I went into Bath to do some Christmas shopping. Bath has a Christmas Market, which runs for about 3 weeks - lot of craftspeople, selling all sorts of lovely things and interesting foodstuffs. I managed to finish off most of my shopping, which is a relief - I like giving people things,and the pleasure of trying to find thibgs which he recipient will really like, but I hate crowds, and don't much like shopping, so shopping in crowds is definitely not my thing!

Then on Thursdaay, having watched most of the rest of the country being half buried in snow, and been lulled into a false sense of security, I woke up to find that it had snowed properly overnight.

I was a little worried, as I was due to go to  meeting the other side of Bath, and there are rather a lot of hilly bits in between, but as it turned out, once I got out onto the main road the roads were all pretty clear, and the countryside was looking pretty.

Coming home was less fun, though - I found that the roads leading into my street had had just enough traffic to ensure that the snow had been compacted down into ice, which was starting to freeze...

Driving on an ice rink is not my idea of fun. (At least in my own car and with lots of things to hit) It's forecast to be colder than ever tonight.

marjorie73: (Default)
So, it appears that the country is about to grind to a halt, as it has been snowing. It has even been snowing a little bit here, although it hasn't been settling here as it's too wet, so thus far we mostly have sleet. What fun.
It's been very cold all week - every morning has been clear, with lots of frost (Oh, happy mornings, spent scraping ice off the car!)  It's  pretty. The last few days, I've woken up to a deep blue sky, a little before sunrise. The clear skies have meant Venus has been clearly visible, and you can see a lot of detail on the Moon even with the naked eye.

Then, driving to work there's been a whole week of bright, frosty mornings - sunlight on frost is so beautiful. The hedges are fiull of scarlet berries, and of Old Man's Beard, there are still some leaves on a few of the trees, so you get bright,, sunlit copper leaves, on stak black brasncheds against pefect duck-egg blue sky.

There are a lot of pheasant around, and I have also, almost every morning this week, seen a large bird of prey which I think must be a buzzard - it's too big to be a peregrine falcon.

And I remember that this really is a beautiful part of the world.

(It's still too cold, just now, though!)


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