Herefordshire Week 006: Monday 03 – Sunday 09 February 2020

A much more cheerful week this week, boosted by last Saturday’s day out with the Ramblers my mood continuing to improve as I ticked off more of the minor To Dos Monday and Friday, had a good work-week in Manchester and met all the local folks I’d hoped to bump into again on Saturday. In addition, we seem to have survived Storm Ciara unscathed, had our first Sunday lunch at The Temple Bar Inn under its new management, and successfully undertook Operation Free Mouse…. read on.

Monday was a quiet day at 40A as P had one of his periodic migraines, so I pottered around – did last week’s week notes, wrote January’s diary entry in the Forty Acres Diary (vol 13), cleared the ash out of the log stove (it now burns much better as the air vents are allowed to do their magic).

Heading out to the small pond to photograph the cheery yellow winter aconites for last week’s blogpost, I discovered the first daffodils were out down by the train set. Although it feels amazingly early for daffs to be blooming, the Forty Acres February Flowers are fabulous. Dad, mum and Jean have spent a lot of time over the years spreading snowdrops and daffodils, and putting in lots of plants. It’s lovely. Over the course of this week, more daffs have come into flower (Jean reckons they’d be the wild ones – they are smaller than the ones you’d buy from a supermarket) and the winter aconites have spread up amongst the snowdrops. In the rose garden there’s a pink cyclamen, and, amazingly, two roses in bloom, one of which has been there since the start of January. We should be getting primroses soon – we spotted some out when we’ve been out and about this week.

I also spent a lot of time leaning out of my office window with my camera, trying to catch the red woodpecker that has started shy, swooping visits to the bird feeder. I eventually managed one successful albeit slightly blurry headed shot. In the meantime, it was a joy watching blue tits, coal tits and robins feasting away in the peanuts. So I videoed them.

The elusive red woodpecker
The elusive red woodpecker

I stretched my legs and got some fresh air with a walk down to Dore Abbey, where I spied what I think might have been a bat roosting high up in one of the arched windows.

In the afternoon, I dug out the sage green paint from the garage and painted over the polyfilla-ed patches in the kitchen, then settled down to finished off Tales of the Country and started The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – an excellent popular science meets biography account of the short life Henrietta Lacks, outlived by her cervical cancer cells which have powered bio research worldwide since the 1950s

Tuesday featured another early morning drive to a station to catch the train for a Mary-work-week away; this week the combo was Abergavenny and Manchester. We are about half way between Abergavenny (AGV) and Hereford (HFD), and it’s a far easier drive to get to AGV station than it is HFD. AGV means no rush hour traffic jams and tail backs; no need to cross to the far side of the City/Town. It’s a beautiful route up along the Welsh Marches via Craven Arms and Shrewsbury. I was in MN to spend time with a new recruit in the KM team, training them up on the document automation platform we use. A hectic but productive trip. Nice staying in the Radisson, and blue, blue skies on Thursday.

Friday morning was spent doing jobs, which meant I didn’t venture out into Ewyas Harold to hook up with the walking group. Another time. Instead, Phil and I headed out in the car to tick off a whole list of Hereford tasks (as an aside, we still find it weird to think about doing shorter journeys by car). We filled up with petrol at the marvellous Lock’s Garage in Allensmore (after a slight delay while we tracked down the lever to open the petrol cap!), bought the week’s veg, and came away with a free lettuce, kohlrabi and artichoke (fab!); took the back roads to Rotherwas and M3 Auto to get our passenger side headlight bulb replaced (top notch service from the team there) then drove through Hereford to drop off two boxes of bric-a-brac at the St Michael’s Hospice Holmer Road warehouse/shop; bobbed into B&Q to buy steel wool, expanding foam, a door hook and a large back of rock salt; sought out a new duvet cover in Dunelm, but came away with a new 1 pt glass jug (Pancake Day ahoy); left our guest bed mattress topped at The Laundry Basket launderette at the Asda junction for a service wash; toured Tesco for a small weekly shop (having bought most of the fruit and veg at Allensmore). Then home for lunch!

I spent some of Friday afternoon reboiling the rest of my marmalade in the microwave with some extra sugar, and it’s now slightly darker, set nicely and takes up only 13 jars, partly because I filled the jars up fuller, partly because the 2 x 10 mins in the microwave boiled off some extra liquid. Very satisfying.

Marmalade Setting Sorted
Marmalade Setting Sorted

I also spent an hour or so raking more fallen leaves and twigs out of the small pond and then raking up the last of the fallen willow tree’s leaves and long whiplike branch ends (they don’t really feel like “twigs”) and wheel barrowing them down to Mower Turn. Dad and Colin are planning to fix up a day to chainsaw up the trunk and remaining, larger branches. Final job of the day was to squirt the expanding foam into the broken bit of the garage room. I made a bit more of a mess than I meant to…..

Storm Ciara was scheduled to arrive overnight Saturday, staying throughout Sunday and petering out Monday. So, keen to make the most of the calm before the storm, on Saturday morning P and I set out for the Kerry’s Gate – Bacton – Abbey Dore walk – and met five people en route. The most sociable we’ve been (able to be) since we arrived. The Kerry’s Gate trio were accompanied by four lovely dogs too. We swopped numbers and suggested wine, getting an enthusiastic response. The blues had lifted last weekend, and this definitely banished them further away 🙂 So – big thumbs up for meeting people who live near by and are our age (ish).

On our return, we embarked on Operation Free Mouse. Background: we’ve been hearing the scamperings of mice in the roof since we got here and when I was in Manchester last week, Phil messaged to say he had encountered a mouse in the kitchen. And then on Friday morning Phil heard scratching in one of the speakers we’ve got plugged into the TV…. yup, the mouse had got in, but as we realised after a bit of shaking of the speakers and trying to lure it out with peanut butter, it couldn’t get out. URK!!!! Operation Free Mouse saw us put the speaker into the bath where Phil undid the speaker cover, and I stood by with a welly (excellent Whorton tip there) … caught the little fella / fella-ette and took s/he far, far away from the house to let s/he go!! We have stuffed steel wool into the gaps around the pipes under the sink which is where s/he appeared from but had a mere 24 hours mouse free…. Today [Monday], we found a shredded crisp packet in the bin under the sink – SIGH – which has prompted us to set the newly purchased electric shock mouse trap, chosen because you can empty the trap without looking at the Dead Thing. I’m too squeamish for snap traps.

Having mentally battened down the hatches on Saturday afternoon and evening (reading with the log stove on in the afternoon, audio conferencing in for the LED Trustees Meeting and watching the last of the first season of Succession – sooooo good! – with Pizza à la Phil – also sooooo good!), I got up in the middle of Saturday night / Sunday morning to take down the bird feeder on the still small pear tree and the willow’s wind chimes, and to check that the willow tree cuttings weren’t blowing out of the quarry/bonfire pit. All OK (or at least, it was at 4am). With the Amber Weather Warning, we were surprised to see the FloGas tanker materialise on Sunday morning, but glad to have the gas tank refilled. We’d got down to around 20%, having started the year at 50%.

We still managed to head out for Sunday lunch with dad and Jean, our first visit to The Temple Bar Inn under its new owners. Very friendly welcome from the extended Fulgoni family, and tasty food. After a massive lunch followed by coffee with dad and Jean back at base, Phil and I indulged in a lazy late afternoon / early evening reading by the log fire. The days are definitely getting longer – we only drew the curtains at 6 o’clock. The buzzards have been out more this week, and we’ve heard the mournful hoots of owls early evenings.

Forty Acres February Flowers
Forty Acres February Flowers: Aconites and a snowdrop

28 April 2020 Update: Easy access to my Herefordshire Week 006 photos on Flickr.

Herefordshire Week 005: Monday 27 January – Sunday 02 February 2020

The first weekend in February; the snowdrops are running wild and down by the small pond they’ve been joined by the first of the sunny yellow winter aconites. The bird feeder is busy with blue tits, coal tits and robins, and the sheep are strolling around the field opposite in search of tasty patches of grass.

February Flowers at Forty Acres: Snowdrops, Aconites & Daffodils
February Flowers at Forty Acres: Snowdrops, Aconites & Daffodils

And the first of the daffodils are out… amazing.

February Flowers at Forty Acres: Snowdrops, Aconites & Daffodils
February Flowers at Forty Acres: Snowdrops, Aconites & Daffodils

I was feeling a bit down in the dumps at the start of the week. I think that the prospect and actuality of being in London for work – and being away from Phil – was part of the cause, plus getting to the stage where I need to work on meeting people but not being there to do it. I do like to get things done. And I’m not good when I can’t.

On Monday, after doing last week’s weeknotes, I tried to walk the blues out of my system, following the road up to Kerry’s Gate, down into Grey Valley and past Blackmoor Farm (along what Google tells me is Stone Street), then up to the “main” road and back towards Cockyard before returning to 40A via Jury Cottage Farm and Quarrels Green. It helped.

We were up early on Tuesday morning to allow enough time for the morning rush hour traffic jam along the Belmont Road. I had a slight panic before we left, when I thought the dusting of snow was more substantial than it proved to be. No black ice, but we did need to scrape frozen snow off the car windows. We were at Hereford Train Station with 45mins to spare (but it had been slow from Belmont even at 7.30am) and I had a good journey to Birmingham and on down to Euston. Dropped my bag off at the flat, changed into smarter clothes and headed into work.

Strange being back in the City. Scaffolding had come down from the building at the busy Moorgate/London Wall crossroads, the skeleton of the building above the entrance to Crossrail at Moorgate Station had gone up another floor. The office was the same, and I was soon settled back in at my desk.

Being back in London has meant I got to go to Wine Wednesday with Hazel, Catherine and Fiona, which was lovely. My wine tolerance has definitely dropped mind you 🙂

By Thursday evening I was feeling a bit better – my London work week was done, I’d had a really nice meal with Tom before catching the train to Walton to check that everything was OK there, which, thankfully, it was. And the first couple of visits to Herefordshire by friends had firmed up, for March and April.

Then on Friday it was aaaaaaall the way back to Hereford: I was walking on the beach shortly after dawn and looking out over the Black Mountains at dusk. The trio of train journeys went smoothly, and I walked through Hereford and out to Belmont to meet Phil at Tesco’s to do some shopping before driving home. A long and tiring day, but I was home. AND we had super home made pizza for dinner. Oh yes, Friday was 31 January 2020: Britain exited the EU.

One of the other downsides of the day was having to check my work Blackberry constantly to sort out my flights to LA after the initial options all came in at over three grand. That work trip firmed up late on Thursday afternoon and means that this month I’ll be spending more time away from Herefordshire than in it. Getting my head around that didn’t help my mood. I’m rubbish being on my own.

It was a real effort to join Herefordshire Ramblers on their Hardwicke walk on Saturday. But I am so glad that I did – I was made very warmly welcome and had plenty of people to chat with all the way round the 9 mile route up to Mouse Castle and returning via Little Mountain. As advertised, it was “A varied walk over fields, lanes, woods and some common land”. Very muddy in parts, but with some magic views out over the Wye valley. Beautiful. Sadly no photos.

I drove us both to the the Ramblers rendezvous – Small car park by bus shelter on B4348 close to junction with B4352 – and Phil continued on to spend the day in Hay on Wye. The walk finished later than I’d expected – it was almost 3pm by the time we returned to the car park – so it was straight home for tea, toast and cake….

… and the first three episodes of Succession season 1. We normally limit our TV to 2 eps/night, but it was sooooo good!

Sunday was another good day, of getting through jobs: polyfilla-ing and sanding down the holes left behind by hooks in the kitchen and bathroom and the curtain tracks by the front door; mastic-ing the leaky tall door/window in the hall; cleaning my extremely muddy boots; planting the fire bucket of demon hot chillis from Jean; cleaning the porch; packing for Manchester; buying a return train ticket to get me home from LHR at the end of the month; applying for a Coventry Building Society cash ISA to transfer in my matured Virgin Money consolidated set; emailing Cathedral Building Services to ask Chris to come and take a look at the gutters again (I think we may need to replace the ones facing the drive as they’re not draining in spite of the clean); clearing some of the weed and leaves from the small pond; watering the orchids and removing the dead leaves from my frilly green pot plant (a Boston Fern or Sword Fern, I learn); packing up two boxes of stuff to go to the Hospice charity shop, and putting “Dad’s treasures” into the roof; boiling up three jars of January’s marmalade with an extra mug of sugar in an attempt to get them to set – which was A Success.

Marmalade - microwave reboiled batch 1
Marmalade – microwave reboiled batch 1

A good end to the week.

You can never see enough snowdrops:

February Flowers at Forty Acres: Snowdrops, Aconites & Daffodils
February Flowers at Forty Acres: Snowdrops, Aconites & Daffodils

28 April 2020 Update: Easy access to my Herefordshire Week 005 photos on Flickr.

Herefordshire Week 004: Monday 20 – Sunday 26 January 2020

A different feel to this week. I think it’s because my focus is shifting from sorting to settling… and the need to find ways to meet people here.

And that was always going to be the tricky part. I remember Anne telling me in Tsum that she just joined lots of different things and gave everything a good few months to find people that she clicked with. Just don’t see myself in the WI yet. My plan was / is to find local walking groups to join, so with that in mind I took at look through the Golden Valley Groups Initiative‘s Groups to Join – Things to Do booklet that dad had picked up for us, and did some googling, and found details of the Hereford Mountain Club and Herefordshire Ramblers, plus their forthcoming walks. Neither research route threw up any info on the Ewyas Harold Walking Group that I’d got in my head meet outside the fish & chip shop every Friday at 10am. So on Friday I walked into EH ostensibly to buy some fresh bread from the Village Shop (turns out it comes from AJ Jones bakery in Hay-on-Wye), but timed to coincide with a 10am gathering…. Mission accomplished. I shall go along in a fortnight’s time which is the next Friday I’m here.

… Yep, next week sees the first of my weeks back in London. That’s come around quickly. I’m scheduling my visits around the bi-monthly KM Global Video Conferences. I’ll be able to join Hazel and Catherine at WW – in person after another FaceTime meet up this week, when they called from Pizza Express  – and I’m catching up with Tom on Thursday too. I’ll be spending Thursday night in Walton, taking the opportunity to check the flat. Then a day travelling back to Hereford.

But that’s all NEXT week! What about THIS week?

Tuesday afternoon, Weds and Thurs were all work. VOIP continues to be patchy at times, but generally connectivity was OK despite the thick layers of cloud.

I failed on the morning walks front, my excuse being that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the roads were still icy. Phil and I woke up to frosty mornings. Very pretty, but treacherous underfoot. Especially in our hill top location. I scouted out the gritting bins… On the plus side, with the sun out, we got to lunch in the conservatory twice.

Frosty Morning: Signposts
Frosty Morning: Signposts

Just about finished sorting – a few final bits of putting things in the roof / taking to the charity shop still to do, but at least dad and Jean have decided what can go where. They came for Sunday lunch, and Phil rustled up the BBC Good Food’s Vegetarian Wellington. Saturday’s prep took rather longer than the advertised 1 hour…

Monday morning featured gutter clearing by Chris aka Cathedral Property Services. I was happy to be inside, and as well as tracking down walking clubs and checking out WEA and U3A programmes, I booked trains to/from London for my February and March return visits, making the most of GWR’s January sale. I’ve got £5 PAD-HFD tickets for both trip. I also had a perusal of the Twitter list of Hereford accounts that Phil’s put together.

Most of the afternoon was spent making marmalade – Denton recipe, obviously! – and as usual my desire to minimize the quantity of sugar meant I was stirring and testing for setting point for longer than the recipe’s 45 minutes. And, as I discovered on Tuesday morning, the marmalade still hadn’t set solid. Oh well! I used the jam pan I have on permanent loan from Phil’s mum, Janet, and it coped with what used to require my two biggest pans. I doubt I’ll be running out of marmalade for a good few years as I upped the quantities by half, which has produced 15 jars.

Marmalade Made
Marmalade Made

Tuesday’s highlight was finding a detailed programme from Alfonso for September’s Picos walking holiday in my inbox. Steffi has sorted hotels. Muchas gracias amiga mía! Rather less excitingly, I sorted through the pile of work folders that had come to rest in the  old card table in my office, and filed them into dad’s desk. I’d made section dividers out of an old cardboard box.

Wednesday: It took them a few days, but the blue tits finally found Jean’s bird feeder on the pear tree. The squirrels are still oblivious.

The Blue Tits have Found the Bird Feeder
The Blue Tits have Found the Bird Feeder

On Friday, with work finished for the week and my morning stroll into Ewyas Harold complete, Phil and I booked tickets for a selection of films featuring in the Borderlines Film Festival that takes place during February and March. In the afternoon we headed into Hereford to get the car ‘entertainment system’ activated and the remote control battery changed in one of the keys, which was all done by the super-helpful folks at Newtown Motors, aka the Nissan Garage. They also told us they’d be replacing both airbags under Nissan’s warranty. And all that came to less than £20! I’d expected a “labour” layer, which there wasn’t. We really are novice car owners.

We had to leave the car with them for a couple of hours, so we had a potter around town via the Oxfam Bookshop, The Mousetrap Cheese Shop, Timpson’s in the Butter Market before coming to rest in Sensory & Rye for Artisan Coffee and a flapjack. And wifi… courtesy of which we discovered that The Temple Bar Inn reopened last Saturday and the new owners have posted the new menus on Facebook, and I emailed Sunanta’s Thai Kitchen for a copy of their menu. You order in the morning, they deliver in the evening – or you can pick up from their house in EH. Yum Yum.

Back at base we had another homemade pizza for dinner and watched Hustlers. In other TV viewing this week, we’ve worked our way through Country Music by Ken Burns. It has the same solemn voiceover as his Vietnam War series, which is somewhat disconcerting. It’s also not Ken Burns, which I’d not realised.

Homemade Pizza!
Homemade Pizza!

Most of Saturday was spent with dad, who, armed with his chainsaw, chopped off the remaining branches of the fallen willow tree. My job was to stack the bigger logs to dry out for fire wood and to drag the small stuff was dragged to the old quarry for a future bonfire. Everything is too damp / green to burn at the moment. We did try!

Dad in the quarry with all the small stuff for a future bonfire
Dad in the quarry with all the small stuff for a future bonfire

As we come to the end of January, the snowdrops are multiplying, and some of the daffodil spears are sporting yellow buds. The peace and quiet is magic, the sheep across the road meander around their two fields and we watch the blue tits and robins on the new bird feeder. But despite all that, I ended the week feeling rather down in the dumps. Loneliness? A London ‘week’ ahead? Crashing down from the sociable high of hosting dad and Jean for lunch? Not sure.

But yes, weeknotes are going to be a Monday thing.

28 April 2020 Update: Easy access to my Herefordshire Week 004 photos on Flickr.

Herefordshire Week 003: Monday 13 – Sunday 19 January 2020

Another busy week of Sorting Stuff Out.

I think we both wish this stage was done and dusted, and that we could enjoy actually living here.

In no particular order here’s what the week held.

We found someone to come and clear the gutters. Chris from Cathedral Property Services turned up on time to take a look at the job and to give us a quote. He’s coming tomorrow [today!] to do the actual gutter clean.

Dad came over on Tuesday morning, in the rain, with two more bags of garden waste, and we fixed the fridge/freezer doors. Phil and I sorted out the extension cabling on Saturday. I cleaned the f/f on Sunday. We’ll turn it on on Monday!

Work week three went OK. The relentless rain and thick, thick cloud combined – I think – to make VOIP calls unworkable. Glad I have the work BlackBerry on hand as an alternative for making those direct and conference calls. I need to get better at ‘getting out of work on time’. It’s been 8pm finishes all this week.

I joined Wine Wednesday by phone and FaceTime. And, over the weekend, lined up Hazel and Catherine for an Easter visit. Brill!

On Thursday, in all the rain, we had a visit from the Western Power Tree assessor, who’d come to check how close to the power lines our trees are. Turns out they’re close enough to warrant a trim in the next few weeks. Not as close as the ones nearby that are regularly glowing mind you….

I’ve decided pre-work walks need to wait until early morning walks become viable. i.e. sunrise is earlier, and it’s lighter and warmer. I got out on Wednesday and Thursday, but once the temperature dropped Thursday night/Friday morning, I opted for mid-morning walks instead. Much safer underfoot.

Frosty Morning at Forty Acres

Highlight of the week was a day out in Hereford on Friday. After booking in for our “entertainment system” to be activated at the Nissan garage next Friday (turns out to be a more complicated job than we’d expected), we took boxes of stuff to the St Michael’s Hospice Holmer Road Home & Living Store / Warehouse, then toured the sheds on that stretch of the A49N. B&Q supplied a plug adaptor, mastic and a mastic gun – the door/window has a series of leaks along the top, Dunelm delivered a rimless sieve and a decent pepper grinder, Halfords provided a windscreen squeegee/scraper, de-icer, ice scraper, car washing liquid and recommended protective window washing/cleaning stuff, microfibre mitt.

We lunched, late, at The Beefy Boys (VG if you’re veggie/vegan, obviously VG if you’re not), then pottered around Hereford City Centre – Chapters Charity Bookshop, The Butter Market (discovered that the Fodder has a stall there where you can buy loose dry goods, there’s also a tasty looking deli, a coffee stand, a bakers, plus Timpsons, which is why we’d gone in there!), got cash (getting better at that!!), checked out Trekkit. Then back to The Old Market (aka the new shopping development, on the site of the old cattle market), for a coffee to pass the time before heading into the Odeon to watch Little Women. Then home…. via Waitrose – mainly for yoghurt so that we would have our first go with the Lakeland Yoghurt Maker on Saturday….

… which turned out to not be as nice and simple a process as the “bung it all in and switch it on” as the breadmaker. Sadly. Saturday morning’s “quick” go at our first batch required an hour or so prep – sterilizing the container, boiling the milk, allowing the milk to cool to 34C-42C. Our delayed trying out was due to the fact that you need a food thermometer to measure this temperature range, which we don’t have – have never had – and which the Lakeland online page/info doesn’t mention. We’d eventually managed to find a non-meat / non-jam food thermometer in the excellent Philip Morris & Son, on Widemarsh Street.

It didn’t help that Saturday was our first dry and sunny day here for over a week. A relief to be able to get outside and to stretch my legs, doing the Kerry’s Gate-Bacton-Abbey Dore walk before lunching in the conservatory. The first time I’d heard birds for a while, I realised. An afternoon of jobs – putting toys, surplus saucepans and flattened packing boxes into the roof, making cardboard filing dividers for dad’s desk, putting pictures away in the guest room wardrobe, catching up on computing and paperwork. We had a technicolor sunset at the end of the day too. Magic. And Ad Astra with pizza à la Phil for Saturday film night dinner.

Forty Acres - Kerry's Gate - Bacton - Abbey Dore Walk
Robin: Forty Acres – Kerry’s Gate – Bacton – Abbey Dore Walk
Skirrid Sunset
Skirrid Sunset

The spectacular sunset presaged a cold, cold night, and another day of clear blue skies, and sunny cold. Thick frost on the grass this morning, and icy roads as we discovered walking down to the Abbey. I spent the next few hours panicking about having to drive into town this afternoon and coming back again after dark. Even as we sat roasting in the conservatory. It all worked out fine. Phew. What will it be like once we get into proper minus temperatures…..? We’d spent the morning lugging garden waste to “mower turn”, and the fallen willow tree cuttings to the bonfire. Hot work.

Settling into Forty Acres: The fallen willow tree
Settling into Forty Acres: The fallen willow tree

The ponds are frozen. More snowdrops are coming through, and daffodil spears.

Second highlight of the week – our postman delivering a parcel for us while we were out, and leaving a message telling us where to find another item of post that wouldn’t fit through the letter box.

And looking through my diary, which doubles as my To Do List, and the photos I’m just getting up onto Flickr, I see that on Monday I did more sorting out in the kitchen – cleaned the chutney and jam store cupboard, pared down the frying pan and saucepan collection, reorganised what’s where on the worktop, decided which of the books on the bookshelf I’d like to keep and took down and photographed the pictures, paintings and plates that aren’t our style …. and went through my and Tom’s joint lego collection putting it into bags of the “same sorts of stuff”.

Forty Acres Plates
Forty Acres Plates: Nana Doris’ Welsh Ladies. Play spot the difference….
Lego sorting in progress

So, we really have got through a huge amount this week. Roll on week 4 – let the enjoyment commence! I need to take a leaf out of Phil’s book and get going on joining local groups to meet people. That’s No. 1 task for today.

28 April 2020 Update: Easy access to my Herefordshire Week 003 photos on Flickr.

Herefordshire Week 002: Monday 06 – Sunday 12 January 2020

Another week of slowly sorting things out here in Herefordshire. The snowdrops are out.

Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops: Snowdrops
Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops

Monday’s job was to convert the dining room into the TV snug. A success. We moved the dining table and chairs into the “hallway”, and now have a large table where things come to rest. In time I’m hoping it will be a nice place for a leisurely breakfast looking out over the trees and what we euphemistically call “the rose garden”. We also cleared some of the sideboard – jigsaws will go to dad and Jean for their jigsaw swapshop; toys will go to the St Michael’s Hospice Warehouse, which we are planning to visit tomorrow (Monday). All the glassware remains, ready for the Annual Birthday Party in March.

Tuesday saw an early morning start to return the hire car to Enterprise. The A465 morning rush hour traffic jam started at Belmont and continued to the Asda roundabout. We had a couple of hours to use before our rendezvous with dad-the-taxi, which we spent fruitfully in B&Q, Waitrose, Curry’s and Wilko. The range of opening hours resulted in much walking alongside traffic on the A49. You can see why people drive. The price for our taxi back out to Forty Acres was to help dad load the trailer with garden waste and to transport it to the cottage compost heap. Most of the cuttings were from a bay tree, so I kept a few sprigs to dry the leaves for cooking with.

Settling into Forty Acres: Morning sun on Ewyas Harold Common
Settling into Forty Acres: Morning sun on Ewyas Harold Common

Tuesday afternoon was our first experience working from our new home; and my first real working from home ever. So far so good.

I’m lucky enough to be able to continue my existing part-time pattern – Tuesday afternoons, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Phil’s an experienced remote worker, but for me it’s a new experience. Most of the time I’m working with people in other countries anyway, so it’s not vastly different other than in terms of my working environment. I’ve booked my trains for my first week back in London – I’m going back roughly once a month to join our global team video conference call and for other key events. I see these return visits as being akin to the Keeping In Touch days people have when they are on maternity/paternity leave. I don’t think I’ll mind working in greater isolation – I’m not a very sociable person at work, at least in terms of seeking out chats, coffees etc. If anything I can get too engrossed in my work. I could do with more occasional interruptions to get up and move about a bit more. One thing I know already is that I’m going to get a better office chair.

One big question about working remotely has been whether we can get a good enough internet connection. It’s essential for both of us to do our jobs, and our part of Herefordshire is still waiting for Fastershire to arrive. The roll out was due to start in Q4 2019 (and was due to start then ever since we’ve been planning to move here – a good 18 months). Phil emailed for an update (we’ve both signed up for updates but none has ever arrived) and – surprisingly – got a response. We’re now scheduled to start Q1/Q2 2020. We’ll see….. Let’s hope it’s not a Crossrail schedule. For now we have 4G wifi courtesy of Three, and although it’s a bit patchy at times, it seems workable.

Tuesday’s trip to Curry’s provided the Roku Streaming Stick Plus TV plug-in. The cottage has no TV aerial, and we’ve zero reception. So, we’re saying au revoir to broadcast TV and moving over to 100% streaming – downloading and iPlayer-etc-ing. This week’s telly viewing comprised Dracula, Jonestown and Wisting.

Wednesday and Thursday were work-focussed; so much so that on Wednesday I totally missed Wine Wednesday. Hazel and Catherine sent me a photo – I do miss them! I was rarely the first to arrive at Bow Lane Wine Vaults, but if this week was anything to go by I really need to reestablish the WW finishing work deadline!

This week we also worked out our morning walk / run alternatives. I’ve a well established route from the Barbican to the London Eye and back, finetuned to last just over an hour, AKA 1 x In Our Time + 1 x The Allusionist in podcast listening terms. Before starting work on Wednesday and Thursday, and on Friday morning, I tried a few options for my early morning walk, Herefordshire-style. Headtorch on. The route to the Abbey and back proved relatively busy; the route to Kerry’s Gate, down to Riverdale and back proved much quieter – and hilly, which is good. Friday morning’s walk came with a technicolour sunrise and a massive moon, mewling buzzards and darting hedge sparrows. Magic. That’s the one.

Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops
Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops: Sunrise

With dad’s taxi service, we picked up the car on Friday – it’s a 10 year old Nissan Note, roomy for four tall people and plenty of space in the boot – and spent the rest of the day with dad, taking stuff to the tip and ferrying the fridge/freezer and washing machine dad and Jean had acquired for us back to the cottage. A lot of manual labour today!! More so for Phil and my dad to be honest. That done, Phil and I moved the remaining spare bed out of my office and into his more spacious office. And sorted the bedding. There’s a lot of bedding here…. much of it destined for the St Michael’s Hospice Charity Warehouse.

Saturday started with a wet walk, down to Quarrels Green and on to Upper/Lower Jury Farms, along the “main road” to the crossroads and back via Wellfield and The Foxes.

The rest of the day was dedicated to sorting out the kitchen, which was always going to be a mammoth task. As Phil says, this house is where things go when new stuff is bought so there is a vast collection of crockery, cookware, pots and pans – not all of which is required (or desired). Lots more things went into the charity shop boxes. We need dad and Jean to come and decide what they want to keep. They both say “get rid of everything” but I think our “everything” is rather more ruthless and widespread than maybe they’d expected. But that’s OK. Another of the tricky things has been working out where to have things, like where’s the best place for the kettle / tea / coffee etc, and where’s the best place for the breadmaker (and all its ingredients). I reckon we will be rejigging things for a while yet. We’ve confessed to moving the cutlery drawer….. And repurposing the main bin for recycling…..

Sunday – more kitchen clearance, plus our first weekly shop at Aldi and Sainsbury’s – where our amateur status was revealed by the want of a pound coin for a shopping trolley – plus a trip to Newtown Motors aka Hereford Nissan, to suss out getting the radio etc activated in our car. Then on to The New Barn for Sunday lunch with dad and Jean, and our Abbey Dore neighbours Peter and Suzy. Top tips on local hairdressers (Lucy’s in Peterchurch) and Thai Home Delivery from Sunanta’s Thai Kitchen in Ewyas Harold – two things we struggled with in the Barbican! Phil did the drive home.

Settling into Forty Acres: Our car!
Settling into Forty Acres: Our car!

Weatherwise we’ve had a lot of rain (with more to come). Turns out we need to get the gutters cleared. So far we’ve had no joy in finding someone to do them. That’s a job for next week. Friday and Sunday were lovely sunny days with beautiful blue skies. Gorgeous. I am looking forward to having finished all the “jobs” and relaxing / enjoying the area a bit more…..

To follow our progress moving to the country, check my Herefordshire Week Notes here each Monday. Phil is doing his version too. If photos suffice, mine are on Flickr: Adieu London; Hello Herefordshire.

(Don’t tell anyone, but I can hear mouse size scamperings in the roof…..)

28 April 2020 Update: Easy access to my Herefordshire Week 002 photos on Flickr.