Herefordshire Week 221: Tuesday 19 – Monday 25 March 2024

London. Weekend visit and walking with JL.

Cat's Back, Hay Bluff & Olchon Valley: Starting down the Olchon Valley
Cat’s Back, Hay Bluff & Olchon Valley: Starting down the Olchon Valley

Tuesday took us from Pontrilas’  Golden Valley gym in the morning to The Lucky Pig Cocktail Bar in London’s Fitzrovia in the evening, via GWR HFD-PAD. 148th Birthdays celebrated, Phil and I headed back to our London base: Hub by Premier Inn just off TCR, handily only 10 mins walk each way.

Fizz-rovia 24 Cocktail
Fizz-rovia 24 Cocktail

After an al fresco breakfast at Lantana we spent Wednesday morning pottering around Fitzrovia, Oxford Street, Piccadilly, Covent Garden and Soho, with stops at St James’s Church for a nice coffee and pastry and Tonkotsu on Dean St for lunch before spending the afternoon sat in two of Curzon Soho’s large  comfy chairs watching Dune: Part Two on the big screen with the big surround sound.

Coffee, St James, Piccadilly
Coffee, St James, Piccadilly

Back to the Premier Inn for a speedy turnaround then back out for me, and the number 8 bus to Cheapside for Wine Wednesday with H, R&J. Sadly we are no longer welcomed with open arms at the revamped and renamed BLWV, so we settled into a booth at The Saint sort of next door. Somewhat souless but at least they were happy to let us buy a bottle of wine. Then on to Zizzi in One New Change to make the most of Hazel’s 25% off offer. Surprisingly quiet. Central Line back to the Hub.

Not a great night’s sleep so it was nice to emerge from the hotel to a bright sunny morning. Breakfast at Riding House Cafe. Even with a booking, we initially got sat at a cramped fire exit bistro table where one of us would have sat with the sun in their eyes and the till at their shoulder. We managed to get moved to a much quieter, larger shady table,with excellent street watching. Handy as we did wait quite a while for breakfast to arrive, and only after the server had tried to deliver a surplus granola and then offered the mismatched pair of breakfast orders to all the other tables around us.

Down to Oxford St M&S for a rather disspiriting “jeans or other trousers that fit” shopping experience, before walking west to Paddington and catching our train home to Hereford. With an unwanted change of trains at Great Malvern. GWR maintains its stellar performance on cancelling the final three stops on the PAD-HFD direct service. Delay Repay on the January Sale tickets hardly compensates.

Gym on Friday, catch up with VP then home for admin, lunch in the toasty conservatory, apple chopping in readiness for a weekend crumble. Sunny outside but still squelchy underfoot. So no mow March continues.

Into Hereford on Saturday morning for bird peanuts and speedy spin around Lidl before collecting JL from the station. Back to base for lunch, then out around the roads to Tremorithic, with stops at St Faith’s church in Bacton and Dore Abbey in Abbey Dore en route. Ewes and lambs being moved into new fields opposite Abbey Dore Court. Boing! Sleet when we left, sunshine by the time we got home. Nice weather for a G&T in the conservatory before curry dinner.

Sunday was a lovely sunny day. Just right for the Cat’s Back, Hay Bluff & Olchon Valley with JL. The metal pillar at Hay Bluff remains A Mystery. Two pots of tea back home, then wine and crisps with the log stove on followed by Mexican wraps for dinner.

Cat's Back, Hay Bluff & Olchon Valley: Mysterious metal pillar at Hay Bluff
Cat’s Back, Hay Bluff & Olchon Valley: Mysterious metal pillar at Hay Bluff

Rain resumed on Monday morning. Into Hereford to show JL the sights and to visit the Cathedral and the Mappa Mundi and Chained Library. Always magical to be transported back to the Mediaval Marches. Waved off JL on the train to Newport, then over to dad and Jean’s, then B&Q to buy 18mm hardwood plywood for my DIY desk, cut to size. Tea and cake back at Winchester, then home – without plywood as it’s too big to fit into the Panda. Dad will deliver.

Buds and blossom. Birds darting into hedges. Tiny lambs out in the field at Dorelands. Boing!!

It’s the time of year when, in future years, I’ll be enjoying Simon Armitage’s lovely poem, Folk Song:

By Monday, bluebells and violets are flowering thick and fast, the first cowslips have appeared and there are more tulips and daffodils outside on the verge. Leaf buds are unfurling into bright green leaves on the hawthorns and the crabapple tree. Lots of blossom on the wild plums.

TV:  Shōgun, What We Do In The Shadows, 3 Body Problem

Podcasts: Gone Mediaeval, The Today Podcast, Americast, Anglo-Saxon England

Audiobook: The Last Devil to Die – Richard Osman (read by Fiona Shaw)

Photos: Herefordshire week 221 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2024-03-24.

Herefordshire Week 213: Tuesday 23 – Monday 29 January 2024

Hello ZOE!

Hello ZOE!
Hello ZOE!

Quite a week, what with a trip to London for our wedding anniversary, dinner with the old LW KM crowd, the MMRR (St Andrews) meet up and brunch with K&P as well.

And not one but two marmalade making marathons…..

Tuesday’s highlight was the delivery of our “new” (second hand, 1 previous owner) Renault ZOE EV.

Big thanks to We Are EV in Bristol who drove it over to us on the same day as Storm Jocelyn arrived. Just enough time for Phil to take it for a spin before lunch.

Spent the afternoon prepping eBay posts, reading and lolling on the sofa watching more of The Winter King.

Gym first thing Wednesday then back to gather the storm debris – only small branches and twigs, which I wheelbarrowed to the bonfire.

After a late lunch I got stuck into making grapefruit marmalade, producing only a measly 2 ½ jars….  Plus I had a few minutes thinking I’d broken the new microwave (in a similar fashion to breaking the old one) but thankfully it returned to life after 15 mins or so. I reckon it must have overheated. In the meantime I’d transferred the marmalade-in-the-making into my blue enamel Le Creuset pan which did the job beautifully.

Grapefruit Marmalade prep in progress
Grapefruit Marmalade prep in progress

More of The Mullet Winter King before tea and telly.

Thursday was the start of our London mini break. Drive to Abergavenny, TfW train to Newport, GWR train to Paddington. Caught up with RLS over a late lunch in an Iraqi cafe.

No. 205 bus to Angel Islington. Walk to the Hub by Premier Inn, Clerkenwell (what a mouthful). Check in and settle in.

Walk 3 mins to Farringdon, catch up with Tom. Walk with P to Spitalfields via Fortune St and the old Waitrose. Broadgate Circle heaving with after work drinkers.

Lovely dinner with LW KM colleagues at Ottolenghi. Walk back to the Hub via Barbican Tunnel and Smithfield.

Friday started in a more leisurely fashion with a 9am breakfast at the Hub. Walked under blue skies to KX to catch the Victoria Line to Walthamstow Central and then walked to the Williams Morris Gallery. North east London still provides surprises.

William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow
William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow

No. 55 bus from Walthamstow Central to Theobalds Road – E17, E10, E5, E8, E9, E2, E1, EC1, WC1 – and to the Brunswick Centre to watch The Holdovers at the Curzon Cinema.

We walked back to the hotel as dusk fell for a bit of a rest, then headed back out again at 7 o’clock to catch the No. 19 bus to Soho for dinner at Bocca di Lupo. Surrounded by the London Rich. We walked back to Clerkenwell.

Out for dinner at Bocca Di Lupo
Out for dinner at Bocca Di Lupo

Disappointing Saturday morning breakfast at Gail’s on Exmouth Market – no marmalade option to go on toast! Strawberry jam does not cut it, people! Good size cup of coffee mind you.

Walked to Moorgate M&S to buy tasty treats for lunch before catching the No. 344 to CJ chatting with a fellow Best Seats On The Bus Bagging couple for part of the journey. Then a lovely day at the MMRR Meet Up hosted by M featuring a multitude of tasty treats, a lot of wine, a walk around Clapham Common and H joining us for the evening session.

Lovely long lie in on Sunday morning before meeting up with P&K for brunch at Caravan Exmouth Market and then walking and talking as we made our way west through the back streets. At Oxford Circus P&K headed home and we carried on to Paddington. A short sit outside in a small park, then into the station to settle in on the train and starting our journey home to Herefordshire.

Early start Monday to be ready for our 7am Sainsbury’s delivery – the three bags of marmalade oranges were all present and correct! Hurrah! Let the marmalade making begin….

Did some admin (including finally getting confirmation that HMRC had received my self assessment payment. The one I’d set up  on 19 Jan…) then drove the cars to Ewyas Harold to drop off the Panda for a service etc, and I had my first drive of the Zoe on Our Roads on the way back. So far, so good.

I dedicated the rest of the day to My Monday Marmalade Making Marathon, resulting in 25 medium size jars made using the always reliable Denton Family Recipe.

Monday Marmalade Making Marathon - Preparing Batch 1, Set 2
Monday Marmalade Making Marathon – Preparing Batch 1, Set 2
Monday Marmalade Making Marathon - Batch 1, Big Al Pan Set - Seven Medium Jars
Monday Marmalade Making Marathon – Batch 1, Big Al Pan Set – Seven Medium Jars

In the garden, the snowdrops are coming out in droves and the aconites are multiplying down by the small pond.


TV:  This Is Us, The Winter King.

Podcasts: The Today Podcast, Political Thinking with Nick Robinson, Tweet of the Day, Anglo-Saxon England , Gone Mediaeval, The Rest is Entertainment, In Our Time.

Photos: Herefordshire week 213 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2024-01-28.

Herefordshire Week 208: Tuesday 19 – Monday 25 December 2023

Countdown to Christmas, over to Essex, speedy side trip to London, a fab Christmas Dinner from Phil, and a Christmas cold (but not COVID).

Christmas at Battersea Power Station
Christmas at Battersea Power Station

Woke up late again on Tuesday, and a bit down in the dumps / listless. Gloomy inside and out. Did weeknotes and prepped the blogpost titles for 2024, 2025 and 2026 (I still love spreadsheets), watched a squirrel carrying a windfall apple across the front lawn (needed a lot of stopping, dropping,  rebiting and resuming), did a bit of packing and wrapping for Essex and enrolled onto a couple of short courses at Herefordshire, Ludlow and North Shropshire College, got the log stove going and did more pre-handover LRB reading.

It’s a cliche, but doing some exercise brought back my oomph on Wednesday morning. We delivered the local Christmas cards early afternoon and when we got back I decided there was time before teatime to make mince pies.

Making mince pies
Making mince pies

Very tasty they were too! Last VWW of the year then tea and telly in the evening. En route I topped up the screen wash and the antifreeze / coolant in the car ahead of Friday’s drive to Essex.

Thursday was a windy day. The morning featured the last class at the gym for 2023, checking the tyre pressures on the Panda, applying WD40 to the irritating squeaky clutch (in vain), hair wash and clothes wash, cleaning the clogged filter coffee machine (fingers crossed). Packed and prepped in the afternoon then we walked down the lane for Christmas wine, crisps and catch up with TJL.

Up early on Friday – still gusty outdoors – for the drive to Essex. The motorway route got us there in about 4 1/2 hours, with a break at Rugby Moto services and a worrying, rhythmic clunk under the car as we crawled towards the Braintree roundabout …. gulp.

Late lunch at J&J’s, hello to Pippa the cat, the train to LST and tube down to Battersea Power Station to rendezvous with H for the David Hockey light projection, Christmas lights and cocktails and Dinner at Dishoom. No sore heads 🙂

David Hockney Christmas animation at Battersea Power Station
David Hockney Christmas animation at Battersea Power Station

Sleepless night Friday / Saturday worrying about the car. Chatted with P and decided to park the potential problem until after Christmas. Tube and train to Wivenhoe via Moorgate M&S for post-Christmas treats.

Lovely and sunny in Wivenhoe. I stocked up on overnight supplies from Co-op and treated myself to a Mincemeat Roll from the Norwegian Bakery stall on my way back for Christmas Eve Breakfast.

Lazy afternoon instead of the walk I felt I ought to be doing. Nice catch ups with Tom and dad. Then got the telly going and settled on the sofa upstairs: polished off Vigil season 2 (obvious whodunnit once I thought about it), followed by Imagine… Russell T Davies: The Doctor and Me (lovely).

Sundown in Wivenhoe
Sundown in Wivenhoe

Did a precautionary COVID test on Sunday morning, which came back negative, so I was OK to catch the train back to Witham (£9.20 for 20 mins). P met me at the station and we strolled into town for a coffee then back to base along the River Walk nipping into Morrisons to finish. Should have been wearing our Christmas Jumpers, or PJs, or Onesies….

My Christmas Cold got the better of me for the rest of the day, which I spent snoozing on / in bed while Phil did Christmas Dinner prep downstairs with periodic checkins and food and drink delivery to the invalid upstairs.

Monday. Christmas Day. Lovely to hear the church bells ring out at 9am. Leisurely breakfast in the lounge, present opening, family phone calls and emails. Christmas Dinner, a little after 1 o’clock, was a triumph over kitchen adversity on Phil’s part: turkey crown, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, roast carrots, sprouts, stuffing, bread sauce and cranberry sauce.

Ghosts Christmas special and grande finale for evening telly. I, for one, got a bit tearing saying farewell to the gang.

Three sheep materialised in Kiln Field. We three sheep of orient are?

TV: Fleishman is in Trouble, (finished off), Only Murders In The Building (alright but not amazing), Vigil (wrapped up series 2), Imagine … Russell T Davies: The Doctor and Me.

Podcasts: The History of England, The Memory Palace, The Rest is Entertainment, A History of Rock in 500 Songs (Phil’s choice on the drive over – Good one!), Hooked on Freddie, In Our Time , History Extra, Being Roman with Mary Beard, The Reunion (Band Aid 1984), The Wombles the the Rescue, Gone Mediaeval (chanced upon on a Cnut Quest) <— a lot of these were sleepless nights worrying about the car, and while resting to try to get rid of my cold quicker.

Photos: Herefordshire week 208 on Flickr, once I’ve tagged them 🙂

Phil: Fortnight-Notes to come…. Voilà! f/e 2023-12-31.

Herefordshire Week 205: Tuesday 28 November 2023 – Monday 04 December 2023

Week 205.

All being well, I’m back from Nepal and had a brilliant trek to Kangchenjunga & over Lumba Sumba with Val Pitkethly Mingmi.

December, eh….

05 Dec 2023: Update: Yep, I’m home, after a week that took me from the sunny hills above Kathmandu to the damp, grey skies of Herefordshire. But I’m home!!!

Settling in....
Settling in….

Tuesday and Wednesday I was still in Kathmandu. A relaxing morning at the Chharari Retreat on Tuesday then back to the Marshyangdi and Thamel. Treated Mingmi and Tenzee to a falafel wrap lunch, then shopped. Met Annick for dinner at the New Orleans, Mandala Street. Tiredness catching up with us all.

Wednesday was our last full day in Nepal and was earmarked for three things: indulging in the Hotel Marshyangdi buffet breakfast (the fresh fruit in particular), shopping and dinner with M&T’s family. We managed two out of three. The last didn’t happen, and put a big damper on the whole trip.

Thursday was the long flight back to the UK. An early start thanks to Qatar bringing our KTM-DOH flight forward by 2 hours, and a corresponding longer layover in Doha’s Hamad International Airport – home of the $9 coffee and $25 curling cornered sandwich…..

Perishing cold in London. Thankfully the Gresham Hotel was only a short, cold, walk from Paddington train station and was warm and snug. M&S “bits” for “supper” (not a term I usually use), eyelids held open with metaphorical matchsticks. Then sleep.

We’d got up at 4.30am Nepal time and were in bed 10.30pm UK time = a 23 hour 45 minute day = Knackered and a headache.

I slept better than expected and only really woke up around 7am on Friday morning. Breakfast in the basement – very efficient and ruthlessly clean, these ladies could teach Tumlingtar’s squalid Hotel Makalu a thing or two! – took me back to the one and only visit to London I had as a child – I can still picture the poppy wallpaper and recall my amazement at a Dining Room being deep in the depths, and with no windows.

Trundled back to PAD for our respective GWR trains home, mine on the overcrowded 09.52 through the frosty fields to Herefordshire.

Last leg ..... almost
Last leg ….. almost

Phil met me at Hereford station and we headed home for a late lunch of homemade fresh bread, a cheese board, hummus and carrots. All my meal dreams come true.

And in the evening, pizza!

Friday Night Pizza!
Friday Night Pizza!

Saturday and Sunday featured lots of unpacking and washing and computer admin. Caught up with T & L for a couple of hours on a wet Sunday afternoon. Saturday started cold and frost and stayed cold and frosty all day.

Frosty morning, Forty Acres
Frosty morning, Forty Acres

Monday was mostly admin, including doing my tax return – woo hoo – and Christmas present wrangling.

Lots of sparrows back on the bird feeders. Lots of squirrels in the garden. Lots of finally fallen leaves. And a leaf mulch bin, courtesy of my lovely husband!

Leaf mulching
Phil’s photo – Leaf mulching

TV: Beckham (guilty pleasure, but it is a pleasure!), The Bear (season 1 – not sure it’s my thing), Grand Designs (Series 23, Episode 9: South Herefordshire), Andor.

Podcasts: Anglo-Saxon England

Audiobook: Mrs England – Stacey Halls

Photos: Herefordshire week 205 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2023-12-03.