Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Last Day of Annual Leave:Booze Ban Jan. and Diet, Day 12...

Tomorrow I'll be back at the Hole-Making Shop, carefully making holes under the watchful gaze of Past-Master Guild members. Actually, I'm on indirect supervision now, so rarely bother my superiors unless the material presents in an awkward way.

Today, however, was FUN!

After the now usual (and soon to be sadly curtailed) sleep-in, I spent a merry morning at the lock fishing some very large lumps of wood out of the oggin.

Two substantial logs, what looks like an inattentive boat owner's gang plank and another less substantial plank had been washed against the sluices at the weir by the recent strong stream. (The river is in spate as a result of snow-melt, rain and The Cam Conservancy lowering the river above Jesus Lock to carry out some maintenance). A fair bit of pushing and shoving of the various bits was required, (using a punt pole similarly salvaged from the Cam last summer) to manouvre them to the shore where they could be grabbed. Having safely squirreled my salvage away in Pippin's Stealth Woodpile, I returned to the boat with that satisfied 'job done, good effort/result' feeling, even if I WAS perspiring rather freely, in the way that rather overweight middle-age blokes do when pressed to unaccustomed and hard exercise.

Time? 12.00 noon.

As I sat, steaming gently while I recovered with a restorative glass, (of fizzy water, before you ask) She Who Instigated the Diet informed me that our favourite author, Jasper Fforde, was doing a book signing at Heffers in Cambridge, and could I be shaved , showered, changed and ready in twenty minutes?

No problem! (Once I'd got my breath back, at least...)

I have really enjoyed all of Jasper FForde's work, and the idea of actually meeting him in person was very appealing.

He did not disappoint. He must have been absolutely knackered, having returned from a promotional tour of the USA the day before, yet was a pleasure to meet. As he signed our books and had a bit of a chat, (as he did with all the people who had turned up to meet him and buy a copy of "Shades of Grey"), we both felt that 'here was a bloke you could sit and have a beer with': nothing of the haughty artiste, but a lively, engaged and engaging mind, clearly cradle to a superlative imagination and gift for story-telling.

Anyway, don't take my word for it, go out and read his books! Start with 'The Eyre Affair'.

This pleasing interlude concluded, Jackie and I crossed the road to a newly opened branch of the "Cote" chain of bistros for a treat.

Steak Frites!

Yes, yes, I know this doesn't quite fit in with the general idea of The Diet..... But it was Jackie's idea..... It would have been rude to say 'no'....And I paid.....

Actually, I didn't have my customary glass or two of Robust Red with it, so Booze Ban Jan. remains inviolate. Also, if you get to feeling martyred and resentful while eating a bit less, it normally means you're going to fall by the wayside permanently. I feel that one should, occasionally, and sparingly, apply the 'A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good' rule. Such was the case here, and the food and service were excellent. They are also open for breakfast, and fellow Fforde OFficianados please note, they do Eggs Benedict...........

As we left the restaurant, we saw Jasper Fforde again, and we spoke once more, briefly and pleasantly. I couldn't help but think that he cut a rather solitary figure, clutching a red wheelie suitcase as he waited for his a cab to Cambridge station and the next fixture, (a talk and signing in Norwich in the evening), and ponder that life is indeed tough on the road, whether you are acting, stage-managing, or an author promoting your latest work.

I do wish we could have bought him lunch........

Anyway, we put our brush with literary fame to one side in order to deal with the rather more pedestrian problem of What to Do With The Ashes.

No, I haven't developed a sudden interest in Anglo-Australian Test Cricket, and neither is there anything more sinister going on in the Covering up of Serious Crime department....

No, the ashes in question are those produced in copious quantity by our wood-burner.

We have been emptying the residue from the ash-pan into the otherwise unused coal scuttle before disposing of it. Problem is the amount of dust this creates, as some ashy dust always escapes and floats about, smokily, to the point at which it can even set off the fire alarm.

This is a proper drag. Also, it can get into the computer and require expensive cleaning.......So, while in Cambridge, we went in seach of a solution.

After much trolling about from shop to shop, we lit upon the answer in British Home Stores. We now have a snazzy blue enamel bread bin with a close fitting lid which will soon have the word 'Bread' on the side replaced with 'Ashes' (or perhaps 'Cenerentola'!!.....but then again, perhaps not.....)

We've tried it and it works!!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Fen Tiger? Siberian perhaps....

James and Amy's blog mentions the apparent reappearance of The Fen Tiger.

Some interesting tracks appeared recently across our snow-covered and ice-bound inlet:

It's either the tiger, Tom Kitten having a touch of the Torville and Deans, or Miss Havisham's nemesis, Big Martin, or friend, The U.A of W Cat. (If this means nothing to you, see Jasper Fforde's series of books about the adventures of Literary Detective Thursday Next....)

The ice is still about an inch and a half thick, so Pippin isn't going anywhere soon.

Actually, we should be able to break out if things get desperate pump-out wise, as the ice has melted around all the boats in our little lagoon, so breaking it up wouldn't cause any damage to our or our neighbours blacking. But we're in no rush presently, so best to let nature and the warmer (?!) weather take it's course.

I've been busy in the wood pile as I'm on annual leave. (Hey, it's the nearest thing I've got to a shed, okay?) Large logs have been split into usable sizes, kindling has been made and many calories burned (Yes, Booze Ban Jan. has arrived with a vengeance.....).

I also managed to import this hibernating creature into the warmth of Pippin's interior, where it promptly woke up:

It was carefully captured and returned to winter storage in the wood pile. Lovely to see a reminder, if not exactly a harbinger, of Spring.

A Serengeti moment.........

Not quite a lone lion stalking a herd of Thompson's Gazelle, but we are in the grip of a recession.............