yum!

It’s the first day I’ve felt properly recovered from last weekend’s vaccination, and able to do things. I’m celebrating with a raspberry flan, using nearly the last of the home-grown raspberries frozen last summer.

raspberry flan

Chilly !

Outside temperature barely rose to just below zero C in late-morning sun, but it’s now cloudy and the temperature is dropping again, towards the -4 to -7 predicted for tonight. The central heating has been struggling today!  It doesn’t really do quite enough to reach the 23-25C I need during the daytime if I’m not active, seem9ing to top out around 22C. So I lit the woodburner an hour ago, and things are now pleasantly cosy.

final batch

Today was the final batch of marmalade. The first and third batches turned out fine, with no problems. The second batch – identical oranges, identical recipe – took a great deal of boiling before it would set, so is much darker than the other two batches. Seems to taste OK, though.

That’s 16 jars, one of which I’ve already started, and one of which will go to Mum (at her request).

jars of marmalade on table

indoor flowers

The paperwhite narcissus in the bulb vase is now in full flower. As a single plant it’s not massively impressive, but nice to see, anyway.

The second batch of forsythia is now fully out, and I cut a third batch which is in the cool front room, to be ready when the second batch starts to drop.

Upstairs, the amaryllis in the bathroom is sadly just about over. It never lasts long, but is a splendid post-Christmas treat.

paperwhite narcissus

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forsythia blossom

not a brilliant week, so far

Last weekend, Mum went into hospital with very low blood oxygen (88%), which after investigation turned out to be due to fluid on her lungs. After three days on supplementary oxygen, she came out yesterday, but it’s unclear if the problem has been resolved.

Monday saw the start of roofers working next door – Rupert and Abby are having their roof entirely replaced. I don’t think mine needs doing (I rather hope not, at a cost of over £5,000!) – my suspicion is that theirs got upset when the previous owners converted the attic. Much loud banging and use of power tools with noise travelling down the walls – though one of the younger roofers was just cute enough to be worth occasionally watching, even swaddled up against the winter weather.

However, the front shared chimney was in a state. After a couple of discussions with Rupert and the senior roofing guy (who says he’s a former structural engineer), we decided that as neither of us uses the fireplaces this chimney serves, it should be reduced in height by seven courses and capped off. Dodgy /fallen out-of-use TV aerials to be removed, of course. My half of this work is several hundred unexpected pounds …

marmalade marathon

Day one of a three-day marmalade marathon! It has to be spread out, as my biggest mixing bowl only just holds 4 litres plus peel plus pith to soak overnight. And my big muslin square seems to have vanished! But my grandmother often used a pillowcase as a jellybag … so I’ve done likewise (after putting it through the washing machine, with no soap powder!)

24 Seville Oranages, 5 lemons

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Bowl of zest, juice, water

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pillowcase as jellybag

sign of spring

I’ve been off Facebook for three weeks or so, and avoiding contact – a bad depressive episode has floored me. I’m now starting to poke my head above the parapet again, rather cautiously.

It’s one of my personal rituals to bring forsythia indoors on New Year’s Day: I’ve been doing it for over 30 years now. This morning, the first buds opened, bringing a sense of moving forward towards spring. Upstairs, the amaryllis flowers have opened on the bathroom windowsill. I’m pleased with this one – it’s the 7th year its blossomed for me.

Quarter of an hour in the garden this afternoon – the first time this year it hasn’t been frozen solid! Thecages over the kale and chard, which had been flattened by snow, have been sorted out. I’ve also planted (more in hope than expectation) some byzantine gladioli that I got last spring – they’re supposed to need to be frosted, so here’s hoping!

forsythia flowers opening

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amaryllis flower

New Year’s Eve

It’s been distinctly chilly here for the past few days. We had a bit of snow in the afternoon of 28th, which settled. A little bit more snow early on 29th – when I got up, the nespero tree was bent double (literally, the crown touching the ground) under the weight, but it soon recovered when I went out and shook it off. Snow turning to sleet on 30th, but little of the snow melted.

the first of the snow
the first batch of snow

I’d been due an Ocado delivery on 28th – rather a large one (nearly £250), partly because I’d managed to run out of assorted expensive items (olive oil, etc) at the same time, partly making sure I’m fully stocked in case of Brexit disruptions. However, as I wrote to my schoolmates group:

I was due a major food delivery today, from Ocado. I get two deliveries a month, regularly, and have done for the last seven years.

Last time there was snow on an Ocado day, things went fairly smoothly. I had a call from them, to say that the van had skidded off the road, but a replacement order would be issued and sent out with another driver, and would be about three hours after the booked time. It duly turned up, with a stunning-gorgeous and very apologetic driver – and I emailed Ocado to say “well done”.

We have about two inches of snow today. I had a phone call just after the end of the one-hour slot that the delivery was due, from the driver. He said “the roads are bad”, “there’s snow”, and he “had to get back to the depot”. As I usually pick an “environmentally-friendly” delivery slot when the van “is in the area”, I was profoundly unimpressed. The Ocado website continued to say that the delivery was on its way, but would be about 50 minutes late. After 90 minutes, I got a text to say that the delivery wouldn’t happen, but I could re-book on the website … the next date it offered me was not until 4th January!

The website then changed to say that they were unable to deliver today, please rebook.

I’m not a happy bunny! I rang Customer Services and was “rather firm” with the (very nice) lady there. She is currently trying to ring the depot, who are obviously being deluged with calls! She’ll call me back if/when there’s any news. I’ve said that I’m happy with a delivery this evening, or tomorrow, but 4th January is simply not acceptable.

I understand that the massive increase in on-line orders has stretched them considerably. I’m generally sympathetic to those experiencing unexpected problems. What I’m massively pissed off about is what seems to me to be a complete failure on the part of the driver and depot to attempt to sort out any useful way forward!

I am rapidly becoming a Grump(ier) Old Man.

Fortunately, Sandra from Customer Services rang back late afternoon, to say that they’d get to me between 9 and 12 on 29th. The driver rang at 10 on 29th, and delivered around 10.30. I’m very grateful, though a couple of items (especially bananas) were rather the worse for wear.

Today (31st – New Year’s Eve) is glorious sunshine, but the temperature hasn’t yet risen above zero, so there’s still lying snow, and the cold snap is forecast to continue for several days. I’ll light the stove shortly – since the sweep came a few days before Christmas, I’m much less worried about doing so! Tonight’s meal will be a roast duck (from frozen – originally bought a couple of months ago, when it was entirely unclear whether or not I’d be spending Christmas here in Worcester on my own). Roast spuds, parsnips, cavolo nero etc. Later will be a raspberry flan, using frozen home-grown berries from last summer’s glut.

The garden this morning:

garden with a bit of remaining snow

“amaryllis”

I’ve had this “amaryllis” since my first Christmas here, so it’s its seventh year. I was worried that it might decide not to blossom, as it put a lot of energy into making a baby (offset) bulb, which I took off and potted on last summer. However, two flower spikes are coming.

"amaryllis" with two flower spikes starting

dendrobium

In the winter absence of “flowers from the garden”, I’ve put an orchid (dendrobium) on the coffee table, where it’s catching a fleeting ray of sunshine.
It’s a descendant of the one my brother sent me as a “moving in present” some nine years ago, when I first moved to Worcester.
dendrobium with white flowers