The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Extension Part 13

While I was away the grey-water drain was dug. I was warned to be careful walking up the path on Monday night...

The piping was then laid on gravel and Craig from building controls came round on Tuesday to check the joints were air tight.

Today the trench has been refilled, so we now have a soil path through the lawn above the pipes.

I spent a lot of time yesterday playing with my Geoff Hamilton 3D Garden Designer coming up with something that fits in with the requirements of lowering the ground level at the back of the house but raising it up at the wall at the back. So, steps at the corner of the house/wall to a large raised vegetable patch with a retaining wall, with a small bed in front of it. Another raised bed along the side wall between us and Margarets, which also does not have very deep foundations. A little more fiddling today when I realised I had not got the sunroom in quite the right position. Alan was quite impressed when I handed over the plan at lunchtime.

This morning the sunroom has been filled with cement, which was then 'polished' this afternoon.

Mark will be back tomorrow to lay another couple of layers of bricks and then the joiners will take over.

BMSC 2008

I got to Allan's at just gone nine on the Friday and we got on the road proper about half an hour later after stopping for a get-well card for one of Allan's neighbours and then for petrol, and a diversion towards Morrison's when Allan was on auto-pilot. We tried a new route - A1, M62, a change of plan around Manchester via M56 before the last stretch on the M6 arriving about six hours later.

I spent the evening clearing my cardbox and then had a couple of drinks in the bar before getting a reasonably early night. Breakfast, followed by more studying and watching the Olympics in my room the following morning before ambling across to the playing area for the main event.

I beat Barry Grossman, who is one of my bogey players, in game 1. I was pleased to spot FURtHEs(T) on a blocked board.

I then came unstuck against Sandie Simonis in game 2.

Phil Appleby in game 3 and I opened with the only bonus from AADNPT?. Phil later blocked my bonus from ADENOSY plus a floating P, but there was still an N available to bonus around. The board was getting blocked when Phil played in ZENAId(A)S in the only available slot to get right back in the game. A neatly slotted H(E)MES for 51 sealed my victory.

I lost a low-scoring battle against Martin Harrison in game 4.

Game 5 against Peter Thomas, who opened with QAT, and I was pleased to spot one of the two possible 7s from ABIILR?. Peter decided on his second move to forgo the easy 7s in favour of NORM(AL)ISE. I bonused again on move 3 with UNEDI(B)LE and I should have bonused again on move 5 but played a phony, getting it right on move 6 from AAILNST. A late bonus of (S)ORBITEs from Peter and we were into an endgame. EGNRRTW and I could play out in 2 with WR(I)T and REN(I)G to win.

Game 6 v David Webb. I changed on my opening rack of no vowels, keeping RS and picked IOSST. David opened with ZEE and I spent a lot of time deciding what to play, eventually opting for OS rather than SOS. RETINAE from David, IR(I)SATES from me as a 4x, following it with EXO(50), VIOLA(T)ER (76) and Qu(I)N (66) which was enough to secure the win.

End of day 1, and 4-2.

A dream game against Ross Mackenzie, who has beaten me more than his fair share of times in the past. I opened with TUTENAG and got three other bonuses in the game (REMA(R)KED, CONGEES and REtAILS after Ross made an opening on a very blocked board).

Game 9 v Paul Allan. Paul spent over 5 minutes on his opening move before exchanging one tile. I had been staring at DIIOOPP and plonked down PIOPIO. Paul held for about 3 minutes before challenging. Another wait and then he just dumped an O. Maybe a new record there of only playing one tile after 10 minutes off the clock. I now had 6 consonants but dumped H(O)LM. Paul bonused with (P)INDAREE. ABODE parallel from me to restricted the 9x. WIZ from Paul for 70, but I hit back with GElATIN parallel to ABODE for 90 to retake the lead. tARTARS from Paul on move 7 from j1d, and I had LORRIES for 65 open up a second 9x but opted for S(NEE)RIER instead for 72 and remove potential disaster from the K. It was now nip-and-tuck to the finishing line. I had mis-tracked somewhere and was I little surprised when Paul played (A)XMEN, thinking the 2 unseen vowels were A and O. However, a quick check and HFF were definitely unseen and nowhere for Paul to play all 3, which was all I needed to ensure victory on countback.

Game 10 v Nick Deller. A new smart Nick Deller in shirt and tie, with fashion statement trainers :) I hit first with a bonus on move 2 (PROETTE). Nick retook the lead on move 4 with UBIE(T)iEs for 82. I could only balance with UTU, but hit back with WOOLIER the following move. Consecutive moves of (C)ZARINA (57), AMNIOTE (65) and FLESH (51) was more than enough to counter Nick's IND(O)RSEE and block a 64-point QI play, letting him have 38 instead.

And then the wheels fell off. I lost the next 5 games without really doing anything wrong. I felt I was especially unlucky against Paloma when playing the Q making an opening onto the triple for a 5 letter word ending in I to be immediately hit with gHAZI for 89!

I took my revenge out on Steve Perry in the following game. He helped out with trying (U)RGENTEr...

And then on Graham Bonham, starting with AMItIES (AtIMIES is the only other bonus) and then ASS(I)EGED for 102. Another two bonuses later in the game to record my biggest win of the tourney, 526-304.

Terry Kirk next and another 500+ score, but Terry had not been slouching either. Even though I bonused on moves 1, 3 and 5 Terry had also bonused on moves 3 and 7. There was a danger spot for a 70+ Z play and I was very relieved when Terry, after a lot of soul-searching, played the Z elsewhere. A late ALIEN(A)TE from me killed the game, his bonus at the end just reducing the spread.

The last round was meant to be king-of-the-hill, but other than the top players was not. I pointed out that all the players on 10 wins were still in the running for the prizes and therefore should also be paired accordingly but this did not happen.

Game 18 v Richard Kennedy. I had got away with a phony (MANCHILD) in a previous meeting and it was still playing on his mind. I pulled out a lead at the start, bonusing on moves 3 and 5 to his bonus on move 4, and maintained this lead throughout the mid game. Nearing the end Richard made an opening which I hit with TWINERS to give myself enough daylight to withstand his bonus near the end.

So, 11-7 and 6th place. Tourney rating 186 and no change to my overall rating.

Allan won his playoff match against Ed to claim the title 20 years on from his last win, and making it four in total.

Thanks to all who worked tirelessly to make the tournament such a success.

I am off tomorrow to Laura's in Sunderland to play my BEST quarterfinal against Stewart Holden. Details will no doubt follow.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cardbox 9

A major milestone was reached in my zyzzyva cardbox studying today - the number of alphagrams in cardbox 9 (10805) now exceeds cardbox 8 (10798). There are a mere 7686 in total in boxes 0-7.

A new area of study, prompted by Gerry, has been 4-vowel six letter words. I am doing these as straight recall study. I have almost got them under control. As is typical in my first game since doing these I averaged a mere single vowel per rack against Allan in our current best of 25 match and was slaughtered. I did get my revenge in the next three games. Score currently 11-4 in my favour :)

I am also revising (yet again) all the fours before the British Matchplay Scrabble Championship (BMSC) this coming weekend. Better get back to it...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Butterflies and Bees

There had been a scarcity of butterflies this year but this afternoon my garden was filled with them.

The red admirals were very camera shy (I will keep trying) but the peacock butterflies were quite happy to pose for me. Research says that peacock butterflies lay their eggs on nettles so I shouldn't be surprised that there are so many around here...

They were having to share the buddleias with the bees.

Extension Part 12

Due to popular demand - well, one comment on my last posting here is the latest on the extension.

There was a rain delay on getting the steel frame completed - apparently welding in torrential rain is not a good idea. They were back once the weather improved. One day with lots of measuring and adjustments of the uprights to ensure they were exactly the correct/same height, and then the cross-bars were completed the following day.

Alan was on holiday most of last week, but Mark was here starting on the brick work of the sun room, building it up to what will be floor level.

Coming soon...
The drains should be dug.
The joiner should be coming.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Malaysia Here I Come

I dropped Gerry, Charlotte and Charlie off at the National Express pick up point yesterday morning. They were all quite happy just vegging out most of the time they were here, which is just as well with the weather. Having the Olympics to watch was a plus.

We did go into Edinburgh on Monday - were expecting more going on in the way of street performers as the festival/fringe now on but were disappointed. There was a Cambodian (we think) dance troupe that I found more interesting than my visitors...

We spent a couple of hours walking around and avoiding the showers - a couple of dives into M&S. Charlotte bought a skirt and I am now a hoodie. I am only one size bigger than Charlotte (I wish) - her skirt was a 12 (age)...

I have been waiting to hear what was happening re the UK team for the Causeway Challenge in December. The cut-off date for the ratings qualification was the end of July and I was in 7th place of the qualifiers (five to go) but no invites had been sent to anyone. I sent out an email yesterday to find out what was happening and that set the ball rolling. I found out in the afternoon that I was in the team - there are great advantages to not working...

I had been looking at having a few days in Singapore before the tourney if I made the team to get over the jetlag. However, the costs of hotels in Singapore looked very expensive, and Paul put his foot down at my suggestion of a few nights at Raffles. The tourney itself is in Johor Bahru, just over the causeway from Singapore but doesn't look like a holiday destination.

Gerry suggested that I could fly to Bangkok and stay with him, and then fly on from there with team Thailand. So I have now booked my flight - woohoo :)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Summer Is Here

It rained all day yesterday.
It rained throughout the night.
It is still raining today.
It looks as if it will never stop...

I ventured out to photograph the river, but its true extent was not visible from the garden. The above photo was taken from the bedroom window.
We have our very own water splash at the bottom of the drive.

The builders came yesterday morning and then went away again. I don't blame them.
Surprisingly they are here at the moment, battering away at the new doorway by the sound of it.
The work on the steel frame is at a standstill.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Extension Part 11

Last Monday man with digger arrived and proceeded to create a large moat.

A couple of days later the moat was filled with concrete rather than water.

Today I got back from the dog walk to find Alan and A.N.Other (Mark) waiting for the steel frame to arrive - should have been here first thing. Anyway, it turned up not long after. So today we have had five people here, measuring, erecting steel structure and clearing more of the new doorway. They (or at least some of them) should be back bright and early tomorrow...

Departures and Arrivals

The bats departed the day before Paul got back from the States. Bliss - the first good night's sleep for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately Paul had picked up an air-conditioning cold which meant the bat's chirring was replaced by Paul's snoring.

Penny has returned from her European grand tour. It was strange not having her popping in and not being able to reciprocate on trips into Duns. But we have made up for it since. A couple of visits from her IT consultant (Paul) to try to sort out her laptop/internet connection that was playing up, and she came for lunch on Sunday. I had an appeal in the evening for redcurrants as Jean had cancelled their planned PYO trip the following day due to a lack thereof. I was a little surprised to find Margaret's bush still well stocked and we took a pound around yesterday - seems like a good deal as we will be getting half of them back in a chocolate cake at the weekend :)

I went gooseberry picking again yesterday afternoon - this time in the hedgerows. Two pounds of red gooseberries - I was a little late with these as many were very ripe and falling off the bush as I was picking and I was having to be careful to avoid wasps. Another pound and a quarter of largish green ones, very small 'white' ones and reddish ones which became a pound after topping/tailing and discarding the scabbier ones. All now squeezed into the freezer.

We are expecting visitors for a long weekend. Gerry and his two kids are over again from Bangkok and should be arriving in Berwick on the overnight coach at 6.30 a.m. on Friday. Paul has volunteered me to fetch them...

Friday, August 01, 2008

Frog A La Peche

Our current freezer cannot cope with the summer fruit crops. I found room for two pound bags of gooseberries but still had four pounds left. I gave a pound to Jean and she has put the remainder in her freezer for me. Roll on getting the utility room finished...

I made the mistake of mentioning that Gordon Ramsay had made a gooseberry and elderflower crumble on The f word a couple of weeks back. 'Oh good' said Jean, 'You can make it and bring it to our barbecue on Wednesday'.

Tuesday was alpine strawberry sorbet day. I used the Joy of Baking recipe - I refuse to call it Jamie Oliver's recipe. I struggled with getting our food processor out of the cupboard and then all the bits from the box. Aha I thought - there is a blender attachment. I piled in a load of strawberries and turned it on. The bottom half a centimetre of strawberries got blitzed but that was about all. I scraped it out into the main bowl and started again, this time with a lot greater success. Made the sugar syrup, mixed it all together and put bowl in the freezer. Back out in the evening into the food processor and re-blitzed. Back into bowl and freezer over night. I repeated the process in the morning and put resulting gloop into a proper freezer container. A very messy process - strawberry puree seems to have a life of its own - but a lot easier than the previous recipe. Haven't tried it yet, and still got strawberries coming out of my ears...

Wednesday - Gooseberry crumble day. I really would have liked to have a practice run before having to present it to Jean - she would have no qualms in telling me if it was not up to scratch...

I wasn't sure how this would work out. For a start he was using fresh gooseberries whilst I had defrosted the two pounds from my freezer. His crumble topping was using equal quantities of flour, butter and sugar. My trusted recipe used 2/1/1 so I compromised - even so it felt like too much butter as I was rubbing it in. He had added hazelnuts to the topping - I didn't have any but I did have a good supply of walnuts...

I was doubling up on quantities from his recipe and decided straight away I was going to have to prepare the gooseberries in two batches - it just would not all fit in the pan. So, preheat a frying pan and heat sugar and orange zest. I have never done this before. I think the first batch I hadn't heated the pan enough and it took an age for the sugar to melt. And then when I added the gooseberries, fresh orange juice and elderflower cordial it formed big lumps. However, when I turned the heat right up it did seem to melt back into the mixture. I was a lot better at this on the second batch. I put all the fruit and syrupy mixture into my new large pie dish.

So we headed over to Jean's, with me balancing the pie dish on my lap, and the crumble in a bowl on the floor of the car. It was all assembled at Jean's. I wasn't sure how long it needed to be cooked for as Gordon Ramsay had divided his into separate small individual dishes. In the end it took about half an hour, as opposed to 10-12 minutes on his recipe - I guess my crumble topping was a lot thicker than his. Luckily it was a success, and the dish was scraped clean...

Today has been raspberry jam day. Morrisons was out of jam sugar yet again when we went shopping yesterday so I bought some pectin and normal sugar. As we headed home it started to rain and did not stop for the rest of the day. This morning was the same until about 11 a.m. when it stopped and the sun broke through. When Paul got back from Duns I went straight out to the wild raspberry stand. An hour and a half and three pounds picked. I could easily have picked as much again. Just over five pounds of jam made after lunch. I think the jam pan can be put away now until the brambles are ready - I am also running out of room in the 'jam cupboard'.

There are only so many things you can do with wild raspberries and alpine strawberries. But maybe I should be more adventurous - there appears to be an abundant supply of toads around at the moment...

Blog Archive