Bottling it!

Sue and I joined a Council walk on the 23rd Nov. As it turned out, it was the last one of 2013 as Colin the organiser’s father died that morning. We suspected something was up as his mobile repeatedly rang during our amble. He let nothing drop of his unfortunate circumstances, even through lunch. It wasn’t until he cancelled the next one (and last of 2013) by email. Sue and I wished him well by return email and look forward to walking with him again in 2014.

The following week I took an early morning drive over to King’s Cliffe and met John Lee for a 10.5 mile walk followed by lunch. We parked outside the same Public House as the last time we walked in that area, pulled on our boots and set off in what promised to be a bright and chilly day (perfect for walking). The conversation for the first couple of miles centred on putting things right in the rugby world, we flirted briefly with an analysis of English soccer before tackling our preparations for Christmas. This turned out to be a very brief discussion, reassuringly thin in substance, with both in agreement that expertise lay in the hands and minds of our wives. We progressed onto the interesting and endlessly fascinating subject of allotments, this occupied our minds for quite a few miles before we depressingly turned our thoughts to cricket and sack cloth and ashes. Strange how the next few miles appeared to drag. We were surprised to come across a field of Alpacas and then a little further on a field of white Wallabies and what I took for a flock of Kiwis. I kid you not. On return to the pub we were further cheered by a hearty beef pie, chips and peas washed down with a local brew.
That Friday Sue and I met Jim and Brigit at Les Olives in Northampton.It is a Tapas restaurant that has a well deserved reputation for authentic dishes. The meal was a pre-cursor to an excellent Steeleye Span concert at the Derngate. Despite the passage of time (I guess that we of that generation, mellow and improve with age) the music was as I remembered when Maddy Prior was one of my pin-ups (for the tonal quality of her voice of course).

The following week saw me bottling my wine. It had cleared to a crystal brightness in the demi-johns, and on testing, the yeast had converted all the sugars to alcohol (12.5%). I had to drive to Corby to get sufficient bottles from ‘The Range’. With quite a lot of wastage as I didn’t want to disturb the sediment. I filled 30 bottles. I call the brew Vin-allo’. The name has been chosen appropriately. If in 6 months or so it turns about to be acceptable, it will be known as Vineyard Allotment, if not, it will be called Vinegar Allowance. Sue and I both tried a glass of the white and the red and thought they were quite fresh in taste but obviously youthful, needing time to acquire a roundness and depth of flavour. We shall see.
That Saturday, Sue travelled to Tenbury Wells where she met up with her sister. They stayed overnight at Sheila’s (family friend), finding time to visit old school friends and attended a carol concert. They swapped Christmas presents before returning home. Unfortunately for Philippa, she picked up a festive speeding ticket on the long journey back to Buckfastleigh.

While Sue was away I attended Vice Presidents luncheon at the rugby club followed by watching the 1st Team beat Newbold Verdon who were heading the league table at the time. Later that evening I joined in with a Quiz Night at the Catholic Club. Our team of ex-rugby playing Vice Presidents came third and may have done somewhat better had we not been jollying it up earlier in the day. One our team members helpfully fell asleep during the proceedings.
The following day Nan and I had Sunday lunch at the Red Lion in Welham.
Monday saw me pick Peter up and take him to Papworth hospital. He had been called for an MRI scan there as he had been very ill about a month ago with extremely high blood pressure. The drive down was uneventful other than we had to arrive an hour early as they were concerned about brain surgery that he’d had in the past. On arrival I made sure he was checked in then I went to the canteen for a coffee. On the route there I passed several posters discouraging entry if you had suffered from symptoms of flu during the last 5 days, hmmmmm I thought. On my return Peter was sitting and waiting after having had an x-ray. A technician arrived and took us to an interview room and explained that the x-rays were showing that he had clips inside his head from previous surgery. Despite contacting Peter’s GP, Kettering Hospital and Sheffield Hallam Hospital they could not find out what the clips were made of. He could not have the scan because if they were metal, it would kill him. There was nothing for it, we had to go home. We stopped at Charlotte’s on the way back for a coffee and to eat the sandwiches we had transported to Cambridgeshire and back.
On the 10th of December was Lucas’s 7th birthday. Sue, Nan and I went over to have a family meal in Rothwell and celebrate the event. We enjoyed a nice chilli with the Rothwells and joined in with the blowing out of the candles. We didn’t stay too long as it was school the following morning for the little-uns.
The next morning I joined John Lee in the pub car-park in Kings Cliffe for another amble. We previously walked routes to the south and west, this time we were heading east. It was a dank and foggy morning and much of the delightful countryside was hidden behind a thin curtain of mist. The sun did manage to burn through the cloud layer towards the end of our journey and reveal clear blue skies. In one of the small villages we passed through we came across the grave of Coco the Clown (Nicolai Poliakoff). On return to the pub I made a special request of liver, bacon, onions , mashed potato and mushy peas (just fancied it) and was treated with the addition of brussel sprouts and carrots too.
On the drive back, the sore throat I had woken up with that morning was joined by a runny nose (veritably sprinting). By the time I put the car away in the garage I was running a temperature and feeling rubbish. I took to my bed and didn’t get out of it until the following Saturday afternoon (4 days). During that time I had only had two bowls of soup and a sandwich to eat, it took several more days to get my appetite back. Fortunately, as I had seen-off the more virulent man-flu germs, when Sue came down with the less fatal woman-flu, she managed to cope with the much milder version and didn’t need to take to her bed.

On the Sunday Suraj and I went to see the new Hobbit film. It was ok, but there were some scenes that we didn’t recognise from the book and were included (we think) to fill out the 2 hours playing time. I found it confusing.
The Rothwells had a very pleasant treat to London to see Winter Wonderland.

Sarah had been staying at Lee’s over the weekend after finishing Uni’ on the Friday. Nan and I drove up to Cottgrave to pick her up. On the return journey we stopped at the Langton Inn for a splendid lunch. Within ten minutes of arriving back at Willow Bank an excited Charlotte arrived to see her long missed sister.

The following day David and Banjo arrived. They had brought cards and presents from relatives ‘up north’. They arrived late morning and after a visit to see Nan, we had lunch followed by a walk into town to see the Christmas decorations. On arriving back, Charlotte and Ellis made an appearance. As expected, little Ellis loved little Banjo and were inseparable until they had to leave and pick-up Lucas from school. The next morning I took David and hound for a walk around the park. Lunch had been planned to take place at Joules in town at noon. However, Nan had gone AWOL. She was having her ‘feet done’ in town that morning, but despite waiting for half an hour in her apartment to take her for lunch, after a phone call from Charlotte enquiring as to why we weren’t at Joules, we decided to scour the alleys and roads of Harborough for an errant Gran. Luckily we soon found her blasting along Farndon Road on her batmobile heading for Willow Bank. We had lunch in the green outhouse, which is doubles as an antique showroom. Waiting for the meal David enjoyed looking at the exhibits, Ellis enjoyed holding Banjo’s lead (feeling not mutual) and some how Sarah managed to persuade her dad to buy her a hat. Afterwards, David and Banjo were returning home after deviating via Birmingham to meet visit a man who owed him some money. Last October he had bought some expensive equipment off the internet and the gentleman in question had failed to send it. He was going to get a personal reminder.

The other day I accompanied Nan for her diabetes review. She had been doing splendidly since coming to Harborough, all the indicators were improving and she seemed to be getting fitter and fitter. However, this time things had slipped. She had put on weight, and her blood sugar levels had rocketed. The evidence of cakes and sweet wrappers the family had been noticing around her apartment have taken their toll. She was given the choice of cutting out the sweet things in life or an increase in tablets. Having now been through her place and disposed of all sugary items, we shall be keeping a close eye on things. She loves her cakes sweets and hates the large jar of sugar-free sweeties that I bought her a few months ago (she has hardly touched them).

Jamie has been very busy at work. Reassuringly he informs us that this Christmas’s trade is already up on last year, so hopefully as the economy improves so will his job security. Recently I helped him fix a cracked manifold pipe on his car. I helped take it off and put it back on after getting it re-welded by a friend of mine. Unfortunately, a couple of days later his coil pack, packed up and that has to be replaced. He is now running it on a couple of cylinders until after Christmas when he intends to buy a new car. He has been seeing Harley quite a lot again, and I believe she will be joining us at greyhound racing on Boxing Day. His fixed rate mortgage comes to an end in January and he has been busy researching deals to replace it. I accompanied him at the HSBC Bank on Saturday morning to see what they were offering. He asked all the right questions and I wondered why I was there, but it was nice to be asked.

There are only a few days left before Christmas. Presents are hidden all around the house, away from prying grandchild’s eyes and for once I have all my contributions to the festivities sorted and have been for well over a week now (just got to remember where I put them!) It looks like the weather will be far from seasonable, I passed a birch tree in town yesterday with all its leaves still on and the daytime temperature for the last few days has been in double figures (according to our thermometer). The excitement is growing in proportion to the bank balance reducing. I wonder if I will get that red Ferrari this year?
The family Christmas tree.
Jamie’s Christmas tree.

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