Monday, 27 May 2013

Bank Holiday fun....

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Well, here I am in my alternative office again - The Lymestone Vaults!

Cheap Cuts
Well it is a Bank Holiday :-) It's not so sunny outside today so I don't feel too bad being indoors. Besides we did lots of yard work this morning - Nathan was pressure washing the paving stones (there are a LOT) and I was doing containers and sanding down the garden furniture ready for a coat of wood stain. We did some yesterday and it looks great. We just hope all this work will be worth it - meaning that we'll have some days warm enough to sit out there!

Music at the Lymestone Vaults

Anyway, for now we are chilling.
It's the Jazz and Blues Festival in Newcastle-under-Lyme and we are really loving the sound of Cheap Cuts. In fact they just played that classic Divine Comedy song - National Express :-) They are great!

Can't beat curry and chips, cider and free entertainment!

Oh wow - they just did Ask by the Smiths - I love them!!

Nathan relaxed :-)
It's good to see so many people around town - in fact there's a band on in nearly every pub and bar. Lots of kids around with balloons and a fun fair. Very nice atmosphere everywhere.  I think there might be a magic show later at the Black Friar. We could check it out of we're still here at 6.30pm.

OMG - Candyfloss!!!
It has been a nice weekend - on Friday evening we went to Buffet Island with Jan and Terry. I hadn't been for years and was so-so about the food last time. But - they have upped their game! It was really good and a lot more variety. There were so many stations were you could have your food freshly cooked in front of you - chicken. pork, prawns et. Also they would make you waffles and pancakes while you waited - and best of all - candyfloss!! Oh yeah - far more exciting than the chocolate fountain - actual candy floss!

The night before Jan and I had gone to see The Great Gatsby at the Vue in Newcastle (we like it there - the seats are more comfy and roomy than the Odeon in Festival Park) I have to say that I was very impressed. They did a great job of sticking to the actual story as in the book and it was just beautiful to look at. Stunning in fact. The houses and the clothes - just beautiful - I would recommend it to you all. (Warning: does not contain car chases and explosions)  Well, not many :-)

Plenty of plants
On a more serious work note - we had great fun in the library on Thursday when we held a Hanging Basket Making Course for Adult Learners' Week. Three burly gardeners came along from Biddulph Grange to show us how to do it. We had ten places - as we were supplying all the materials including lots of plants. However on the day a couple of people who had signed up didn't come, so Tracy and I got to have a go too. What a treat!

You should have seen all the plants we had in the library!

We started by filling our wire baskets with a layer of moss. This had been taken from the lawns of Biddulph Grange just the day before when they did their scarifying. They said it was best fresh - and they actually sell theirs for £1 a bag to the public!

Having fun with flowers
Then we carefully threaded a few plants quite low down the sides before filling the centre up with compost and adding the other plants. Now, I'm not a gardener and can recognise very few plants but I believe we had some trailing Lobelia, Fuchsia, something called Million Bells and something similar to catnip.

They said that when they all flower it will be a profusion of pink and yellow! I had to find a few bin bags for everyone to take their home in - they were so heavy too! The room was a bit of a mess when everyone had gone - but we managed to clean most of it up before Coral, our cleaner, saw it!!

This is my effort :-)
It was a great session - thanks to Farida at Newcastle Library for organising it. She always finds us such great things to do :-) Everyone really enjoyed it.

 I wonder what she will come up with next time??

The ladies hard at work!
Getting professional help!

Start with a moss nest

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Are you sure it's nearly summer?

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Summer Pudding - yummy!
Brrrr - went out for a short walk today - and was frozen! Even on Sunday when the sun was out and we were out in the back on the swinging seat - I had to go indoors to get a cardi! When is it going to warm up?

Anyway, what's been happening around here recently?

The Birthday girl - with champagne
Well, we celebrated a couple of birthdays. Firstly it was N's mum's birthday and we went to Harecastle Farm at Talke (Miller and Carter) , mainly because if you have signed up to their newsletters then you get a voucher for a free bottle of champagne on your birthday!

 It did feel very decadent as we were drinking it at lunchtime!! It was on my day off from the library - don't worry I wasn't drunk in charge of books :-)

I didn't have steak this time - but some delicious barbecued chicken - and a very naughty pudding! It was a vey nice celebration. I just hope that the Les Miserables DVD that I got her as a present hasn't depressed them too much since!

The Birthday boy :-)

It was also my dad's  birthday this week too - and we had a combined birthday and Eurovision party at ours on Saturday. It is a family tradition to have a Eurovision Party as we love to watch and have scorecards and try to guess who will win. I have to say none of us went for Denmark. I rather liked the doctor from Malta and Nathan liked Greece's "Alcohol is Free" (!) :-)

Eurovision goodies - flag cakes from Sarah!

We were quite intrigued by Azerbaijan and their man in a box - that was pretty original. A pretty good year I think - we had a lot of fun!

Otherwise I have been busy with work. One of our lovely customers brought in a large box of chocolates for Tracy and me - which was nice of him. He says we look after him - although we only request books for him like we do for anyone else! It is good to be appreciated though.

What lovely customers we have :-)

Makes up for the awkward troublesome customers - although we only really have one of those at Silverdale!

I'll leave you with one final photo today - a book title that made me smile. It is one of these light-hearted themed crime books. If you want to borrow it - let me know!!

I love this title!!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Star Trek - no spoilers :-)

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I was lucky enough to have a day off work this week - on Thursday. Nathan and I went to London for the day. His friend Martin was over from Azerbaijan. Remember Martin? He was the one who got married in Slovenia last year. It was the fairy-tale wedding we attended just after my treatment was finished. It was wonderful!

Pitt Cue Co.
Well, he was over for a stag weekend - and had a spare day so we thought we'd go down and spend the day with him. Nathan managed to take a short break from his coding - he deserved a treat after working constantly over the last few months. We don't get to see Martin very often as he lives so far away!  Then in the evening we all met up with Si (of Si and Heidi fame) to go and watch the new Star Trek film in Islington.

We met him at Euston and we decided that instead of going everywhere by tube, we'd walk everywhere! It was a bit of a windy rainy day - but every time there was a shower threatening we just ducked into a pub until it passed! Martin spent a few years living in London so knows lots of interesting places. The first one was a very tiny restaurant called the Pitt Cue Co. It doesn't take bookings so it was first come first served. As it was so popular we found ourselves outside just before 12 noon before it even opened. I took it as a good sign that we weren't the first.

Mmmm cider...

There are only 30 seats, so we had a drink by the bar while we waited to be taken down to the room downstairs, where the few tables were. They just have one beer on - called "Whatever" - so it covers whatever they happen to have that day. N and M declared it to be good. I had the cider and it came in its own little glass flagon and was delicious!

The menu is quite small and consists of unusual cuts of meat. There was the choice of pig's head sausage, pig's cheek burger and pulled pork. All served with bone marrow mash.

It as a bit of a trendy place with various hipsters in there (you can spot them by their red trousers!) But we thought we'd try new things. N and M went for the pig cheek and I had a Bun Meal - the pulled pork on a toasted bun, with vinegar slaw and pickles. It was actually delicious! I loved the bone marrow mash too - very tasty!

Carnaby Street!
While we ate Martin told us that he'd opened a Mexican Restaurant in Baku and wanted to find some Mexican-themed decorations to go in it. We had a wander down Carnaby Street, down to Soho, China Town and Covent Garden. We didn't succeed in finding any - but we did find a few interesting pubs on the way. Including The French House - where they did not allow the use of mobile phones - preferring customers to converse with each other! We saw one unfortunate chap being told off by the barmaid when he got his out. It was a refreshing change! We chatted to Martin and asked him about his honeymoon. They'd been on an Antarctic Cruise and particularly enjoyed seeing the Falkland Islands - very British down to the red phone boxes and the island of Georgia. They saw lots of wildlife too including literally millions of penguins. Sounded amazing!

Legendary Choccywoccydoodah.
Before we left this area we went into Choccywoccydoodah - the famous chocolate shop that has featured on TV. It was very tempting - huge sculptures made entirely of chocolate.

They specialise in cakes for all occasions, especially weddings. There were some beautiful cats and dogs made from white and milk chocolate - but I didn't buy one as they would have been too nice to eat!

I did get some dark chocolate and cinnamon biscuits to give to Heidi - to thank her for letting us stay at theirs overnight.

Nathan and Martin feeling mellow :-)
We also went to the Porterhouse - an Irish pub with a vast array of bottled beers. I foolishly went for a cider - before I noticed that they actually had the one beer I love - Floris Honey Beer. Darn!! N went for some traditional dark porter and Martin thought he'd sample a beer from Thailand. He likes to travel :-)

Millions of bottles from all over the world.

We also visited The Harp, which had a very nice lounge upstairs with extremely comfy chairs. Felt a bit like a gentleman's club :-) The York - where we had some steak and frites and then the Steam Passage Tavern before going to the huge VUE cinema with the big screen to see Star Trek Into Darkness in 3D. I used to watch Star Trek - the original series - but never watched any since. I love Captain Kirk and Spock and Bones and Scotty. I love what J J Abrams has done with these remakes. The film was excellent and Benedict Cumberbatch makes a great villain!

I won't say anymore in case you want to see it for yourself.

After the film we had a couple more drinks at The Angelic and went with Si back to Stoke Newington to see Heidi. Sadly she had a design deadline and couldn't see the film with us. It was nice to catch up with them though - and then stay over. I had to be at work by 12.30pm the next day though - so we got an early bus back to Euston the next morning - and I did make it to work in time!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Bank Holiday Fun

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Hope you've had a nice Bank Holiday. It has been wonderful weather! In fact today saw the first barbecue of the year at ours :-) It was a bit smoky - and we felt a little guilty as next door hadn't taken in their socks off the clothes line, but it was so nice to eat al fresco. Nathan has made me a new canopy for my swinging seat - so it was lovely to sit in the shade with a spritzer.

On Saturday Nathan and went on a CAMRA Brewery trip! It was forecast to be a lovely day so we set off on the bus to Hanley bus station. It as the first time we'd been in the new state-of-the-art bus station and it was a pleasant enough experience - although I did secretly think it was still cold and draughty! But the screens relayed up-to-the-second information and there's a lovely cafĂ© where you can get all manner of food and drinks. I was quite impressed that you could buy personalised bottles of coke.  We got ourselves a bottle of water and an Independent and settled down to wait for our coach to arrive at the Coachmaker's Arms across the road.

Due to a slight mix-up (we didn't read the email properly) we happened to see quite a lot of the comings and goings at the bus station as we were there an hour too early. We couldn't really go for a wander as it had started to rain and we were dressed for sunshine. We saw two policemen escorting someone loud out of the bus station and when N went to the loo I was slightly alarmed when a man with two black eyes came and sat beside me - but all was well.

We set off for Shropshire at 10.30am and pretty soon the sun came from behind the clouds and I enjoyed seeing all the lambs  in the spring fields with their mothers. It was an hour and a half to the Bridges Pub/Horseshoe Inn at Ratlinghope, which was our first stop. We had all pre-ordered our food so we were served pretty much as soon as we got there. Who said CAMRA couldn't organise and event in a brewery?? :-)

We all had a nice chicken and mushroom pie with chips and fresh veg apart from Mr M who went all new-man and had a quiche and salad. It did look very tasty though!

Entrance to the Brewery

Here since 1642

Take some home?

Then it was back onto the coach for a few short miles until we arrived at the Three Tuns Brewery next to the Three Tuns Inn. This is where things took a turn to the better - as the beer was free here. There were 31 of us - but the brewery was so tiny only 15 at a  time could embark on the tour. The others were left with a few barrels of the various beers they brewed and invited to sample them all. We did a bit of sampling and then did the second tour.

You've been Yarnbombed!
 It was led by the man in charge - a David Bellamy lookalilke who was so enthusiastic  that you realised he is one of those lucky few who really love their job! The tour had to start right at the top of the tower in the malting attic - and then progress down, via very precarious ladders, a floor at a time as the gravity fed system progressed. There was the mash tun, the boiling coppers, the roasting ovens and the cooling  canisters - all a vital part of the brewing of the different organic beers. He explained how different roasts of malt and barley, different amounts of hops and even the addition of root ginger all help to produce the many different colours and flavours of the beers at the Three Tuns We tried the mild, nice and malty and the XXX which was much more hoppy and light. Sadly they didn't have any of the Steampunk - which is the one with the added ginger and their strongest beer.

Cheering up a boring sign!

Before moving on to our next scheduled stop we were told that there was a beer festival going on in the pub round the corner. So we took to the streets of the beautiful little town called Bishop's Castle and walked down the steep High Street to The Vaults. As we walked there I realised that the place has been yarnbombed! Everywhere we looked there were signposts and buildings covered in brightly coloured knitting and crochet! It looked great! It must have been there some time - as the laminated labels attached to each piece had faded and we couldn't read who had been responsible for it all.

Even the fairy got pompoms!

We loved the beer festival - it was behind The Vaults and they had a live rock band and food and lots of beers and - I was pleased to note - ciders! I enjoyed some Dog Dancer while we squeezed into the busy courtyard and took in the sights. The locals seemed to favour beards, bandanas and dreadlocks - but were pretty friendly!

Sadly we only had time for one drink before we had to visit the next port of call on our itinery - the Six Bells just down the road - still in Bishop's Castle. This had a microbrewery at the back. We had one drink here before being whisked off to Clun, another village with an ancient castle right on the edge of Offa's Dyke by the border to Wales.

It was another beautiful place although the pub here was a little disappointing. So was the quiz machine as it was rather reluctant to let us win! We boarded the bus just as dusk was falling for the journey home. We made it back for 9.30pm tired, but not too merry! It had been a very enjoyable day in good company :-)

The rest of the weekend I have been editing my book The Gardener's Daughter, I have decided to publish it via Amazon and the Kindle. It seems that authors who can't find agents or publisher to take them seriously are bypassing them and self-publishing this way. In fact something like 60% of books sold on Kindle are published this way - and traditional publishers and agents are getting pretty worried that they may become obsolete! So if I decide to go ahead - I'll let you know when it will be available - heehee!

More next time!!


Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Alternative Office

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I am working from my alternative office - not the library or my home office - but the pub!
The Lymestone Vaults to be precise - our favourite pub in Newcastle.

I did spend all last night filing my tax returns online - as an employer (stress!!!) and setting up my Real Time PAYE reporting for the next year. It was a long night!!

New Office
Then today I have been getting all my documents ready for the Internal Auditor - updating risk assessments and asset registers and all manner of other documents and filling in the Annual Audit return with big numbers. It doesn't come naturally to a librarian - I can tell you!

So - with all that done I thought I deserved a break - so we have come out for lunch and have both got our laptops so we can work from here too! Well - I just intend to blog :-)

Also (feeling virtuous now) we walked all the way into town and will walk back later - so I am also practising for my Walk for Life next month! It is over 5k!

Nice half a cider!

Office Lunch :-)

I can't believe I've completed all my tax forms 19 days before the deadline!! Hope you are impressed by that Mr Mawbs!!

So I don't think much work will get done this afternoon! Maybe some Candy Crush Saga (I won't put a link in to that - I wouldn't want you to get addicted like I did!) -
but not work!!

In Quizzing news - we've had some unrecognised success and some total success!

Last Saturday we went to Basford Tennis Club - after being invited by someone - we are not members! It was the occasion of heir annual quiz so we thought it might be fun.

There were just 4 of us - Nathan, Laura, the aforementioned Mr Mawbs and myself. Other teams had more people in them - but we didn't feel too intimidated!

There were quite a few sporty questions - but plenty of other stuff too. We felt we'd done okay - and after marking the paper of the team next to us - thought we'd done better than they had. The Quiz Master told us not to add up the total scores as he would do it for us.  Imagine our horror and shame as he announced that Team Interference (for that is our name) had come LAST!! He said never mind - we'd done well as there were only four of us. He gave us the "wooden spoon" prize of a block of Aldi Rum and Raisin chocolate!

I was so convinced that we'd done better than the team next to us - so I asked him if I could have a look at our marks - so we could see where we'd gone wrong.
We looked at it - and N added up the score - and he had missed 8 points (from the science round!) off our score! I didn't want to make a fuss in front of everyone - but I did have a quiet word with him and said we weren't bothered about the prizes. He had a check and then said "Oh yeah - you would have come third" He was entirely unconcerned and certainly didn't tell the rest of the room.

We probably won't be going back there again. Maybe it's just a local club for local people and they don't like "outsiders" - heehee!

To make up for that though - we went to the Sunday Night Quiz at the Wulstan - just N, L and myself and we won outright! We shared £28 - which was nice and paid for a few Sailor Jerry and cokes :-)
We were particularly proud of getting a football question right - without our sport expert Mr M. If you are wondering what the question was - "Which English football team has the shortest name?"

Answer at the end of this blog!!

To be fair - it had been a question at The Greyhound Quiz a few weeks before - and we had managed to remember it! I reckon that if we go round all the local pub quizzes - pretty soon we'll know all the answers and will be able to clean up wherever we go! Then we can all give up our day jobs :-)

Talking of quizzes though - have you watched the new one on C4? "Five Minutes to a Fortune" I love the complicated lateral thinking questions! For example - they ask a question and you have to spell out the answer using elements from the periodic table! It is really difficult! You can win a lot of money though if you are good. Or lucky!! N and I are thinking of entering. I'll let you know if we get on!!

On the medical front - nothing much is happening. No hospital visit this month! I am feeling great and fighting fit. Looking forward to doing the Race for Life on 11th June. Thanks to those of you who have sponsored us so far. I even got Mr Coxon - our favourite library customer - to give us something too.

I'll put photos on here when we've done it. Our very loud pink t-shirts have arrived - and I'm sure Tracy is getting a pink feather boa!


The answer is BURY :-)