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Weather or not……………..

July 31, 2015

Last time I said “All we need now is for the weather to settle and allow us to plan on sitting and eating outside regularly” but of course this is England where the one thing you can rely on is the weather to be unreliable. It is taking time to re-adapt to this climate and life-style but we have made some progress. We have cooked a lot outside and have finally found the key to slow cooking – a combination of Weber long-lasting charcoal briquettes and the Weber briquette baskets. The briquettes are the closest I have found to the (much missed) Kingsford and they really do last 240 minutes as it says on the bag. The baskets keep the briquettes packed together in two halves and thus allow the fire to be split into hot & cool zones for indirect cooking. The other evening I cooked some stuffed pork tenderloin having lit the fire at 6:00pm – it was still going at 10:00pm! Interestingly, I found all these goodies on a website called SoCal and naturally that said Southern California to me. Imagine my surprise when I found it is actually short for Southampton Calor Gas! However, they do stock an awful lot of good BBQ stuff. I also found some really heavy duty BBQ covers made by Homestore and sold on Amazon – they are really good quality and certainly weather-proof, so at least we can leave the grills outside until winter strikes.

One aspect of life in England that came as something of a surprise is the invasiveness of the “Health & Safety” rules & regulations. Don’t get me wrong; there do need to be sensible safeguards for workers, especially those in high-risk occupations, and to prevent unskilled people from working on potentially dangerous projects. However, in many cases it seems to have gone too far. The other day we were expecting a delivery and the company (DPD) is very good at providing accurate times but this day he was very late. He did eventually arrive very apologetic as he had had a flat tyre and his cell-phone battery had died as well. Subsequent conversation revealed he is not allowed to change the tyre – even though he is an owner driver. DPD remove the jack, tools and spare wheel before he is allowed to start his day’s deliveries! Come on, that’s ridiculous, it’s his own vehicle for heavens sake – nanny society gone too far in my opinion.

As I mentioned we had sought some professional help with the garden but since their visit we have heard nothing so we decided to make a start ourselves. We now know what we really want from the garden so our efforts are in preserving the plants we want to keep, moving some others and clearing out the rest. We have completely cleared the border area outside the bedroom window – this will be covered anyway when the extension is built so we are using it to place all the pots with our preserved plants and the tiny kitchen garden. Next up is to raise the bulbs from some (as yet unidentified) plants now they have died off and put those away until autumn. My skills at identifying plants (indeed all my gardening knowledge) could be written on a postage stamp with a felt pen so I have resorted to photos posted on a plant forum (MyGarden) and this is proving very helpful.

Recent annual health checks indicated we needed to have our eyes checked so we made appointments with the local optician wondering just how much all this was going to cost. Turned out the eye test is covered by the NHS and neither of us needed new prescriptions so the bill was a nice fat zero. However, we do have some cataracts starting and these may need attention in the future but apparently that is now a fairly simple procedure with only minimal down time.

The weather seems to have decided summer is over and autumn should start immediately consequently there has been a revision in the culinary department – steak & kidney pies rather than grilled steaks for example. Interestingly, our local butcher has acquired an American meat press of sorts and is now turning out various sausage and burger shaped combinations of meat, spices, cheese and other ingredients and is apparently doing a great trade. However, in a discussion with them the other day they are very worried about their future. We have learned now that not only is Barclays closing the local branch but NatWest is closing as well, There will then be no bank or ATM in the town and foot traffic is likely to fall off dramatically with the resulting probable demise of other businesses. This would be a real pain as we bought this place because it is within walking distance of the local shops.

We have a couple of trips away planned for August and September but in the meantime we are continuing with the garden plans and some more internal decorations. The bathrooms could use a lick of paint and some wallpaper, possibly adding a small hand basin in the WC and a new light fitting. It’ll keep us busy 🙂



David & June

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