shewhomust: (Default)
The mixer tap on the kitchen sink has been growing steadily more eccentric for some time now.

It was eccentric enough to begin with: I described it as 'steampunk' - with a picture to prove it. Here's the picture again:



- and that's the first time I've worked out how to upload a picture to DW, so there's something gained (niceties like controlling display size may or may not follow).

Anyway, it was selected and fitted in our absence by our builder, and while I probably wouldn't have chosen it myself, it amused me, so that was no problem. What was a problem was that it began to wobble. This was presumably because it wasn't properly fitted, but it didn't manifest until long enough after the original work that we couldn't decide whether to call back our original builder, or find a maybe more reliable plumber...

Yes, I know. Either would be good. But this is us. And it wasn't a huge problem, you just had to steady the whole thing with one hand while turning the tap with the other.

Then the cold tap began to drip. That was more of a problem, because now you had to grip the unit quite hard to counter the extra force required to turn off the tap. And over a period of time, it got worse. And worse.

Finally, last Friday morning, I managed to turn the tap with so much force that it went right past turning off, and carried on turning, and the drip became a steady trickle. [personal profile] durham_rambler dragged himself away from his committee papers, turned off the stopcock, and took advice from the neighbours about a handyman they had employed. And after a little emergency plumbing on Friday afternoon (consisting mostly of said handyman showing me how to turn off the water supply to the cold tap and only the cold tap), we went to B & Q on Saturday and bought a tap.

I assumed that after the decorative excess of the previous tap, we would choose something severely plain. It turns out that I am hard to please in the matter of taps - not the unit as a whole, but the bit you grip to turn the water on and off. Many of these are variations on a plain barrel shape, which can be hard to grip with soapy hands even if you don't suffer from arthritis - which I don't, yet. Others were very sharply rectangular, and I didn't like those, either. So we ended up choosing something called 'Apsley'. This might refer to any of a number of things, according to Wikipedia, including a suburb of Hemel Hempstead and an Antarctic explorer (Apsley Cherry-Garrard). I don't know which, if any, of these B & Q had in mind, but I thought at once of the Duke of Wellington's London house. Which is pretty grand for a piece of kitchen plumbing.

Nonetheless, our handyman came back on Monday morning and fitted it. What luxury to be able to run hot or cold water, just by pushing a lever. One-handed, even. Plus an unexpected benefit, that the design leaves plenty of room under the water outlet: I can fill the kettle easily, even if the sink is full of water.

No doubt in due course there will be an unexpected disadvantage, too, but I haven't discovered that yet.

At last!

Feb. 15th, 2019 09:47 pm
shewhomust: (bibendum)
I know a bank


Where did I read recently that snowdrops are not the first flower of spring but the last flower of winter? I don't really believe that this is the end of winter, not yet, but the snowdrops were a cheering sight...
shewhomust: (Default)
Over breakfast [personal profile] durham_rambler read me the highlights from Today's Birthdays in the Guardian. He always checks these, but it seems that February 15th is a particularly good day for cartoonists: Art Spiegelman is 71, Matt Groening is 65 and the Guardian's very own Martin Rowson is 60.

I couldn't find the Guardian listing online to link to, but On this Day confirms the first two, and since, unlike the Guardian, it doesn't restrict itself to the birthdays of the living, adds that it is also the birthday of Galileo, Michael Praetorius, Susan B. Anthony and Ernest Shackleton. And if that's not grounds for a party, I don't know what is.

Meanwhile, I was reading in yesterday's paper about micrococktails, but this is entirely unrelated, as nothing in the article would be welcome at any of my parties. For a start, the sugar-content is immense: the sweetness has been dialled down, says the article, over the last decade, but recommended mixes include Pernod absinthe, watermelon syrup and lemon juice; hot sake with gingerbread syrup; and a cocktail of mushroom vodka, maple syrup and chipotle – "Our interpretation of port," says the manager of the establishment where a small measure of this is served with the cheese course. I read this out loud to [personal profile] durham_rambler, and his response came out in unison with my comment: if you want port with your cheese course, why not serve port with your cheese course? (white port, in my case).

But we are old fogeys, and there are people on my f-list who are more cocktail-savvy than I am. So tell me, internets, are these drinks - err - drinkable? If a bartender offers you a shot from his bottle of Ferrari (half Fernet Branca, half Campari), do you feel like an insider, or do you suspect a wind-up? (I carry a little bottle of alicumpane...)
shewhomust: (Default)
The cold continues, and I continue not swimming. I am also tending to nod off, mostly on the soda. Other than that, it isn't interfering unduly with life.

So on Tuesday we went to a talk (in the Gala cinema - the University is doing outreach) by Richard Gameson (Professor of the History of the Book) on New Light on Durham's Illuminated Manuscripts about a research project bringing together the departments of History and Chemistry to carry out non-invasive analysis of the pigments of medieval manuscripts. It was a fascinating talk, with many beautiful pictures and many delightful scraps of information (illustrative example: an illumination showing pigments being prepared and applied, with the explanation that the reason why you get your apprentice to grind up your pigments is that most of them are very toxic...) I wish I could give a coherent account of it, but I do not absorb information well by ear, some cold-induced drowsiness may have occurred and, to be fair, the structure of the talk may have been here's an old book! but this one is even older! and here's a pretty page! ooh, shiny! I asked [personal profile] durham_rambler on the way home whether I could have unferstood correctly that the project's secret weapon is a spectroscope reduced to portable components, and he thought that yes, he had got that impression. The project web page says "a unique, custom-built, fully mobile suite of equipment optimised for the study of manuscripts" so yes, apparently.

We came home and ate pizza and watched the first episode of Shetland, which involved more severed limbs than I am entirely comfortable with (and an interesting musical choice, at one point). Too soon to say what I think about all this.

Yesterday back to the Gala, the larger cinema this time, to see All is True: Kenneth Branagh directs and plays the lead as Shakespeare, returned to Stratford after the Globe Theatre has burned down. Judi Dench quietly steals the show as Anne Hathaway, Ian McKellen makes the most of a cameo as the Earl of Southampton. It says something about what kind of film this is, and what it expects of its audience, that in this short scene sonnet 29 is recited in full twice, first by Branagh, then by McKellen. If you like that sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing you will like.

Like Upstart Crow, which I have not been watching, it is scripted by Ben Elton. I wanted to like Upstart Crow, because Shakespeare, David Mitchell, these are recommendations, but I watched the first ten minutes of the first episode and did not want any more. Now I picture Ben Elton, researching and writing his comedy anc having all sorts of thoughts about Shakespeare which didn't fit into that show - wrong length, wrong shape, wrong mood, or maybe just not enough room - and finding a home for them in All is True. It's very episodic, and in as far as the different set pieces are linked by an actual plot (people have secrets; women have thoughts) this was less than the sum of its parts.

It is gorgeous to look at. Dorney Court plays the part of New Place beautifully (though it is too small, according to The Telegraph). Shakespeare in retirement takes up gardening, which provides a useful amount of stage business. But it also justifies plenty of autumnal landscapes, and if the garden is wilder and less formal than a prosperous Jacobean house would expect, well, that's why the master has taken up gardening. I was a bit suspicious of some of the more colourful fall foliage (can those really be maples?) but it was all very pleasing to the eye.

Walking home after the pob quiz, [personal profile] durham_rambler wondered what [personal profile] nineweaving would think about it. I hope we shall find out.
shewhomust: (Default)
When I started sneezing last night, I blamed the black pepper I had been grinding onto the salad; chicory and orange salad benefits from lots of black pepper, which makes me sneeze (I don't know why - it never used to, but now it does) but it's worth it.

But the sneezing went on all evening. And then my nose began to run. So it looks as if I have a cold.

It's the first one of the winter, so I can't complain. But I won't be swimming this afternoon.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We aren't getting out much at the moment, because reasons, so I'm indulging myself with a post left over from last summer, in Norfolk, and some of the pictures I didn't post at the time. This one, though, may look familiar:

Blakeney town sign


because I've posted before about Blakeney's village sign. But where else could I start a stroll around the village?

Random pictures of Blakeney )
shewhomust: (Default)
Shopping this morning in town - that is, in Durham City rather than at an out-of-town supermarket. We try to keep the big supermarket visits down to one a month, but it's getting harder and harder to buy everything I want in town.

I may have been muttering about this before we left the house this morning, but what brought on this post was finding that Mother Earth - the wholefood stall at the back of the covered market - had put up a sign: closing down, February 23rd. While I bought my cannelini beans and black peppercorns, we talked to the stallholder about this: business just isn't good enough for him to keep going. The students who make up 50% of the population don't buy from him, and he struggled to find a polite way to say "the average age of my customers just keeps going up." I wasn't insulted: my average age just keeps going up.

The Market Place was particularly empty today, because the gusty winds had kept away all but the most hardcore stallholders. But even on a good day, the market isn't what it was. The couple who used to sell pies now have a shop in Sedgefield, instead of doing the markets; I still miss Marks & Spencer, and not just because we always met friends there.

And now I'm going to have to find a new source for my rice and beans and spices. There's some overlap with the Gateway (Fair Trade) shop in St Nic's, but I'm already thinking about my shopping list for next Saturday. Never mind stocking up for Brexit, this is serious!
shewhomust: (Default)
I didn't absolutely have to go out this morning. It was raining, and I could have put together today's meals from what was in the house.

But I've been promising myself to get out more. And I wanted to buy some fruit and veg. And to see how the snowdrops are coming along.

So I went out.

There are snowdrops fully open in one of the front gardens down the hill, but the ones in St Margaret's churchyard are tight little spearheads still. Masses of them, and it won't be long. I was glad I'd taken the (longer, slippery) path through the churchyard, but I wasn't sorry I'd decided against bringing my camera.

I visited Sainsbury's and the greengrocer (blood oranges!) and a good half dozen charity shops in between. I bought a nice clean hardback of The Once and Future King, of which, mysteriously, I seem not to have a copy (although looking at the shelf where it might be, I see that I was right to pass on the Morte d'Arthur) and some handkerchiefs for [personal profile] durham_rambler (because I have been throwing away the tattiest of his collection as they appear in the ironing pile).

It's a small achievement, but I'm disproportionately pleased with myself.
shewhomust: (watchmen)
The Graphic Novels Reading Group I attend is not as other reading groups, as I explained when our theme was 'Comics of the Ancient World'.

And now we have moved on to something completely different: Space Opera! Whatever that may be... )
shewhomust: (puffin)
[personal profile] durham_rambler sent me a link to this gallery in the Guardian. The Folio Society, in a clever piece of self-promotion, is holding a competition to choose who will illustrate its forthcoming edition of Howl's Moving Castle, and these are the finalists. I'm not at all sure that I approve of this entire enterprise, but there are some very pleasing pictures here. And how often do you get a gallery of DWJ fan-art in the Guardian?

ETA: [personal profile] fjm e-mails to point out a fuller selection, and how to vote.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Today's news is that the government has set up a working group to track down that elusive solution to the Irish border problem. I think I know what their methodology will be:
[They] may seek it with thimbles - and seek it with care;
[They] may hunt it with forks and hope;
[They] may threaten its life with a railway-share;
[They] may charm it with smiles and soap -

but none of this will help them if it turns out - as I fear it may - to be a Boojum.

There's more: )
shewhomust: (Default)
Yesterday morning I turned the page on the calendar by my desk. It has a countryside scene for each month (by Rob Barnes, and in this style). January's picture was all white, sheep in the snow, but February was full of colour, pheasants among green shoots, with a frosting of snowdrops for contrast. Meanwhile, outside the window, snow had fallen overnight, and all was white. A note on our doormat confessed to having skidded on the bend and run into our car - the damage is minor, but I took it as a sign, and did not venture down the hill into town.

Last night BBC4 decided to mark the 60th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly by repeating a programme in their 'making of the classic albums' series about Don McLean's American Pie. I'm not sure I'd call it a 'classic album', because the inclusion of two absolute show-stoppers pulls it all out of shape. If asked, I could name one other track from the album: Babylon, which I prefer to Vincent (and I don't think I ever knew that McLean credits it to Lee Hayes, though I should have). Still, it was good to hear American Pie, and to hear McLean talking about it: though that story about how the verses all came to him in a rush should probably be set alongside his earlier (and unfairly overlooked) song Magdalene Lane. I liked McLean's contention that you could read the repetition of 'the day the music died' not as a repeated reference to the same day, but as building on the growing loss of innocence of each verse.

Woke up to more snow. The morning sun was bright on the trees on the hill opposite, and the sky was blue above them. After much toing and froing we decided that we would risk a trip out to Sainsbury's - a waste of a beautiful morning, but less of a waste that staying at home. We not only managed to drive down the Avenue without mishap, we managed to drive back up again, and I'm optimistic that we may be able to accept J.'s invitation to lunch tomorrow, to admire the progress of her building works. And if not - if there is more snow overnight - we have supplies. Oh, we would not have gone hungry in any case, but now we have fresh fruit and vegetables, and other luxuries.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Fragments of lost Arthurian work found in library - where else?

Here's the University of Britol press release (did I mention this was in Bristol?).

There are aspects of this story which aren't completely clear to me, mostly to do with the material having been found in Bristol's Central Library, which as dar as I can discover really is what it sounds like, the main city library, but which has in its collection an early printed copy of the works of Jean Gerson, and which is frequented by staff from the University's Special Collections Library. [personal profile] steepholm, does this make sense to you?

It appears that eight parchment pages from a manuscript of the Arthurian Vulgate Cycle had been used in the binding of the four volumes of the Gerson. When the books were subsequently rebound they were recognised as interesting enough to salvage, unstuck from the binding (though one page seems not to have survived that process) and bound into the body of the book. Where they stayed hidden until Michael Richardson of the Special Collections Library spotted the name 'Merlin'.

He called in the President of the International Arthurian Society (British Branch), who just so happened to be a member of the English Department at Bristol, and she called in a medieval historian and manuscript specialist, who just so happened to be her husband. And, just to make it more appealing to me, they recruited a specialist in the Old French Merlin stories from the University of Durham.

The initial conclusion is that what they have found is part of the Estoire de Merlin, but one which differs in its details from all previously known versions. The press release points out that Malory's source for the Morte d'Arthur was also a version of the Vulgate Cycle which differs in its details from all previously known versions. Naturally, we wonder if they are by any chance related, but I don't know enough about either the Vulgate or Malory to form any opinion on the basis of the summary given - it's lovely stuff, though, including things like a battle standard in the form of al dragon which breathes real fire, and the conception of a child who must surely be Lancelot. Well worth a look.
shewhomust: (ayesha)
I won't say that this is "the thing I don't understand about Brexit," becauae I could post every day with a thing I don't understand about Brexit, and still have things left over. But here's the Thing of the Day:

The current obstacle to agreement appears to be the backstop. This is an insurance policy, named, in the hope that this will render it comprehensible to the most conservative of Conservatives for an obsolete cricketing position.

As I understand it, the backstop is a recognition of the fact that as long as Eire and Northern Ireland are both members of the EU, the land border between them is effectively invisible and that this is a good thing. A hard border is associated with the bad old days of the Troubles (to use the habitual euphemism) and almost nobody wants that.

So we have to find a way to keep the border as imperceptible as possible. No problem, say the Brexiteers, we will think of something. There will be a technical solution. Fine, says the EU, but until that's up and running, let's have something to fall back on in the interim. This has generated so much heat that I'm not entirely sure what that something might be, but it appears to mean treating Northern Ireland as a special case, remaining EU compliant when the rest of the UK leaves the EU. Yesterday Parliament voted that the Prime Minister should return to Brussels (I think it was Brussels) and tell them that she still can't sell that deal to Parliament, could she have a different one, please?

So this morning the Brexit Secretary was on my radio explaining that instead of a backstop he wanted "alternative arrangements" and "technical solutions". And the interviewer was quite rightly pressing him about what those "alternative arrangements" and "technical solutions" might be. But what he wasn't asking was, "Why do you care? If you have a magic solution which will keep the border invisible, we'll never need to fall back on the backstop anyway!"

So that's today's Thing I Don't Understand. The backstop matters to me, because I don't believe in those "alternative arrangements" and "technical solutions". But the Brexit Secretary does believe in them. Doesn't he?
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
I have posted before about the concept of the Book of the Moment, as understood at the Elm Tree quiz; at that time the Book of the Moment was Goldfinger, and I was not enthusiastic about it, but at the start of this year we embarked on The Thirty Nine Steps and, oh, dear! After four weeks in the company of Richard Hannay, I'm beginning to miss James Bond. To be fair, there's a question of pacing: the questions have so far related to the very beginning of the book, the first few pages - but my memory being what it is, I have read each week to the end of the chapter. So I have now read, three or four times, about the Jewish-anarchist conspiracy which threatens Eastern Europe, and once would have been more than enough. Well, it's a book of its time: it was written in 1915, and its final paragraph begins "Seven weeks later, as the world knows, we went to war..."

Meanwhile, it seems I have more to say about James Bond... )

I never came to love Goldfinger, but I was constantly surprised by it. Prime example: the chase across France ends near Geneva, where Goldfinger has (as a little research before setting off would probably have revealed) business premises, at Coppet "the tiny lakeside hamlet made famous by Madame de Staël." I was not expecting James Bond to name-check Madame de Staël. Perhaps The Thirty Nine Steps will surprise me too. Here's hoping.
shewhomust: (Default)
The only Jewish museum in Albania.

Gail-Nina Anderson spent Christmas in Athens, and, being a lover of postcards, she sent a postcard home.

And turning that phrase the other way round, our armchairs have been away to be reupholstered and are now both home again. I realise that some people would regard this as an opportunity for a complete new look, but our aim was to match as closely as possible how they had looked before, and we are pleased with the mossy green velvet and the brass studding. We chose this firm partly because she was able to start straight away, and was willing to take one chair at a time, leaving us somewhere to sit over the New Year. so we got to try out one chair before the other one went away for treatment. Now that the springs no longer trail on the floor, the seat is noticeably higher than it was, and we must have joked about this, because when Nicola returned chair number two, it was accompanied by a matching footstool! (The next question is, will she be able to reupholster the sofa? And if so, will the three of us be able to move it?).
shewhomust: (Default)
Another week, another movie - another 'portrait of the artist' movie, too, though this time it's not a portrait of a young woman just starting out, but a double portrait of two aging men (they are both in their 60s) at the end of their careers. I didn't choose to watch it as a companion piece to Colette, I 'chose' to watch it because it was showing at my local cinema - but the more I think about it, the more the two films counterpoint each other in my mind. Full disclosure: the cinema obligingly provided an early evening screening on Wednesday, our preferred timing as it allows us to see a movie, walk up the hill and get something to eat at the Elm Tree before quiz time. But I don't think that's the only reason why I feel kindly to Stan & Ollie.

Other reasons... )
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
  1. Tuesday is the morning we set our alarm clock, because [personal profile] durham_rambler has a nine o'clock meeting - luckily only a short walk away at Redhills. They say that as you get older you need less sleep, but it isn't working that way for me: that seven o'clock alarm is a shock every time.


  2. Our milk comes from Paradise Farm, just down the road. But the bottles comes from all over: this morning's had a little red dragon on it, and a phone number which [personal profile] durham_rambler identified as being in Wrexham.


  3. The second loaf of the year is very plain, just buckwheat and wholemeal - one I've been promising myself for a while, and then being distracted. It's as tasty as I remember it, and dough which was too sticky to handle with ease has produced a well-risen (and unusually symmetrical) loaf. (The first loaf of the year was the Swedish summer rye because a) I thought the starter might be past its best after a longish break, and b) I had oranges to supply the necessary zest. In fact the starter was fine...).


  4. In the continuing story of disposing of leftovers, I scraped out the last of the little jar of clementine curd which I had bought at the market as a treat. It was too sweet to be really enjoyable, and I should have known it would be (most curds are, and this supplier in particular), but I was tempted. I blame GirlBear, who served a delicious cherry curd for breakfast, and reminded me how much I like curd, when it's done right.


  5. Less cheerfully, Saturday's paper - I'm still nibbling at the crossword, though I may now be stuck - has an obituary for Wendy Ramshaw: I like her work, and was sorry to hear of her death.
shewhomust: (Default)
Flass Vale is a wedge of woodland inserted into the western side of Durham City. There's a clearing in which the Friends of Flass Vale have been planting an orchard, and where there's an orchard, there must be a Wassail.

So at twilight on Saturday we followed the lantern-lined path down into the clearing (which will one day be an orchard), where we were greeted by fully qualified wassailers:

Tattercoat


who urged us to drink cups of hot spiced cider, and to sing, and to drink more cider from the wooden bowl that was passed around the circle...

More wassailing, and a little random souling. )

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