Saturday, June 30, 2007

Roasting our visitors

The first half of this trip has been full of visitors.

On the Tuesday 19 June, Jim - a work colleague - arrived with his wife Debby and their three youngest daugthers. He is American of Sicilian ancestry and so took the opportunity while working in the UK to get the family over, visit Rome and then drive down to get the ferry over to Sicily. As this was while we where in Puglia I said "Come stay with us" and so he did!

They stayed overnight and left on Wednesday morning the same day as Bill (pictured here buying melons in the local market) arrived for a week. Then on Friday two girl friends of Mary's, Andrea and Elaine, joined us for a very long weekend.

It has been a heatwave round here. Bari reached 47 C (117 F), the hottest since records began. Fortunately up in the hills we peaked at a mere 40 C (104 F)

Everybody left on Wednesday 27 June so now we have ten days to relax on our own.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Midway through our holiday

I have not been blogging because we are halfway through a three week holiday in Italy. This is a quick post as we have just popped into town to pick up a few items. So much to write about so here is a snippet to keep you going.

I did a full stock-take of the garden trees, with the help of our friend Bill who was visiting for a week, and can confirm that we have:
  • 9 Olive
  • 1 Walnut
  • 1 White Mulberry
  • 2 Fig
  • 2 Pear
  • 2 Unknown (probably apricot)

Now all I have to do is find out how to harvest and process raw olives.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Main courtyard before and after

In all the before and after pictures I had managed to miss those of the main courtyard.

Main courtyard before
So here is the very first time we went with the estate agents back in early 2004.

Main courtyard after
And this is how it ended up three and a half years and many euros later.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Our house may be Georgian

I am beginning to suspect our house may not be Victorian (1837-1902) but in fact Georgian (1714-1830).

When we bought the house the vendor told us it was 1890 but there is nothing in the legal paperwork to confirm this date. Stylistically nothing about it really looks late-Victorian: the cube-like overall shape of the building, the horizontal (not-arched) window lintels, the small panes in the sashes, the original wooden shutters, the tall (12 foot, 3.66 meter) ceilings. We have been describing the house to our friends as Victorian but with Georgian dimensions.

On Sunday I was chatting to Jo next door and she tells me we are listed in the 1851 census. Suddenly that makes more sense of the Victorian extension at the back. Why build a house and almost immediately extend it? But if the original property was built at least 40 years earlier that is far more plausible scenario.

Wednesday evening I called in at Battersea Library Local History Service near Clapham Junction to inspect the census which they had on microfilm. It was not possible to identify our property exactly as the street had changed name and length. It was previously North Street and ran all the way to the river.

Apparently a lot of street naming went on at the request of the emergency services because there were so many North Streets, Victoria Roads, etc. There used to be a field where B & Q now stands which was the site of Wandsworth Fair, marked on the 1894 OS map as "Fairfield" hence the new name of our street. I will chat to Jo again then go back armed with the original address.

Further evidence came last night when Mike from The Original Box Sash Windows Company came round to quote for refurbishing the side and back windows. He looked at the bathroom window and exclaimed "Good Lord, I have never seen a window that old!" This from a man whose company specializes in repairing Victorian windows.

He explained that the thin profile of the wood and quality of the joinery spoke to an earlier age of craftsmanship. This was repeated around the house. He also, interestingly pointed out the slightly opaque pane in our bedroom window as "sugar glass" - low quality glass from a repair sometime during WW2.

Wandsworth in 1786

This map from 1786 shows a street there and buildings. North street runs from just above the "W" of Wandsworth to the "r" in Creek. Pickpocket Lane is now, more prosaically, York Road. Unfortunately the scale and detail are not sufficient to confirm anything useful, merely to encourage. Now I am getting excited at the prospect of playing House Detective and researching the true age of our home. Watch this space...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Heartbeat, increasing heartbeat

You hear the thunder of stampeding rhinos, elephants and tacky tigers *

I am back on the bike after two weeks dental recovery. Last week I bought myself a new heart rate monitor and the first cycle into work took 41:00 minutes at an average of 155 bpm. At one point I looked down at the wrist monitor and it was showing 169; who needs to go to the gym for a workout.

Sunday we watched a DVD of "The Queen" starring Helen Mirren where a key theme is the relationship between Blair and HRH. This week Horse Guards Road is closed for the Trooping of the Colour so my route has had to change. In a piece of elegant symmetry my route in takes me up Whitehall past Downing Street and my route home takes me down the Mall past Buck House.

Sunday I pulled the unicycle out of the bike shed known as "Arthur", pumped up the tyres and took it for a wobble round the patio. I have to say it is *not* like riding a bike. I will need more practice even to get back to my previous dubious level of proficiency.

* "This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us" by Sparks

Monday, June 11, 2007

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe *

The weekend was mostly spent in the garden completing the installation of an irrigation system to keep the plants watered while we are on holiday. This means we will return to a blooming garden unlike last year when absences and hose-pipe bans meant the spring planting did not survive the summer and we had a load of dead and dessicated plants.

It is also a fine example of "constructive laziness". My thighs may ache from hours hopping about in the shrubbery like a frog but that now means no more watering! At the appointed hour the hissing of summer lawns will announce the timer unleashing a trickle of drippers all around the garden.

I also realised that we now have a "wabe": The grass plot around a sundial. It is called a "wabe" because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it, and a long way beyond it on each side. This sundial was my 50th birthday present from the family and lived on the patio at Avon Cottage. Now it is on the Wandsworth lawn I have a "wabe". So that's nice.

* "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Austrian Wine Tasting at Charteris Wine Society

Another interesting tasting at the Charteris Wine Society, this time Austrian wines. It is always good to try something different and expand one's wine horizon. This time the wines were ably presented by Christian Malnig of Kipferl, an Austrian Deli just around the corner at 70 Long Lane, London EC1A 9EJ.

I did not know the Gruner Veltliner grape but it seems Austria grows a lot of indigenous varieties and this is the most popular accounting for 36% of the nation's production. Very enjoyable and comparable to the best of Alsace varietals any day. Also it is a nation of small producers; the average grower has a mere 3 hectares!

Christian dealt with the high volume of chatter but doing not so much presenting standing at the front but more visiting each table in turn for a sit down chat. That worked well, especially as the individual attention meant we could ask specific questions.

He and his wife also presented us with platters of Austrian meats and, for the sweet wines, various delicious pastries.


C: colour; N: nose; P: palette; ** = favourite; -- = not favourite


Gruner Veltliner Alte Reuben, Selection, Weixelbaum 2005 (GBP 8.99) **

C: mid-yellow; N: peppery / spicy; P rich complex, unctuous, steely aftertaste, bit of acid tingle. My favourite and that of several others.

Gruner Veltliner Seeberg, Matthias Hager, Kamtal 2004 (GBP 14.49)

C: darker yellow; N; Kiwi fruit; P: not as unctuous, smokey

Reisling Reid Gaisberg, Wahre Werte, Weixelbaum 2005 (GBP 10.49) **

C: yellow; N; powerfiul; P: sweetish Alsace style

Rotgipfler Privat, Schaflerhof, Thermenregion 2005 (GBP 8.49) --

N; very little; P slightly hollow, some grip.

Scheurebe (Samling 88), Stefan Potzinger, Sudsteiermark 2006 (GBP 9.98)

C: vary pale; N: v fragrant, lime-green (SB-like); P: tart apple / unripe melon


Blauer Zweigelt, Daniel Jaunegg, Sudsteiermark 2005 (GBP 8.98)

C: purple: N: sour cherry; P: merlot-like, redcurrant / raspberry

Sweet white wines

Traminer, Stefan Potzinger, Sudsteiermark 2003 (GBP 12.49) ** ½

C: deep yellow; N: pungent / sour; P: sweet yet tangy (good with strudel)

Ziefandler Beerenauslese, Beigler, Gumpoldskirchen 2003 (375cl - GBP 12.49) ***

C: Golden yellow; N: honey, peach; P: very ripe pineapple, sui generis, my kind of wine <G>

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Call me Count Dracula

So it was back to Dr Ashok Sethi to have the stitches out and not before time. After 10 days my gums were telling me the stitches had done their job and were now more of a hindrance than a help.

x-ray of whole mouthful of teeth

X-ray of whole mouthful of teeth showing implants

I do not remember these X-rays being taken although I must have been led from the chair to the machine and back again. What I do remember is Ashok saying "Wider, Wider!" and me saying "Ow!"

It appears that, to be very sure of avoiding the nerve, he exposed it so he knew exactly where it was. This would explain why I felt some discomfort even through the anaesthetic and the sedative. talk about touching a raw nerve. Ugh and shudder.

x-ray of lower-left teeth

X-ray of lower left teeth after implants

That it is for three months when I go back to get the OK for the permanent crowns to replace the current temporaries. Well apart that is from crowning the lower right 8 but Raj cannot take an impression for a least six weeks till these chaps have bonded in.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sunday in the Garden

At the weekend we bought *three* trolley-loads of plants and spent Sunday planting them in the beds.

planting the bed - during
Planting the lower bed

Mary did the planting, I did the big weeds and cutting the lawn.

planting the bed - after
The lower bed planted up

I also spiked all over the front lawn with a fork and now the muscles in my fingers ache. "My hand's can't feel to grip" - opening screw top bottles is real a challenge.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Molly Goes to Bristol

Saturday we took Molly to Charles Ware's Morris Minor garage in Bristol for an Extreme Makeover (Upper body edition).

She has been sitting patiently in the garage of "Thatched Eaves" (aka "The Chocolate Box Cottage") next door to Avon Cottage since we moved out on Valentines Day. If you want to stay in a cute cottage in the New Forest I can thoroughly recommend "The Chocolate Box Cottage". Fran has kept Thatched Eaves immaculate, the garden is wonderful *and* you have "The Olde Beams Inn" next door!

Anyhow, we went down Friday afternoon, had a 'nouvelle' curry at Indigo in Ringwood High Street with Bob&Lynn and stayed the night. In the morning we picked up Molly after the guests had left. As usual she started first time - not bad for a 43 year-old car.

Molly at the end of her ride

We then drove 65 miles in convoy to Bristol with me behind in the Beemer and got to Charles Ware's before they closed for lunch.

We had Molly's 'bottom' done several years ago as Moggies (as they are affectionately known by us Brits) are prone to rust. The man looked her over and will give us a call in the week with estimates and options as to what we can do within our budget. Given how much I have just spent on my teeth I think it is only fair Mary has her extravagance too :-)