Saturday, April 30, 2022

Brunswick Road 12 - Kitchen Installation Continued

Penrith, Cumbria. April-2022.

The end is nigh! 

The units are now installed in the kitchen and utility / shower room bar four drawer fronts and the door for the dishwasher that are on back order. That means all the kitchen pots, pans, utensils, cleaning materials, etc. can be moved into the cupboards from various locations. 

The knock on effect through the rest of the house has been enormous as items from the pantry, dresser and shed went into their rightful places in the kitchen and utility room. Boxes were brought down from the top bedrooms and the temporary cooking arrangements went out into the shed. The lock-up has been emptied of its remaining contents and given up, saving us the ongoing rental. 

Luckily our friend Nigel was starting to pack up his house so was a very happy recipient of all our empty boxes, bubble wrap and lock-up storage unit.

The dishwasher is plumbed in so no more washing dishes in the bathroom sink! The utility room is now fully functional with shower and washing machine so more trips to the Coach House Laundry with Ikea bags full of washing.

The dining room is now fully operational. Following last month's plastering I painted the two untouched walls so we could move the dresser back in from the hallway. This month, once the plaster was dry, I painted the two remaining walls and the white above the picture rail. The cook book shelves are up and pictures hung.

The ceiling is still to be fitted but as this was more complicated than first thought, and would clash with the kitchen installation, we have delayed this until later in the year.

There were some bits of paint touch up in the kitchen where socket and switches had to be moved and around the edges in the utility room. Basically it is done apart from some painting of new skirting boards and doors - hurrah!

It will be lovely when it is finished!

Friday, April 29, 2022

Knepp Safari 2022

Knepp Wildland Safaris, West Sussex, UK. Wednesday / Thursday 27/28-April-2022.  

This was our third visit to Knepp and it was as good as ever. We booked way back in September 2021 as soon as they released the dates. Mary was keen to do a Nightingale Safari and stay in one of the glamping options, preferably one of the yurts, The Turtle Dove, which has a fantastic position and outlook. Mary pounced as soon as the dates were opened up and this was the only date where a safari and accommodation (unfortunately only one of the bell tents) were available so we snapped them up. This pushed back our original planned date for returning to Italy for the summer.

It was a bit of a road trip; we drove all the way down from Penrith on the Wednesday, stayed two nights, and then drove all the way back up to Penrith on the bank holiday Friday.

Our tent was set in beautiful bluebell woods.

The tent itself was a permanent structure on a raised platform.

The interior had a proper double bed with a heavyweight duvet, sofa and chairs and a wood burning stove.

It was cold when we arrived but was soon lovely and warm thanks to the stove.

Wednesday night we had an excellent meal in the nearby Crown Inn and an early night because the first of two safaris was at dawn the next morning. On the walk to the pub we passed a small herd of red deer.

They were seemingly unperturbed by our presence.

Next morning the alarm went off at 5 o’clock for a 5:15 assemble with our guide. It was basically a gentle ramble round the estate with an introduction to the history of the whole re-wilding project, which we knew having been before and read the book. 

The dawn chorus was in full voice. Our guide kept pointing out nightingale song but we struggled to distinguish it from all the other birdsong.

We saw a variety of habitat, some deer and a longhorn cow with newborn calf.

After the walk I had a Hatha Yoga class in the Yoga Garden - a yurt like structure in the grounds. 

After we got back we discovered that the lid of one of our tea and coffee mugs had fallen out of my pocket. So we retraced our route, found it at the farthest point and continued to repeat most of the morning’s route. On the way round we came across a field with longhorn cattle, several Tamworth sows and a whole bunch of cute piglets all leaping about with youthful enthusiasm.

Got back from this second walk to discover that Mary‘s photos of the piglets had not come out because she had failed to press the button on her camera firmly enough so we went out again after lunch for the third time! This time we came across the same piglets without the cattle and got some excellent photos. We hid behind a clump of brambles but the piglets saw us and came inquisitively trotting over to have a look at us. 

Piglets charge!

Piglets regroup.

That was fine until mum turned and started to amble towards us so we thought it best to beat a retreat.

Signs of pig rootling – they are nature’s rotavators and plough up the ground which is good for margin loving plants and in turn the insect and birds that are specific to those habitats.

Stork reintroduction is the latest success story at Knepp with 37 eggs across nine nests this year. 

On our way back to the tent we passed several herds of fallow deer.

The evenings excursion was the much anticipated Nightingale Safari. They are a rare bird but making a comeback at this estate. They are also one of the few birds that sing at night. Apparently they migrate at night and it is the males in the trees, having selected a territory, that are singing to attract a female down from out of the sky.

Included in the safari was supper cooked by one of the staff. Vegetarian (or possibly even vegan)  it was based on a middle eastern theme: chickpea salad, couscous, spicy vegetable dish, green salad, a glass of wine and pudding. 

We then set off on the Safari armed with torches and spent another couple of hours walking round the estate pausing at various points to listen to the nightingales' long and complex repertoire of song. By the time we got back at midnight we were ready for our bed.

Nightingale song:

All in all it was a magical experience.

Epilogue: Next morning it was breakfast and the long trek home. What with holiday weekend traffic, road works and accidents it took about seven and a half hours. That made us decide to book the train down to Gatwick for our return to Italy the following week.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Inforem Infocus June 88 Issue 1

Penrith, Cumbria. Saturday 16-April-2022.

Zooming with ex-colleagues and reminiscing about the "good old days" I was reminded that in my archives I had this old in-house magazine featuring many familiar names. I promised them a scan so here it is: 

Inforem Infocus Issue 01 [pdf, opens in new window].

The front page mentions Inforem being signed up by Bradford and Bingley. I was assigned to that project just after I had adopted a kitten so relocated up north for the duration to avoid having to transport 8 week old Cleopatra back and forth every week. It was a workaholic environment with people working 12-hour days but I was immune to peer pressure. I would leave at 5pm prompt saying "You wouldn't want the kitten to starve!"

I lived in a rented house in Cottingley, home to the Cottingley Fairies. It was being posted up there that led me to buy my first ever pair of walking boots (see My Life in ... Shoes).

Shortly after I joined the company relocated from urban Ealing to leafy Weybridge. Here the "gang of four", our directors, are standing in front of our shiny new offices: Sohail Amer, Athar Shareef, Mojtaba Ghassemian, and Ali Athar. The editor of this newsletter was Michael Gray who joined Inforem around the same time I did.

PC based retail systems contributed to a fair amount of Inforem's business using PAGE which was able to handle exotic peripherals like tills and petrol pumps. Becoming an IBM Systems Centre meant that Inforem could sell the hardware to run the systems on as well. The warehouse shifted a lot of boxes.

It was my knowledge of structured methods for systems development that got me head hunted into inforem by Chris Collins with whom I had worked as BIS (Applied Systems). Anything you want to know about data modelling I'm yer man!

Jon Yerrell lead a small team of full time trainers but a number of us consultants also presented the courses.  The first course I did jointly with Chris Collins, the second I was left to present the whole 4-day course on my own. Very much a baptism of fire - thanks Chris!

PAGE was later to evolve into CASEwise Corporate Modeller and contributed to much of my later career. 

There was a short lived and ill fated foray into expert systems.

The Texas retail systems rollout included a substantial amount of new hardware being shipped out of the warehouse to stores all over the country. Some of my colleagues were doing more mileage in a month than I did in a year.

My. boss, Bob Carlsen, and I lifted this magnificent trophy the size of an egg-cup for beating a team from Coutts & Co. at Trivial Pursuit.

Ah! Those were the days my friend!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Low-Intervention Wines from Europe

WASP (Wine Appreciation Society, Penrith), Roundthorn Country House Hotel, Penrith. Thursday 31-March-2020.

Our first proper tutored wine tasting for several years. The wines were presented by Sam Jary of Black Hand Wine which is literally up our street.

We learnt about WASP by chance at the Christmas meal for the U3A Italian conversation group. Chatting to Peter who is actively involved in both groups, he told us about the group and we signed up straight away. This was our first opportunity to go to one of their tastings. 

You never know what to expect with a new group. There were more people than I was expecting, it was a fair sized crowd of 41 people. We hadn’t got the message about bringing our own tasting glasses (presumably a hangover from Covid) but the hotel rustled up a couple of glasses for us.

Sam is a trained professional oenologist and viticulturist specialising in organic wines. As always quality costs a little more but in this case is worth it to try some interesting and unusual wines. 

Sam talked a fair bit about the biodynamic principles so my very sketchy knowledge of this approach was greatly improved starting with Biodynamic Preparation 500 which involves burying a cow horn full of manure over winter to create a soil enhancer.

He presented eight wines, four white, four red:

Wine 1: Ciù Ciù Falerio Oris Bianco 2020, Marche, Italy - 13% - £14

  • Location: East Coast, Marche. 
  • Vinification: Organic. Fermented in stainless steel.
  • Grapes: Trebbiano, pecorino, passerina.
  • Tasting: Acidity, light floral, good finish.

Wine 2: Cuvée TRADITION Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2020 - 13.5% - £17

  • Location: Rhone.
  • Vinification: Sur lee / autolysis, biodynamic.
  • Grapes: Grenache blanc, viognier, clairette, bourboulenc.
  • Tasting: Strong aroma, aromatic, appley / spicy. Unctuous, peach kernel?, Well balanced, good length.

Wine 3: Chapuis Fréres Bourgogne Chardonnay 2020 - 13% - £22

  • Location: Savigny-le-Beaune.
  • Vinification: 20% new oak. 2020 a good year.
  • Grapes: Chardonnay.
  • Tasting: Buttery, vanilla (aroma and flavour), very well balanced, good length, fresh acidity on finish.

Wine 4: Vincent Gaudry 2017 Sancerre Le Tournebride - 12.5% - £26

  • Location: Loire.
  • Vinification: Biodynamic, wild yeast, unfined, unfiltered.
  • Grapes: Sauvignon blanc.
  • Tasting: Rich, smoky, perfumed, depth on nose. Unctuous, great body, well balanced, great length, complex.

Wine 5: Ciù Ciù Piceno DOP Bacchus 2016 - 13.5% - £14

  • Location: East Coast, Marche. 
  • Vinification: New oak, six months in stainless steel, three months in bottle.
  • Grapes: Montepulciano, sangiovese
  • Tasting: Purple / plum colour. Tasty, balanced, soft fruit, nice acidity, length.

Wine 6: NATURE Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2020 -13.5% - £17

  • Location: Rhone.
  • Vinification: No added sulfites, no oak, vinified in concrete.
  • Grapes: Grenache, syrah.
  • Tasting: good fruit, earthy, deep, herby. Deep, tannic, dark fruit, velvety.

Wine 7: Velvet Gerard Pittnauer NV, Austria - 12.5% - £17.50

  • Location: Burgenland, by massive lake which moderates the climate.
  • Vinification: Organic, biodynamic, wild yeast. Aged in neutral barrels
  • Grapes: Zweigelt, blaufrankisch. 
  • Tasting: Herbaceous, fresh acidity on nose. Good fruit flavours.

Wine 8: Chapuis Fréres Coteaux Bourguignon 2020 - 14.5% - £21

  • Location: Cru Beaujolais.
  • Vinification: No added sulfites, unfined, unfiltered. 4 months in barrel.
  • Grapes: Gamay. 
  • Tasting: uncharacteristically big, high alcohol. Fruity, good body, some tannin.

At the end of the tasting anyone who wanted to could help polish off the leftovers.

We had eaten beforehand not realising there was a buffet afterwards but I think we would have eaten anyway to line our stomachs.

One of the attendees recognised me as a neighbour from my hand delivering a misdirected Christmas card last year. We ended up having an excellent chat till gone 11pm when we all staggered back down the hill to home.

Even after decades of wine tasting we always learn something new from a good presenter and it was an excellent social evening.

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Brunswick Road 11 - dining room plastering, kitchen installation

Penrith, Cumbria. March-2022.

Finally some real progress. Between Allen, our kitchen fitter, and Barry the builder, the month of March has seen great leaps forward. 

Allen did what he could in the utility room while we were waiting for delivery of the kitchen units. First he installed the loo and shower base. We have missed having two loos. I joked that we should now call the house “Lautrec”.

Next the shower boards went in and then had to be left for the filler foam to go off.

Once Allen had done what he could Barry’s lads came in to strip and re-plaster the back wall and chimney breast. The back wall was re-plastered using insulated boards to help improve the thermal efficiency a little.

We had hoped that the chimney breast would be lovely stone like in Benson Row but sadly not. Although the top part was stone it would seem that the lintel had been lowered from its original position and the infill was unappealing brickwork so we plastered it back over. 

The left hand alcove, where the boiler had been, was opened out then boxed in to hide all the pipe work to the new boiler and make it symmetrical with the other side.

Once the plastering was done we could move the dresser back into the dining room from the hallway where it had been constricting the passageway. It meant we could now move freely and also unbox the glasses, etc which had been in storage crates cluttering up the rest of the house.

The kitchen fitter returned with the carcasses for the units and positioned them in the correct places.

Because of the wiring still needed for the hob and oven he made a start on the utility room - the first units are now fitted. They will eventually have the same work top as the kitchen with a countertop sink above the washing machine.

The flying sink has gone so we are back to washing up in the bathroom sink but not for long; next month should see the work complete.

"It will be lovely when it's finished!"