14 April 2013

Another marvellous week of non-Spring-like weather, just for a change. To be fair, we did catch a glimpse or two of the sun in the middle of the week and the temperatures have been moving in the “right” direction, but it’s still largely dismal. The daffodils are just beginning to open their eyes but they do look cold and miserable and somewhat stunted by all the cold weather we’ve had. Private Eye had an article expressing concern “for the whereabouts of the much-loved star known as ‘the sun’.” which sums the situation up nicely.

Fears Grow for Reclusive Star

There have been mounting concerns for the whereabouts of the much-loved star known as “the sun”. It has not been seen by the public since around August last year and there are rumours that it may never come out again.

A once common sight, particularly in the seventies, when it seemed to be everywhere, this star has drastically cut down its appearances and, according to friends, is now living “under a cloud”. British fans of the sun may now only see it in the Australian jungle where it will join the other faded stars on ‘I’m a Celebrity . . .’

Greg pretending to cookA couple of weeks ago I had this wacky idea – we should have some friends over for dinner. That’s not the wacky part, of course – Ms Playchute’s meals are legendary. The wacky part was that I proposed to do all the cooking!

Now, I appreciate that you will all immediately recognise the foolishness of this suggestion. What was I thinking! I’m just about capable of incinerating a slab of meat on the barbeque but actually prepare a proper meal with a starter, main course with a range of vegetables and dessert? There is no way that this is going to go well!

I should have set up my camera and taken a time-lapse video of me preparing this feast – it would have been very funny, I’m sure. It would have shown Greg, in the kitchen, looking at a recipe and scratching his head. Then, there would be a bellow up the stairs and Penny would miraculously appear to put him right or to save him from imminent disaster. After setting him straight, she would go back upstairs only to be summoned again thirty-three seconds later.

Fortunately, Penny did take pity and agreed to make the dessert – strawberry and rhubarb crisp with the first rhubarb from the garden. My goodness, it’s good and probably just about saved the evening. I was making Butternut Squash ravioli with a sage butter sauce followed by slow-cooked, spiced pulled shoulder of lamb with potato and celeriac mash, creamed spinach, roasted vegetables and roast potatoes.

I haven’t got time or space to recount all the disasters but a video of me making the fresh pasta would have become a You Tube sensation overnight. I watched several videos online, read several articles and was feeling moderately confident as I started. As soon as I began, however, it was clear that the flour and eggs had a mind of their own. How is it possible to get so much of the flour and pasta dough all over your trousers, shirt, glasses and even in your hair? Once again, Penelope was summoned and, between us, we more or less rescued the situation.

Then we come to the slow-cooked, spiced pulled shoulder of lamb. This was a recipe which Penelope made a few weeks ago and it was very, very tasty. And, of course, it had the distinct benefit of being a really easy recipe – mix up some spices, rub them all over the lamb shoulder, plonk it in a slow cooker and six hours later you have magnificently tender and deliciously spicy lamb. Doubling the recipe, however, meant that it was too big to fit in our slow cooker so it had to be slow-cooked in the oven. I went on the interweb to try to find the appropriate temperature and timings and found the relevant information fairly easily. No worries, right?

When we checked it after about four hours of “slow cooking” it was just about getting warm. Slow cooked? How about no cooked! So, we had to whack the heat up to get it passably edible in time which meant, of course, that we ended up with hunks of spiced lamb instead of tender strands of pulled lamb.

Still, it all went together and ended up on plates somehow. The guests must have been sufficiently fooled (or sufficiently inebriated) because their plates came back to the kitchen spotless and they stayed until about 1.00 am, well past our bedtime. So, I guess it all worked out in the end.

I ran across an article and video about a young man named Rob Higgs from Cornwall who creates sculptures out of junk, rather like someone else we know. If I had the resources, I would commission Sandy to make me a corkscrew like this one:


And here’s another quick video of a nutcracker he developed.


We have an adventure to look forward to this coming week – Ms Playchute and I are off to Barcelona for a few days. It’s long been on our list of places we’d like to visit and Nick and Lucy kindly gave us the flight and hotel accommodation as a Christmas present. So, having secured alternative care arrangements for both the dog and the mother-in-law, we are off on Tuesday morning and back on Friday afternoon. Who knows, we might even see a bit of sunshine and experience some slighter warmer weather – here’s hoping.

And finally, Penelope ran across a version of the following video on Facebook. It’s entitled “My little girl Amaya peacefully sleeping . . . until her favourite song comes on!” Be sure to note the older sister’s hysterics!


We had a lovely visit with Annabelle and her father yesterday afternoon and we are so impressed with her rapidly developing language skills. As soon as she saw Penny she shouted, “Gamma!” and, as soon as she saw me she shouted, “Crappo!” I can’t remember ever being so accurately addressed.

Much love to you all,