22 September 2013

Good morning to you all. It’s been a mixed week in beautiful downtown Byfield. A bit of rain, a bit of sunshine, a lot of grey and overcast skies. Still, we’ve had a good week and that’s what counts, I guess.

On Sunday afternoon we went across to Nick and Lucy’s to play with Annabelle and to grab an early dinner with them at the Leopard in Bishops Tachbrook. Many years ago, 1975 in fact, we visited the Lake when Ben was just over two years old and Nick was just six months or so. Grandpa, like all grandfathers, I suspect, teased Ben at various opportunities and on one occasion, in response to a suggestion that Grandpa might be somewhat naughty at times, Ben replied, “Grandpa is always naughty.” (Click for a larger image).

Ben at the Lake 1975
Ben at the Lake 1975

Naughty Grandpa 1975
Naughty Grandpa 1975

Being naughty is, essentially, what grandfathers are meant to do, I think. So, I was delighted to continue the custom – at one point I was leaning toward Annabelle and pretending to try to steal her cookie or biscuit or toy or whatever it was she was holding at the time. She, of course, would leap away laughing to prevent me stealing whatever it was. Later in the afternoon she announced that I was “Cheeky Grandpa! Naughty Grandpa!” So pleased to be able to continue the tradition.

I forgot to mention it last week but on Tuesday week before last I was able to treat Ms Playchute to a night out in the manner to which she has become accustomed. Free cinema tickets and a dining voucher at Bella Italia. Boy! Do I know how to show a girl a good time. The film was The Call which was “OK” I suppose.

From the IMDB:

Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) is an experienced 911 operator but when she makes an error in judgment and a call ends badly, Jordan is rattled and unsure if she can continue. But then teenager Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) is abducted in the back of a man’s car and calls 911. And Jordan is the one called upon to use all of her experience, insights and quick thinking to help Casey escape, and not just to save Casey, but to make sure the man is brought to justice.

It was pretty formulaic and predictable although the ending was quite “interesting.” I guess I would say that it was worth every penny we spent to get in.

Then it was off to Bella Italia just across the parking lot from the cinema to enjoy a splendid half-price meal. Really pushed the boat out this time.

Penny and I have been enjoying an on-going “discussion” about the extent to which we should pay attention and react to the barking Molly produces from time to time. I am of the view that most of the early morning barking is, in fact, an effort to get us up out of bed so that she can have her breakfast at 6.00 or 6.30 in the morning rather than waiting for us to arise at the significantly more reasonable time of 8.00 or 8.30. Just one example to prove my point – on Monday Penelope took herself off swimming at about 6.00 in the morning leaving me quietly and contentedly slumbering. At about 6.30 Molly barked. As she had been enjoying a little dose of the “squits” I said to myself that I would let her out if she persisted and barked five times. Once, twice – forget it. But, if she barks five times she must really need to go out.

Over the next few moments she did, indeed, bark five times. So, downstairs I stumbled, bleary-eyed and still three-quarters asleep, to let her out. You can imagine, I am sure, how delighted I was to see her trot out on to the front drive and sit there, staring at the sky, for about thirty seconds. She then started off through the garage towards the back garden so I went through to the library and watched, anxious to see how desperate she really was. As she got to the back patio she sat down again for about another thirty seconds and then trotted back to the front door to bark for admittance and breakfast. In other words, she did absolutely bugger all. She clearly was not desperate to go out – the only desperation she was experiencing at the time was her desire to have a snack. Well, she got admitted all right but breakfast will have to wait, thank you very much. I rest my case.

Ms Playchute and I had a nice day out on Friday – we went down to London to visit a French property exhibition at Olympia which was both interesting and fun. It’s long been something we’ve talked about – when we eventually sell Penelope’s Playchute Palace and down-size our accommodation somewhat, we have thought about buying something smaller and more sensible in the UK and hopefully have enough change left over for a cottage somewhere in France as well. There were hundreds and hundreds of lovely places for sell, some of which we could even afford to buy. Lots of things to think about including where in France we should look – the exhibition certainly helped to narrow that down – we now know that we’re interested in only about two-thirds of the country.

After the exhibition we had a late lunch at a Persian restaurant, YAS, across the road from the Olympia exhibition centre. In years gone by the British Educational Technology exhibition used to be held at Olympia every year and one of the highlights of the trip up to town was the opportunity to grab lunch here. The exhibition has not been held at Olympia for some time now (and although I went to the exhibition in Docklands last year, it had been several years since I last went) so I was surprised to see it still open given the average shelf life of restaurants anywhere. Not only was it still open, it has clearly thrived in my absence – it has taken over whatever used to be next door and so is now twice the size it used to be. Sorry to say, though, that the food was “OK” and somewhat overpriced. It’s clear that some memories are best left un-revisited.

AzaleaI warned you last time that if I didn’t receive updated photographs and recipes from the various participants in the XCstravaganza celebrations, I would be compelled to include not one but two videos in this week’s edition. We even had a comment from one of our subscribers begging those responsible to get their photos uploaded and their recipes submitted so that she could be spared another time-lapse video.

We were partly successful – thank you to Carol and Zach for some great photos (including several of the adorable Azalea enjoying the festivities) and thank you also to Emily for sending along the recipe for Rob’s Ribs and those amazing gluten-free chocolate cookies. The recipes will appear on the XCstravaganza web site in due course.

As we were partly successful, I will only inflict one time-lapse video on you – this one of Penelope and I climbing the trail from the dock up to the Ritz in record time.

If you think that one’s bad, wait ‘til you see some the rest which I will continue to post until I get all the recipes I am waiting for! You have been warned.

Love to you all,

Greg