22 March 2015

Good morning and welcome to Spring, or at least as far as the calendar is concerned. Actually, we’ve had another pretty good week although the middle part was somewhat misty, foggy, grey and cold. The forecast for the few days ahead is for it to return to colder temperatures – perhaps one last blast of winter before we finally escape its clutches?

Friday was pretty decent and brought two significant events. The first, of course, was the eclipse which was good fun and quite impressive. We had a lot of cloud and mist so didn’t have the best of views but we certainly had the eerie darkness with which I guess many of you will be familiar. We had about 85% coverage here so it certainly got pretty dark. A friend of Nick’s shot a time lapse video which I would have shared here but couldn’t work out how to do so. I did share it on Facebook so if you are one of my millions of “friends” have a look – it was very impressive.


After the eclipse had passed, the remainder of Friday turned out to be very pleasantly warm and sunny, so nice in fact that I pumped up the tyres on the bike and went for a leisurely circuit around and about. Penny very flippantly announced that I was half way to equalling the total number of bike rides I took last year but, as always, she is exaggerating. I’m sure I went out at least three times last year.


We had a lovely Mothering Sunday with Nick & Lucy last Sunday. As I mentioned last time, lunch prepared by Nick is always an event worth looking forward to. And, indeed, we were not disappointed – the lunch was excellent, the company outstanding and the entertainment, largely provided by Ms Bubble, was fabulous.

Thanks to some minor modifications to the original sourdough recipe Nick gave me, my last few efforts have been getting better and better. Even though I may say so myself, this bread is very, very tasty but I’m still not entirely happy with the final result. I’m getting a delightfully delicious tangy sour taste but I’m not getting enough of the larger bubbles/holes. I think the issue is particularly to do with the second proving which is not generating enough action, I think. As the process is so slow, I generally have to leave the second prove overnight – perhaps it’s too long? Anyone with any tips, very much appreciated.


Penelope and I had a lovely evening out on Thursday at the Treehouse School Film Festival, a collection of films made by primary and secondary school students in schools around Wallingford. This was quite similar in many ways to the Bicester Film Festival which I’ve been involved with organising for the past few years – lots of fun and, on the whole, the films the children produced were quite good. There was a lot of dross to wade through, as always, but the event was a great success and raised a good deal of money for the school. When I get hold of a copy of the winning film I will share it.

This is a long story – for which I beg your indulgence, but it’s been a long time since I had a good rant!

Some months ago I noticed an “unexpected” transaction on our credit card statement. Nearly £200 had been debited by a company from which Ms Playchute had requested a “free” sample, not realising that the web site was cleverly laden with small print which committed you to a monthly, no-longer-free, supply. Naturally, when I saw this I contacted the company responsible to request that they cancel this “service” forthwith and that they refund the sum they had charged us.

As you might imagine, a lengthy “discussion” ensued until finally the person with whom I was speaking offered me a £50 refund as a gesture of their “good will.” I suggested that a full refund would be a better gesture of their good will and, after several more exchanges I was eventually promised a full refund if I would kindly return the empty containers. I have to confess, I found this request somewhat bizarre but I was happy to oblige if they would refund the £200.

The next day a parcel was posted to the company concerned (recorded delivery signed for on arrival) and we awaited our refund.

You won’t be the least bit surprised to learn that the refund never materialised.

So, I took the issue up with our credit card company. I completed a form which gave them the details and they came back to me after some weeks to say that they were very sorry, there was nothing they could do. They had been in touch with the supplier who happily pointed them to the small print on their web site which indicated that any returns had to be complete and intact. In other words, their request that I send the empty containers was a clear indication that they had no intention of refunding our money.

I replied (via e-mail) to our credit card company indicating that I was “disappointed” that they were not able to help me. I also added that it was my wife who actually posted the return parcel and, unbeknownst to me, she had included all the goods (in spite of their request that we just return the empty containers).

This e-mail sparked two follow-ups from our credit card company. The first came the next day in the form of a telephone call from a very nice gentleman whose intervention had been prompted by my use of the word “disappointed” in my reply. He very patiently explained why they were unable to help. He was very sympathetic and could see how the company was acting on the verge of illegality but that they clearly knew their stuff, their charges were “legit” by the letter of the law and by the small print on their web site and there really was nothing the credit card company could do. He did, however, offer me £50 compensation for my inconvenience and “distress” and the refund of my postage (£4.10) for my troubles. I thanked him for his kindness and accepted his offer of the two ex-gratia payments. And that, I thought, was the end of the issue.

A few days later, however, I received an e-mail from someone else at the credit card company informing me that they had, in fact, credited our account with the full value of the disputed amount. They added that the company could still dispute the refund but my e-mail stating that we had returned the goods in tact convinced them that this particular company was less than savoury.

I guess the moral(s) of this story might be: Always check your credit card statements and never accept the first, second, third or even the fourth “No” but keep pressing your case – eventually they will get so tired of you that they will pay you to go away. (I just hope that the two parts of the credit card company – the chap who offered and made two ex-gratia payments in to our account because they couldn’t help and the ones who were dealing with the original complaint who did, in fact, pay out in the end – never put two and two together. At the moment, at least, we’re £50.00 up on the deal).

We had a couple come round to view the house last week who are coming for a second viewing this afternoon. Keep those fingers and toes crossed!

And finally, a joyeux anniversaire for Steph & Hope tomorrow.

Love to you all,



2 thoughts on “22 March 2015”

  1. Regarding the sour dough – the woman who is staying with me (Kathy- she’s a baker professionally) says that proving it overnight is what a lot of bakeries do so she doens’t think that’s the problem with too few air bubbles. She also says that the sourdough they sell looks just like yours and that if you want air holes you ought to make Ciabatta … it’s nice and airy.
    Kathy found the “Beard on Bread” book in the pantry that I must have gotten from Mom at some point in time. He calls for all purpose flour – Kathy says to use bread flour.
    We’ll await photos of the next batch.

    1. Thanks for the advice & tips. This last loaf was actually very good if a bit mis-shapen. I’ll let you know how the next one turns out.

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