Monday, 28 September 2009

What we have been up to PART THREE (final bit)

The path has been done, is down and looking great, so the next step is to put a lid on the odd space next to the path that is also adding to the damp problem!

Im delighted to say that this "lid" is taking the form of a conservatory (Thanks Parents!!!) so in this photo you see one of the builders putting the wooden slats in place ready to take the concrete base. They did this at the same time as the path, as it saved them getting two lots of concrete delivered.

You will see more photos as the work goes on.. its going to be great!!

A day trip to Sheffield Town Centre

Now and then Douglas and I go to Sheffield Town Centre. On this visit we went to the indoor market to get him some goat (for Curry Goat) and also to support my new choir (Im new, not them) Body of Sound who were busking their raising money for charity.

I have been to my choir for 3 practices now. I'm slowly learning the songs and their way of doing things, enjoying it very much but nowhere near busking standard yet lol.

Do not follow our example of getting goat meat at the market. It was in a frozen pack and turned out to have a very high percentage of bone, which sadly took a chunk out of our best chopping knife :-( We found a local-ish company a few days after this called Black Sheep Meat Company. We will get their meat next time!!

Anyway, I digress... whilst we were in town, we decided to take a trip up in Sheffields version of the London Eye, and saw some lovely views!

It was a bit expensive, but very interesting. I recommend it if you visit Sheffield!

Finally... the post brought a padded envelope for Douglas from Scotland!! Ds talented Step Mum Sandy has come back from visiting Simon in Ethiopia, and made the second of his birthday socks. You can now see two very happy feet!!

You will just have to imagine the huge smile on Ds face, but I assure you, hes delighted with his lovely hand knitted jolly socks that keep his toes nice and warm. I just hope he doesn't start wearing them in bed, or I'm moving down to the spare room!!!

I hope thats a good update for you all.. if I dont post for a while, feel free to phone, email or generally prod me :-)

What we have been up to PART TWO

If you look back, you will see the story and photos of the cat who adopted my parents for a few days until her real humans came back from holiday. My parents went away just before Crunchy was claimed under her real name of Binos, so we went to visit on cat sitting duties. Crunchos as I like to call her, is a very friendly little lady, as you see from this delightful photo of Douglas et cat.

Crunchos still visits my parents now and then, but has been rather snooty and not very social recently. I hope this is just a phase, and she will decide she likes them again after all very soon!

Next up in the hall of cat fame comes our Billy, doing a very good impression of a cushion. Hes very good at this, but then again he gets a lot of practice in! lol

One last cute picture for this posting.. is it a bird, a cat, a plane? No!! its Douglas Square Pants (or should that be Douglas Square Kilt?)

He we have Douglas on the tram. We were going out for a meal in late August to celebrate his birthday. He is a big fan of Sponge bob Square Pants (as seen on the T Shirt) and I think he looked great in this and his lovely kilt. For those of you who still have no idea, Sponge bob is a cartoon yellow sponge who lives under the sea with his friends.

What we have been up to (with photos) PART ONE

Well, to start with, I have been making loads of plum jam (I think I may have mentioned this already?)

Various family and freinds have had some of my jam, and its gone down very well. I gave some to our builders (see story further down) and one of them said the whole pot was more or less demolished within a day. He had help from his wife and two sons, and all of them adored it!!

This photo is the plums and sugar getting used to each other before the boiling starts.

A few weeks ago, we had our side path taken up, dug out, a waterproof membrane put in and a lovely new path put down on top. We did this mainly because the path was in a very bad condition, and was letting water into the foundations of our house, and making the side wall damp. We have had problems with damp on that wall for quite a long time. Hopefully it can start to dry out now!

Its now got a nice ridged concrete path that we put our initals and the year in at the top before it dried :-)

We are still alive!

Just to reassure you blog readers.. we are all still alive (thats me, him and the two furries who own this house)

I have loads of photos to put onto the blog relating to things we have done recently, I promise to sort things out soon!

Anna xx

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Rainy Season in Addis (Yay another long one from Simon)

Trout brown scales of water slip down the road to form churning lakes of tea whereever the ground levels out. The garbage filled canyons that criss cross town are now turned to a writhing, muscular flow of chocolate milk. Peals of thunder ring out throughout the day, making it tempting to spend your days dramatically laughing for effect. Now and then the sun comes out for a steamy interlude.

The rainy season in Addis has a rather fearsome reputation, and indeed an awful lot of water falls from the skys, pours along every surface and jets out of the overfull storm drains. But now I have new shoes it's really not too bad; there's a lovely fresh look when the rains stop and the clouds pinken at sunset. The lightning can really come in handy as well, like when you're going home late at night through a district with a power cut in a taxi whose lights don't work.

Plus my life here is pretty amazing. Our cook Ziggy is amazing, plus she makes my bed, washes the dishes and does my laundry! I can't believe domestic servants went out of fashion in Britain. I do occasionally feel guilty and try to help but she really tells me off - I never do it the way she likes. She's also an awesome person though a little possessive of her kitchen. I help her son with his homework and he flounces around singing the interminable Ethiopian hymns which I don't feel is a true repayment.

My housemate is sound - his name is Jason and we get on well. He was a bit of a wildman in his time but has settled down now, and he has good taste in music. The whole Addis crowd is pretty cool as well; I've had some good nights out with them. It's certainly nice having a crowd of rent-a-friends to hang out with, though rest assured they don't compete with The Real Thing. I think the problem is that if you have a genuinely interesting job that makes the world a better place then you tend to focus on it to the exclusion of being a bit of a fucknut, and where's the fun in that?

There just doesn't seem to be that many people I can bounce off of, but that may be do to the fact I'm being slowly weaned off red wine. Suddenly getting to South Africa doesn't seem like such a bad option: will I finally come to terms with Pinotage?

The scene in Addis generally revolves around Bole Rd, an anywhere road which stretches its modern flats, good restaurants and expensive bars down airportwards. Some of them have live music, though there's a real lack of good drummers, and a night of purported Ethio Jazz was
very lame - Death Ray Trebuchet were far better. Check out their Gypsy/Ethio Punk if they're in your neighbourhood soon. Sometimes the bands play 70 covers of tunes you'd throw up to back home, so it isn't really worth it. Only the Reggae bands are really much cop, as long
as they don't go into an extended tribute to Bob. The other joint everyone heads to is the Geez Bar, down some dodgy (though perfectly safe - it's Addis!) backstreets and beloved by Faranjis becuase the beer is only twice the normal price, not five times. It's owned by some French people and heavily populated by la Francais - I spent my first evening there deep in onversation with Julie Delpy, probably. I was already a bit monkeyed when I got there.

Some Faranjis did put on a good night up in the old Piazza, which was wicked. I was meeting a German friend up there and he didn't know the area well, so we agreed to meet at the biggest landmark - St George's church. He was a bit late so I was hanging round the main gates with
all the usual pilgrims kissing the wall, crossing themselves and mumbling prayers. One chap approached from the shadows with a vigourous "Seulam no!" [Hello].

After swapping greetings he just lingered near me for a few minutes, before leaving and promptly being replaced by another fellow. In fact, friendly guys kept on approaching me for about twenty minutes until I started getting suspicious. There's always that feeling of "Maybe I'm reading this wrong - this could just be one of those cultural missapprehensions", but my suspicions were brought somewhat to a head when I went to look for a payphone and one of them ran after me and asked me "Do you want six?"

When I finally bumped into my friend, it turned out he'd been approached in a similar manner, and it seems that Addises holiest site is also the main hang out for its Rent Boys. Which given there's No Gay Africans makes you wonder how they earn a living. We proceeded to a local bar where a prostitute accidentally grazed my knee about 50 times in the most forward display I've ever seen out here, whilst we listened to bizarre 80s Ethiopian music. Think Phil Collins with
exclusively minor chords and major ululations.

But the main Faranji DJ event was actually awesome - as much as I love (old) Ethiopian music it was really good to dance to loads of good old Western stuff. The DJs were pretty good and I would have had a really good night there even had it been back home. It did get me missing
the old house party scene.

Rest assured it's not all partying though, the writing is ongoing. Typically I spend the days with power at home writing, and the days without in the lobbies of expensive hotels using their free Wifi and power. The novel's going alright,* see bottom* though I'm running out of descriptive things from my trips to Poland previously and am having to focus on 'plot' (booo!) and dialogue/characterisation (yay!) until I can make a return visit to the land of constenant conjunctions and very flat. This is making me think I should postpone the India trip, and come back once I get fed up with Africa but still have some cash left, sometime next year.

I'm actually thinking of doing a bit of volunteering at Care International (where Jason works): just a couple of days a week but will be good to 'give something back', as if the Ethiopians haven't
taken enough already! I fear it may be a bit of a shock to be gainfully employed again but I can always quit and go back to writing if it gets a little much.

Anyway, this e-mail is already seriously out of date so I shall send this one now, and split the rest into another 2, to start the catch up and save you from reading fatigue. Still got the Omo tribes trip and my travels with parents *see bottom* to write up, and in a week I'll be off to Yemen. Busy busy busy! For someone with no job. Blimey. Keep smiling one and all,


Note 1 Simon said he planned to write two books whilst out in Ethiopia, one fiction and one philosophical. I'm not sure which one hes writing, or if both have blended lol

Note 2 His parents (Ds dad and step mum) have gone out to Addis to spend two weeks with him. I look forward to an email all about it from their perspective in a few weeks!

A lovely weekend at home

A busy weekend again.. I feel as though I almost havnt stopped.

Ive given away most of the jars of plum jam I made about a week ago, which makes me really happy. There is no way we could eat all i made, and its nice to be able to give home made gifts to friends and family!

My Parents and little Bro got a jar each, Alan who gives me a lift to work got a jar, another two jars went to elderly neighbours.. Margaret, who recently lost her beloved doggie, and a few days later lost her brother got a jar, also Edna, who lives a few doors up got one too. Edna gave me a big hug in return, and this afternoon, Margaret came round with some yummy scones.. can you guess what sort of jam we will have with them??

We also went swimming, and gave the house a well needed tidy and hoover. We were going to see "A Picture of Dorian Grey" but as we needed to buy some extra veg so thats on hold for now.

On Saturday morning I got some more plums and a few more jars from my parents, but I wanted to make a big batch, so I put out a request to see if anyone had too many plums on their tree. I was delighted to get several responses, one of them from a lady who lives just a few miles away that had some saucepans from me.

I went to her house Saturday afternoon. She has an 8 foot plum tree that was absolutley covered in beautiful ripe fruit!! She had moved into her house recently and had no idea what to do with them, so I took half a tescos hessian bag full away (huge amount) and emailed her a recipie, hoping that she will make jam with some of what she has left.

I spent Saturday evening chopping plums, then Sunday making the first of all Crabapple jelly, then plum jam, which is quite a lengthy process as it takes a lot of boiling to get it to setting point. I'm glad to say I have finished it now.

Anyone who reads this that comes to visit might just be rewarded with a pot of jam!!

Ive got a load more plums to sort out anyway, but they will have to wait their turn.

PS Douglas is doing well.. he swum more than he normally does when we went swimming, and is currently relaxing after a healthy portion of my blue cheese veggie crumble, and some garlic roast chicken he cooked whilst we were out.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Busy Saturday

The day started with D going off to do the shopping (Its wonderful to have a partner that can do this, and dosnt come back with all the wrong things! lol). I decided to clean the kitchen, so by the time he got back it sparkled!!

As I'm now a moderator for my local Freecycle group (fanfare please) , Im getting to know the other members of the team, and one, who lives about 5 mins away from us, offered to let me pick some fruit from her plum tree.

In early afternoon, I went over to Elise's house, picked about 4lb of lovely Victoria plums :-)

After a quick diversion to my parents to pick up some jam jars, I went home to spend a couple of hours stoning and cutting the lovely ripe fruit up into little bits.

After getting the plums ready, and making about 7 small jars of lovely plum jam, making a blackberry and apple crumble, and bread and butter pudding for lunch with various bits of family tomrorow Im pretty tired!

Oh.. also two freecylers turned up, and took all but 3 of the pans I had for grabs.. one stayed and chatted for about an hour!

I think after such a busy week, and a busy Saturday, bed might claim us a little earlier than normal for a weekends night :-)

Oh what a week!!

Last Saturday I didnt feel very well, so I stayed in, did nothing, ate pain killers and hibernated.

On Sunday, we had been invited to our old next door neighbours new house. Douglas didnt feel very well, but we went anyway. It was lovely to see Matt, Katy, toddler Eliza and baby Agnes, who was born about a month before they moved. It was also lovely to see their very calm friendly ginger cat Milo.

Douglas felt more poorly, and didnt go to work Tuesday or Wednesday, which of course was very worrying. Had he still been feeling awful on Thursday, I would have thrown him at the hospital, but luckily he was well enough to go to work. Phew!!

Meanwhile, my Boss had given me an interesting, and time consuming admin task .. printing out thousands of letters to remind customers to renew their waste carriers licences! Had this been just a single paged letter the task would have been an easy one, but with the application form and various other documents to put in, it took longer.

I started off printing each type of document that had go into the pack separatley ... letter, application form, two help documents, a charges sheet and a transfer note had to go in, the ones with multiple pages were stapled, the others not. This was very time consuming and rather boring!

By Thursday, with suggestions from all sorts of people in the office, we had streamlined the process considerably.. we abandoned the staples, and printed off all ten sheets of the "pack" at one together, so all we had to do was bung a pack with a letter, and let the envelope stuffer machine do the rest!!

I was kept busy moving between 3 printers, keeping them busy, and filled with paper, liasing with various people and departments and taking stuff to the post room ready to send out. It was exhausting but very enjoyable!!

On Friday morning, 4.30am, Douglas woke me and mumbled something about not being able to feel half his face which was very weird! When I turned the light on, I could see that the left side of his face and his lips had swollen very badly! It was very difficult to understand him, and also pretty scary.

Douglas, on waking and feeling so strange had felt his arm and leg, made sure they moved and felt normal just in case it was a Stroke.. I'm so glad to say that it wasnt!!

We got up, hoping that if we waited, the swelling would just prove itself to be Odema (water staying in the tissue of his face) and that it would go down when he was upright and not lying on his face.

5.30am.. face still very swollen so we called his work GP advice service who said go to A&E!!

We stuffed a quick breakfast down, went to A&E at our normal hospital. We got seen by the Triage Nurse pretty quickly who fed D a piriton (antihistamine). We waited in the almost empty waiting room for about an hour until the Dr saw us.

I took this unbecoming picture of the poor boy whilst we were waiting to be seen. He has given me permission to put it on the blog!

Mr Rubber Lips Man!

The Dr told Douglas that it was just an allergic reaction to something (we dont know what) and that it would go down in time.

By now the time was 9.30am. I had called work and let them know what was going on, and Douglas had mumbled to his work place too. The swelling was going down a little, but it was still quite pronounced!

I drove D to his work, as he wanted to see if there was anyting non verbal he could do, but 5 mins later he had been ejected as I had predicted. Working in a call centre and not being able to talk properly is never a good combination.

D then drove me to work, and then went home... goodness knows how I survived the rest of Friday because I was exhausted from the week and the very early start!

Im very glad to say that Ds face has now gone back to normal, and hes feeling fine :-)

Thursday, 3 September 2009


A few weeks ago, when Ds brother visited, he brought us down a beautiful pan set which belonged to Elaine, my late mum in law (DMIL)

As a result of this, over the last few days, I have sorted out our pans, as we will be using the new ones.. they are beautiful! (Elaine had good, and expensive taste in all things lol)

I am a member (and now a moderator) of our local Freecycle Group, so I put a message one saying

OFFERED: 5 pans with lids (home post code and area noted)

I had about 6 emails back from enthusastic people saying "oh yes please I'd love some!" I chose two people out of that 6, and they came round to pick them up a few days later.

One person was just setting up home with her new husband, the other also said he was in dire need, and was just using the microwave at present for lack of pans.

I told my mum about how pleased I was to be able to find new homes for my saucepans via Freecycle, and she mentioned that at the charity shop she helps out at, there were loads of saucepans that were in the "going for scrap" pile as no one wanted to purchase them.

Yesterday, I went round to my parents house to collect some of these saucepans and a "surprise" as well.

I was thinking what the surprise could be.. a computer? a laptop? a new kitten??? Well I was wrong on all counts :-)

My parents had spread about 10 saucepans, a colander, various decent baking trays, a lovely stainless steel ladle and a brand new potato peeler out on their kitchen table.. So much stuff that was all destined for the metal recylers. I'm pleased to be able to give this stuff new homes rather than being scrapped, albeit to be recycled.

Its not the charitys fault, I hasten to add.. people just don't go in and buy that stuff so what can they do but send the metal to scrap? ( thats before I found out about this anway lol)

Amongst the clutter, my mum saw a lovely green and white Denby plate, which matches the set Douglas and I had for our wedding ten years ago. As you would expect, the odd peice has bitten the dust since then, so my mum hunted round and found quite a nice little collection of it!

Yesterday evening, I contacted one of the people who collected a few pans from me the other day, and invited him round to come and take what he wants. When he has taken some, I will offer the remainder round to some of the others that I couldnt help before.

I love freecycle!!!!!!! Why don't you join your local group.. you might have the odd bit here and there that you don't use, and you might find something you want on there too. Just search for "Freecycle" and the name of your city or town, and I'm sure you will find a group near where you live.

Let me know how you get on :-)