Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Olympic Fever

I head Lord Sebastian Coe on the radio earlier this week say that all British history has been leading up to this moment. Is he mad? I am all for a bit of good old patriotism but a statement like this goes a little way towards insanity surely. 

OK, I am in the minority, I get it, I have no personal interest in the olympics (controversial, I know, I'm publicly outing myself) and am just glad that I am away from the madness of London at the moment. Of course, that doesn't really make me unpatriotic, or ignorant, it just means that sporting events such as this leave me fairly cold, whatever country they take place in. Apologies to all those who love it, we all have out differences. I find it hard to get over the money spent - is it going to go over the estimated 11 bn? Probably, will we make it back in other ways? probably not.

I am in awe of the sports men and women who train for hours and achieve success, this is what it is really about, people who strive for something and achieve it and on the positive note, maybe we can get kids more interested in sport, my neice is interested in joining a sports club all of a sudden, nothing wrong with that – if it lasts.

Isn’t this what it is about, achievement?

 But if I hear one more advert on TV about some shite product or other that is the 'official nappy of the olympics', I will scream. All this really means is that they paid more sponsor money than someone else and am I really going to buy your shampoo just because it was the official shampoo? Is there an official cigarette of the Olympics?

No, I don’t think that all of British history has been leading up to this moment, I think it is a serious amount of hype and an awful lot of businesses trying to make money off of the back of it, like mud on a hem. But for those who enjoy huge amounts of sport, it will be fantastic, if you can ignore the financial aspect.

Sorry, if I offend people, I am not anti-competitive sport, just anti-hype.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Kitchen revealed, finally. Plus dining table.

It has been a long time coming, but I have pretty much finished the kitchen thanks to the delivery of my dining table. Finally I can sit at it and enjoy this room properly. I had a lot of help getting the table here from my family, the top went in my mums car, the frame in my sisters and the bench in mine. Saved on all delivery expenses thanks to their help and we drove the 40 miles in tandem.

So here is how the kitchen looked when I moved in.

A rather uninspiring room but with some good bare bones.

Now here is how it looks now.

One day I might try my hand at custom making some new cupboard doors, but for now these are fine.

My wonderful new table, I am so in awe of a good craftsmen who can make things like this.

and the bench he made me to go with it. Now I need to find some chairs!

The Welsh love spoon hanging with the jugs was from John at his lovely blog, Going Gently. Thank you John.

My selection of cookery and gardening books, I was collecting these all those years in London while I was waiting for my dream to happen. The bottles of Champagne were gifts during curtain calls during shows, lucky me! I have about 10 more in my garage - really should start to drink some of them!

So there you have it, you have seen my garden, living room, hall, bedroom and kitchen now, just the spare room to go and of course the bathroom - many years til that is revealed I think!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Summer is here?

Hello everyone,
I'm back for 12 whole days now, what a treat. I am full of a cold which is lucky that it coincides with time off in a way. Lots happening here. My table has been made and, god willing I am collecting it on Saturday (as long as it fits in my sisters large car which she is currently measuring). I am so excited to finally have a proper dining table and can't wait to have people over to enjoy it with me. Also work is starting in my garden next week for the decking/trellis work so I will gain back my privacy and also gain a lot of space. I am going to build out the deck over the slope which gives me way more flat garden area for pots and things. Really looking forward to that.
I arrived home last night (after a hideous day of 13 hours travelling) to find that my beautiful climbing rose Zepherine Drouhin) in the front has finally come into flower! It is not tall yet, but I can just imagine what it will be like when it grows up the full length of the house, every year it is going to get bigger and better now! I want more climbing roses and maybe this week I will find some. It was supposed to be red, but it is more of a lovely dark pink colour, looks gorgeous.

Now it is time for me to get organised and start planning meals again, shopping wisely and creating things in the kitchen. I have been pretty good with not spending much, even though I have been away, as all my meals are provided when I am on tour, but I have spent a fortune on petrol and trains! How annoying.
Rest and relaxation for a few days first though because, quite honestly I can't be bothered to do much except enjoy home and sunshine while it lasts.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Dining table happiness

Thank you all for the kind comments about my shoulder. Yes, I am one of those men who only goes to doctors and hospital as a last resort (yes I know, I'm preached about it from all sides) anyway it has improved somewhat throughout the day and ibruprofen and paracetamol is good. I've bought a pack of syndol which is a painkiller with a muscle relaxant and something I find brilliant with these sorts of things and will take that tonight with the hope that I will wake up bright and new tomorrow.

I have bought a dining table! I went to the wonderful Bygone Times in Chorley which I love mooching about at the best of times and in there is a brilliant carpenter called Pete who does great work and is very good value. He is building me a solid wood table to my measurements and my own choice for £175 and his work is beautiful, plus I get the satisfaction of supporting a local craftsmen rather than giving my money to a huge corporation. Money well spent for what I want, especially as the table is a gift in the first place. He is building it this week and says it should be ready at the end of next week. Can't wait to be able to sit properly at last and finish off my kitchen - finally will get some pictures up then. My friend came with me and bought a dvd boxset of The Walking Dead, season 1 for £3, which, as John will know, is a real favourite of mine, So we spent the afternoon revisiting zombie filled America!

It's raining again, but I am living on the hope that this weather is going to begin to improve, if what my mum says is correct. Let us hope. I am staying with some friends on Sunday, over in Ely, in Cambridgshire as I have a day off, and it will be really wonderful to see them. Then a quick trip over to France at the beginning of next week and finally home for 10 whole days! There are times when being self employed has its benefits - not many, but some. Pray for good weather.
Now let's hope that no zombies come out of the woods and get me in the middle of the night, more likely to be sheep and badgers.
Love to all and bye for now.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Shoulder blues

Hello everyone,
There was a very brief respite in the weather yesterday afternoon and I was out there, quick as a flash to mow the lawn and strim the edges. I don't think I did a very good job, but it had got so long, will look better next time.
Anyway, I was aware that 2 sicamore trees have taken root on the perimeter of my property and need to come out before they get too big, so armed with some sheers and a saw I set about removing them. Within the first couple of good strong hacks disaster struck when I felt something give in my right shoulder, almost heard the twang! I now can barely lift my arm and it hurts like buggery. Damn it. I am going away tomorrow again til next Wednesday to do three performances and being a very physical role I am playing I am a tad worried (obviously missing is not an option as I don't get paid if I don't do - welcome to being self employed). Went to bed last night with ibruprofen but to be honest it is no better today. Bloody hell.

Anyway, on to more interesting things. I have done a lot of entertaining this week which has been lovely. My friend is working in Buxton at the moment and she came over for a quick visit on Tuesday afternoon, loved my house. As soon as anyone walks in they are immediately drawn over to the patio doors to look at the view before they have even taken in the room, I have noticed that it is an instant reaction with no exceptions so far. Then yesterday afternoon my sister and her new husband arrived, he had never been before (same reaction). They were both on some no carb diet so I made a massive bowl of coronation chicken (a la Dan) picked salad from the garden, made a tomato mozzarella salad starter and cracked open a bottle of elderflower champagne. Last night I had my friend in from down the road and we pretty much ate all the left overs plus some pate and cheese and bread and I made some delicious chorizo stuffed portabello mushrooms, a lemon merangue pie and some ice cream (they brought desert). Sadly we were, on all occasions, huddled around my stupid little temporary dining table, so today I am put into action and I am off to see if I can find myself a dining table with the money that my dad gave me for it. fingers crossed. I will let you know what I get, if anything.

Meanwhile, here is my recipe for some thrown together coronation chicken a la Dan.

Coronation Chicken

All the meat from a whole medium cooked chicken.
a small tub of sour cream
about 100 ml mayonnaise.
a tablespoon of madras curry paste (didn't have any so threw in some thai green curry paste)
A tsp of mango chutney (again didn';t have, so it was a tbs of my home made marrow chutney)
some dried fruit, I used currants and raisins
Nuts (I used walnuts)
Some torn up coriander leaves and stalks
spring onions, chopped up

I basically just bunged in all the ingredients into a bowl and mixed it up. This easily fed 6 portions as part of a salad.

As with all the best cooking, I modified hugely from the original recipe to incorporate things that I already had rather than going out and buying especially.

That's all for now, I'm going to nurse my shoulder with a sad expression like a truly wounded man.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Roses and Champagne

As promised, here are the photos of my roses. Such a beautiful colour I think. This is the rose bush that my mum gave me for my 39th birthday.

The roses are massive, as big as a fist.

Last night I opened one of the small bottles of elderflower champagne, it was very fizzy and very delicious! So easy to make and a lovely cheap drink. I would definitely do it again!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

And back to my world

Now I am returned for another week off! Can't wait as it seems I have been away from home so much over the last 3 weeks. I sometimes wonder what some of the punters in the audience would think of they saw the real world that I inhabit at home. Having just spend the last 5 days living in the lap of outrageous luxury, amongst people that have never considered nicking a pint of milk from the free airport lounge I was in (yes I did that this morning, thank you Blue Island Airlines) I find the contrast staring me in the face and find that in the end I prefer my real life. As the lady who was giving me a lift to the airport left her massive house estate, with indoor pool and jacuzzi, acres of gardens, a million bathrooms, fridge full of marks and spencer best ever something or other range, we passed by a house that had just been restored and she mused in a longing voice 'oh to have money'. This comment, I must admit, took me a little by surprise, even though I realise that sometimes people who have a lot of money, believe themselves to be terribly poor because they can't afford the £1000 to make the trip to Glyndebourne more than once this summer (do they ever consider perhaps not travelling first class, or maybe consider staying in a b and b or travel lodge one time instead?), or more than 5 foreign holidays this year. I think perhaps that they believe that because of the job I do, I must earn as much as them. It does make me realise why it is that the fat cats who make decisions for the country are incapable of understanding what ordinary people live like.

Now having said all of that, I would not exchange my current situation. OK, so I am not saying that a little more money wouldn't be nice, after all, when my finances go into crisis because I have just had to spend £240 on my car, you do think to yourself that it would be nice to be a little more comfortably off, no, but what I really mean is that I think my values are a lot better than many of these people, the pleasure that I get from very small things is worth much much more than money and there is so much more to life.

And on that note, the things that I value, having got home today are the fact that lots of the buds on my Tess of the d'Urbeville rose have now opened into their full, crimson glory and look a real sight to behold! Gorgeous.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Give with one hand and take away with another.

On Tuesday I got a lovely surprise. My dad sent me a letter with a cheque enclosed to 'buy myself a kitchen table'! He came over with my mum last week and we huddled around my table (which is a tiny outdoor garden table) for lunch. It is something I have wanted for ages but so far have put to the list of less important things to spend my money on. so I was thrilled.

Now of course, good things sometimes come with a cost. When I set off to drive to Warwickshire on Wednesday morning there was a horrible clunking noise in my car, as I set off down the road there was a nasty clank and something fell off and disappeared behind me on the road. Stopping at a kwikfit to see if they could identify what had just happened, it was to discover that a spring had snapped in my suspension making the car unfit to drive and in a nutshell, 3 hours and £240 later, the car was road worthy again. These are reasons to have an emergency fund (something I don't have since I have moved) so p'd off to say the least. Of course, when these things happen you don't bat an eyelid because safety is way more important than money but it was a very stressful day (especially as I was over an hour late for my rehearsal - missed it completely in fact) and had a performance that night. The day passed in a bit of a blur.

One of my good friends in the company (the wonderful wardrobe mistress) whispered to me as I got there: 'I've found your blog'! So welcome to lovely Freya or Naughty Pixie as she prefers to be known on here who is living the good life over in Norfolk. I have invited her to do a guest post on her foray into making her own Parma ham - and she is a wizz with a sewing machine! Don't be shy now Freya.

Remember how I said all of my neighbours seem to know everything about me? Well I have found the source of the leak. I had my suspicions after one of them gave me another bit of personal information about me that I didn't know how they knew and it, yet again coincided with a visit from my mum. My mum loves to talk and it seems has been systematically engaging in conversation with everyone on my street whenever she comes, always willing to proudly talk about me and my life. Bless her. 

I'm off to Jersey tomorrow for 5 days - could do with a bit more time to relax quite honestly as I am knackered, but when I am home I have a week off, so counting down to that.

Off to catch up with your blogs now.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A very special dinner and a garden update

Yesterday I had a special dinner for one. Was this in celebration of anything? Well yes it was really. It was a celebration of own produce. I had a glass of my home made limoncello to start with, then a glass of home made elderflower cordial to accompany my own home grown salad (first ever food pickings from the garden), home made chutney and home made bread. I added some cheese and some corned beef and I was happy as larry to feel that I was finally beginning to taste what food can be like when you have spent your own time growing, making and concocting.

Notice all my bottles of elderflower cordial in the background.

It was an immensely satisfying time.

My garden is loving this rainy weather it seems. I guess because I am on a hill I have lovely very well drained soil so all this rain is just simply making the plants very happy. It all looks lush, green and beautiful.

Happy tomatoes, finally and rosemary.

 My blurry basket of pea shoots, grown specially for salad from the leftover pea seeds.

I'm growing ivy around a ball of wire coathangers. Hopefully one day, when they are all trained around it will look pretty.

An old bread bin filled with my cut and come again salad.

Plum tree, happy but a year or so off having fruit, and my rescued lupins in the background.

It going to be a great crop of potatoes.

Climbing rose (Zepherine Drouhin) covered in buds.

Rose (Tess of the D'Urbivilles) going to look glorious when they open.

And my small golden wedding rose in the front.

The rhubarb has taken nicely, I've been warned not to use it in the first year, but it looks so tasty........

And finally, my bramley apple tree. Looking great.

I am thrilled with the way everything has come on for my first season here. There are other glorious plants, such as the enormous purple geranium that has just come into magnificent flower and all the peas are in flower now and will soon be providing their sweet wonderful taste into my salads

Tomorrow morning I am going away again, this time, Warwickshire, Dorset and Oxfordshire. Home Saturday night after another very late drive from Oxford. Only home for one day this time though :-(

Monday, 2 July 2012

Late to bed, early to rise!

Devon is a long old drive isn't it! Friday took 5 and a half hours because of horrible delays and I was pretty knackered when I got there. No rest for the wicked though and I was working within 2 minutes of arriving, not even time for a cup of tea. Three nights, three performances later and I was on the road last night, set off at 10 and arrived home at 2, pretty good going getting it down to 4 hours though. Was in bed within 10 minutes but had to read a bit of my book before turning out the light. I can't ever seem to sleep unless I have read a bit, however tired. Anyway, as is my curse I was awake 4 and a half hours later and am feeling somewhat jaded but pleased to be in my own bed. Most of my colleagues will have to set off on their own long journeys back to London today, effectively losing the day so mine was the right choice.

Devon is a really lovely county, I was staying somewhere between Tiverton and Dulverton and spent a lovely morning wandering around the latter, definitely my sort of town, even if it is peppered with slightly overpriced home shops and fantastic looking deli's. I look at the beautiful displays and rather than think, oh I wish I could afford to spend a fortune in here, I am thinking, how can I make all of that lovely produce myself?
I did stop for a cup of tea and a lemon drizzle cake though. Having said that, I probably shouldn't. I ate so much this weekend! People are so kind and when you do my job, think that you need to eat masses every 2 hours in order to reach the size of Pavarotti. In fairness, you probably do have to eat masses every 2 hours to do that, but I feel huge right now! It was always good old home made country fayre which suits me, but I am of the 'I will generally eat it if it is put in front of me' variety, so these occasions are dangerous! Quiche, coronation chicken, cous cous, cheese, strawberries and clotted cream, brownies, lasagne, sticky toffee pudding and cream, ham, salad, bread and butter, heaps of tomatoes and masses of ginger beer, all very Enid Blyton, but as you can see, this is a lot of food to be offered to a greedy man in a 3 day period. Bursting out of my costume and ending up with the gorgeous wardrobe ladies for emergency mending has become a company joke over the last few weeks which is a tad worrying.

Now I am home for 2 days before I am off on a trip that takes me to Warwickshire, Dorset and Oxforshire, not in the most convenient order. Petrol is being eaten up at an alarming rate, so I am pleased that I have a very economical car at least.

Plans for the next 2 days? well besides resting as much as possible I would love to do some gardening (as usual) but I seem to have come home to yet more rain. Can I fill my day with guilt free nothing? Probably not, but I will have a damn good try.