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I went looking at houses with ruthi, and today was a really good day for it. One house we went to see was at Ascham End. In that cul-de-sac, and the streets leading up to it, none of the gardens had flowering shrubs or any sort of ornament, and very few even had their garden walls - the most common boundary was an inches-high smear of broken rubble. The house front had been vandalised, as had the 'for sale' sign, and when we looked though the ivy-buckled window, there was damp inside. We cancelled that viewing.

The next house viewing cancelled on us, but by then we'd been spending the between-time picnicking in Tottenham Marshes. Behind us was a gas storage tower, some warehouses and a broken factory. In front, a horse-shoe shape of trees, hawthorn bushes covered in May blossom and flat ground with waving flowering grass punctuated by bees and other insects. It was really very lovely.

We walked around to a quite nice bridge and played pooh-sticks.
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Expanded form of a Facebook update:

I've just done some very heavy gardening in very heavy rain. Brr. The dead bush that defeated me all year is now finally in pieces, on the patio and in the compost heap. I had to take a saw to it in the end, which worked well. The larger pieces will make good firewood (along with the very large pile of other good firewood still waiting to be cut down to wood-burning-stove size and delivered to friends).


The four new fruit trees are standing in the places they will be planted, tomorrow, when it's dry (2pm according to the forecast). Pol took me out yesterday to get them and it was rather a nice day all in all, if really very cold. He got me a lovely lunch at a Horwich pub, slow roast pork belly. The fruit trees are: Sunburst and Stella cherries, Victoria plum, Golden Delicious apple (the only apple Pol likes and probably the only food he'll ever get out of the garden). They're going against the tall, brick West-facing wall that runs down one side of the garden. They'll be cut down to less than wall height and then fastened in horribly unnatural contortions to nails driven into the brick, because you get lots of fruit that way. I'm thinking of covering their feet in strawberries and pineberries.

I have pork roasting in the oven. There's a bowl of coleslaw inspired by ruthi, ready to go with it. But for now, I'm appreciating the invention of one Slavoljub Eduard Penkala. He invented many things, but I most appreciate the modern form of the rubber hot water bottle. I love him very much. Unfortunately, he's married. Also, dead.
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Today Kira went with me, but I could as easily have gone on my own. It's been bright and not too cold all day so far. We've somehow missed the patches of rain, seeing only damp pavements where rain has been.

This was the second lesson on Secretary Hand, which is ane bastarde to reade. 'e' is backwards. There's a sort of t which is actually 'c'. There's a 3-shaped capital E, except it's not an E, it's a lower case 'h'. There's a w which is actually an 'r'. There's a flourished O which is a 'G' and some weird scrolled thing which is a 'J', except when it is 'I'. There's a b which is a 'v'. And there are |||| marks, loosely joined together, which can be 'm', 'i', 'u', 'v', 'n' or any combination thereof.

And then, to save time writing, they have contractions. So #tE with a line above is actually 'Wch' with a line above, which is actually 'Which', the line indicating the missing 'hi'.

Oh, and this was before dictionaries, so spelling is more or less arbitrary. That said, the words read surprisingly modern. There's 'wee' for 'we', and 'soe' for 'so', and 'discrecon' for 'discretion', but most words are as you'd expect.

So yes, by the end of that, we were all quite thoroughly brainstretched and I was backsore too. I managed lunch, which had home-grown things in - baby pak choi (thinnings basically), baby spinach, rocket salad, baby celery stalks (thinnings again) and swiss chard, chives and nasturtiums. Some plants were salad, some went in with the beef meatballs and the carrots and the (dried, soaked) wild mushrooms in beef gravy. There were cubed boiled potatoes and butter with, and a little pancake (leftover batter from breakfast) to soak up the gravy afterwards. People are Fed.

Having shown willing as a host, I've now retired and left Kira and Small to entertain themselves while I sit hugging coffee Kira made and probably playing Minecraft all afternoon. It is 1.4.2, the Very Scary Update with carrots, potatoes, witches (and their huts), corner stairs, cobblestone walls, picture frames (you can put items in), flower pots and goodness knows what else in. Lots to do.
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I've got a morning routine in place again. On bad days, I get as much done as I can, and on good days I do all of it. The first thing is putting yesterday's clean pots away, the next thing *currently* is putting yesterday's dirty pots into soak in hot soapy water, as our dishwasher is broken. Then I wipe the kitchen sides and unlock the back door. I empty any bins that need emptying, and sort out the cat tray. I check my seeds in the greenhouse. After that, I feed the birds, then the cats - so the birds get a time to eat while the cats are preoccupied. Meanwhile, I finish the pots, then get myself breakfast. I'll usually then remember to water the plants in the conservatory, although I should be doing those at the same time as I'm checking my other plants.

Today, I also posted a letter to my sibling and nibling, and a parcel to a friend. I love having the post office in easy walking distance, without any busy roads to cross. I can't even see very well today, and I didn't notice until I had to put the parcel on the scales and couldn't at all see where they were until they'd been pointed at. What also makes a nice change from Horwich, is that the children round here don't just randomly spout verbal abuse at adults in passing. It's like a huge weight lifted to have that constant, casual abuse gone.

If I'm going to keep being outside in cold weather, perhaps I should get my head shaved again. It's a real nuisance to get it washed, and I can't get to a hairdresser to get it styled, which it now needs.

I have windows open, airing my room through. Spice loves it when the bathroom window is open, as she can perch on the sill and watch all the little birdies. She caught a sparrow once, and seemed utterly disappointed in the taste, so her eagerness to get after birds in general has faded a lot. She'll watch them, but makes no effort to get outside to get them. I'm glad, as we have an entire flock of long-tailed tits that visit the garden most of the day, and I'd hate either cat to get them. Hatter's more eager, but he's also piebald and easy to see, while Spice is cryptically coloured. Neither like to be outside much or for long during the day, thank goodness.

I like living here.
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I went out to Wigan with Random, on, I think, the last shopping Saturday before Christmas. The weather was terrible. I had a really good time shopping. Random was willing to explore everywhere until we got tired, and also willing to wait while I had a good look at what was on offer. It was all really good-tempered and pleasant, and having time to stop and get my bearings meant I didn't get overwhelmed or end up triggering a migraine. There was only one screaming child.

At one point, we were following a real life Calvin, although (mercifully) Hobbes was not in sight. During all of this retail wandering, I saw not one thing that I thought would make a nice present for someone I know. I'm wondering if part of that is that I've barely seen anyone - the last time I was in Nottingham was for the Novacon before last.

At the stop where we get off, there's a really nice café close by. It does fancy coffees and teas, basic grub, booze if you really must have booze with your sandwiches and Wigan Tapas: a selection of small pies served with I forget what. There's also Fizz and Chips; different sorts of fish goujons, chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce and two glasses of bubbly. I'd love to take my mum there.

The last place we went to was a booze shop with a wide range of single malts, including the one I really want - yet again, I didn't have *quite* enough money to buy a bottle of the 21 yo. But it's £125 and one day, I will. I got liqueur de espices (*not* liqueur de pain de espices, gingerbread liqueur, but a spice liqueur with anise and mace among other things), ginger liqueur and 'Old English Bush Liqueur Cordial' which, even after reading the label, could be *anything*.

Random set us off the bus a full mile down the road for the convenience of the bus driver(!) but I don't think it's done me too much harm. I got back, and I've put the dishwasher on, plus I've got lamb stew cooking right now, full of leftover spiced roast vegetables and unwanted lamb chops, plus some fresh veg and meat and a lamb stock cube.

On the whole, a really, really good day. Probably my most fun day in the last two months. Thank you, Random.

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