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The Wildest Dream

We have just returned from a brief overnight trip to London to attend a rather special event – the ‘IMAX preview’ of this amazing film which is not due for release until 6th August. The film – which was ’26 years in the thinking and five in the making’ was directed by Anthony Geffen, our daughter Ruthie’s boss at Atlantic Productions; Atlantic Productions was working with Altitude Films with the active involvement also of National Geographic.

We are still full of our experience. The IMAX cinema at the Science Museum was an adventure in itself, with a screen the size of I forget how many double decker buses. We were warned beforehand to shut our eyes if we started to feel seasick…

The film essentially is about climbing Everest, with two men, Conrad Anker and a young British climber, Leo Houlding – trying in 2007 to reach the top the way they felt George Mallory would have gone had he/if he reached the top in 1924. There is the the human drama as, against the backdrop of the overwhelming splendour of the mountain, as men struggle against overwhelmong odds – the extreme cold, altitude sickness and exhaustion, but spurred on always by their ‘wildest dream’ of reaching the summit.

But these are ordinary men, too, with families and wives they love and who love them, and for whom they yearn while on Everest. To add poignancy to the love element, the voice of Mallory’s wife, Ruth, was provided by Natasha Richardson shortly before her death after a skiing accident, and the narrator of the film is Liam Neeson, her widower. (Ralph Fiennes provides the voice of George Mallory.)

I hope I have relayed the facts reasonably accurately (I’ll have to ask Ruthie to check it over). Anyway, the film – and the reception afterwards – was a wonderful experience for both John and me; then, in no time it is back to work/normal life for everybody! And we always feel, however much we have enjoyed ourselves away, it is always lovely to come home. And it was particularly lovely this time, to be welcomed in for a cup of tea by our guests in Douglas’s Barn.

Where is our water?

Severn Trent are not our favourite people at the moment. I very much doubt that anyone from Severn Trent will ever see this moan but it does one good to get it off the chest.

It turns out that some parts of the village (but not us) were warned that their water supply might be disrupted between 9 and 5 today Saturday. Without warning the Orchard Farm supply and that of numerous other houses in the village dried up completely shortly after 1pm and there is still not a drop in the taps now, at after midnight.

Everyone who rings appears (see our Parwich blog to get a different story if they can get through to Severn Trent at all. Meanwhile, cups of tea made with fizzy mineral water, veggies cooked in the same, no washing up possible, buckets of water scooped up from the garden troughs to flush the loos…this is not what our guests have paid good money for and we feel very annoyed on both their and our own behalf. We also have friends staying for the night. At first they thought it was funny.

Both lots of guests went out all morning, came back early afternoon no doubt lured on by the thought of a lovely relaxing bath or shower. Twelve hours later they can’t think it is very funny either.

GTBS Silver Award for Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns

We have at last heard from the Green Tourism in Business Scheme (GTBS) that we have gained a Silver Award following our inspection last month, so our progress greenwards is real and recognised officially!

More about this tomorrow, but meanwhile, apparently we scored 73.7%. Silver Awards are for scores between 65 and 79%, so I think you could say we are respectably silver.

2011 in Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns

We may be nearly full this year, but 2011 is wide open with only a couple of bookings to date (four to be exact).

At the moment the silly problem is that until we have entered prices, no one can book online. The obvious answer is to decide on prices but how does one anticipate what will be the cost of oil, electricity, insurance, business tax, not to mention all the bits and bobs we always put in to the barns to make our guests’ lives easier…?

So we have come to the conclusion we will try to make an intelligent estimate, aiming higher rather than too low – one can always reduce a price but it is not good practice to increase a price once it has been advertised.

During 2010 any price increase for 2011 is all irrelevant anyway, because anyone booking this year uses this year’s prices

When you book online we will automatically discount the advertised price when we process the payment.

At least it will mean if you want to plan ahead you now can book next year to your heart’s content. However, it will be more important than ever that you seriously consider taking out holiday cancellation insurance.

Rest assured that if your plans change and you need to change your dates some time beforehand we can usually arrange that, with time in hand. It will just incur a nominal £10 ‘botheration’ admin charge. If we have to advertise the dates at a discounted rate, we will pass on what we receive, less the £10.

It is the last minute cancellations or need to change dates that happen too late for us to re-sell the dates that would leave you still having to pay for the holiday although unable to take it. From our point of view, we would almost certainly have let the dates given enough time. It is only fair that it is you and not we who bear the responsibility for the cost of the cancelled holiday. Holiday cancellation insurance does seem the answer!

Steak and Kidney Pudding in the Slow Cooker

You may have been wondering how the  the catering went when we invited Debbie and Trevor  to supper with us in Tom’s Barn last week, whilst we were guests there ourselves. Rather rashly I had decided to try the slow cooker recipe for Steak and Kidney Pudding; too late I had remembered that when catering even for very good friends one needs to be able to have a reassuring peep every so often while something cooks for eight hours. This is impossible with everything hidden from view behind grease-proof paper within the slow cooker.

Unwrapped, it smelt delicious. So far so good; the moment of high drama came when I couldn’t turn the pudding out of the bowl…

I should have just calmly run a knife round the edge but in my panic shook the whole thing more violently than necessary so it all ended in a jumbled heap on the serving dish!

Fortunately the lighting was low, candles glowing and a  quick top up of wine glasses ensured we all quickly forgot that we weren’t being served neat slices; in fact the suet pastry was deliciously crumbly and not in the slightest stodgy and of course the Tissington beef will never fail you.

So, as a modest cook but greedy eater I’d award myself 10/10 for taste and 3/10 for presentation. But the recipe is definitely worth trying again. Not only am I coveting the Sony Netbook, I am now coveting a slow cooker as well; in theory the bottom oven of the Aga is the equivalent, but as  the cooking space  isn’t as enclosed as inside a slow cooker the effect isn’t quite the same.

The Silence of the Mystery Shoppers

Why the strange silence?

Had we absconded  for ever to Tom’s Barn? Drowned in the love tub or fled the country…?

The last is nearer the truth. We have been down to London where our daughter Ruthie was signing in a concert (in the choir, not as a soloist!) fondly imagining we’d be writing daily missives on the blog; for technological reasons too dull to go into, we were unable to do so!

However, we are back now, in full spate, ready to pick up where we left off…

Our visit was – for us – a totally happy interlude.  We felt very relaxed, very comfortable and worryingly detached from the hundred and one things that really we should perhaps have been getting on with. As already mentioned, we found the bed and the bath pretty special. We really enjoyed using the Sony Netbook (wish we had one!); we had a lovely evening with Debbie and Trevor – much of which later…

Used to a rather colder house, we were actually too warm and turned the heating off completely relying solely on the logburner.  We were disappointed to note that the easy chair and stool which we have just had professionally cleaned at some considerable  cost and which therefore obviously is clean, doesn’t really look it, so that needs attention, if not actually replacing.

The frying pan I shall replace tomorrow; BT’s  ‘Open Reach’  man has arranged to  come tomorrow afternoon, muttering many a warning that if it turns out to be our fault and not after all due to their line it will cost us a call out fee of £120 plus VAT.

Tom’s Barn Mystery Shoppers

Not so mysterious after all, but we are taking the quality research very seriously.

We’ve always loved both our barns, and it felt really lovely staying there last night, quite cocooned from the real world and feeling very relaxed and holidayish.

We tried another telephone on the line and that doesn’t work either, so what a relief – although it is still embarrassing – it looks as if we can blame BT rather than the cottage owners.

We’ve tried the bath, again, and absolutely no complaints there (there never have been!). The shower fitting will never hit the headlines (in  a good way, anyway) but we’ve known all along that we can’t do anything about it. It’s a pity it isn’t slightly more forcefully invigorating but for a not-power-shower it just passes muster.

John did a fry up for breakfast (don’t worry, Janet, we cleaned up immaculately after ourselves!). Everything was fine except we could not find the frying pan!! So had to use a small saute pan instead which did  the job but where is the frying pan?

We’re trying the slow-cooker for the first time tonight. I must admit the kitchen is well equipped and I found it easier than I do in our bigger kitchen at home, because everything (apart from the frying pan) is close to hand.

We went as planned to the White Peak Butchery for the meat (buying some Tissington Bangers at the same time) so the meat will be the best it could possibly be but I am beginning to get cold feet – hope I haven’t been too ambitious with the plans for tonight. Time will tell – more later.

Spring has reached Orchard Farm!

DSC07943.JPG tit looking thruogh hole 

This cheering bud Spring at Orchard Farmopened today (Tuesday 16th March) in the wonderfully warm spring sunshine by our front door.

What a happy sight after a long and dreary winter although the snowdrops have down their best to lift everyone’s spirits – they have been a delight this year…

We’ve moved in to Tom’s Barn!

Well, nobody booked this midweek break Monday 15th (Ides of March) to Friday 18th March so we have with some excitement and unseemly haste, moved in ourselves to enjoy the delights – or otherwise – at first hand.

What a difference, just crossing that courtyard, seemed to make, silly as it might sound… we really do feel we are on holiday which is unfortunate, as we aren’t really, but we are going to make the most of it.  Tomorrow night we are hoping to try to make a steak and kidney pudding in the slow cooker, so first stop the White Peak Butchery in Tissington.

We’ve asked our good friend American Debs (who many of you may have had contact with, as she look after the admin side of  things when we go away) and her husband Trevor to supper so let’s hope the S&KP turns out OK.

Plus points so far – Lovely welcome (from Janet, each other and our co-guests in Douglas’s Barn), nice atmosphere, fire lit, beautifully warm, Moonlight Sonata on Classic FM…

BUT no cake (we slipped up there, but plenty of lemon drizzle next door and John did remember a nice bottle of wine); more seriously,  we couldn’t get a squeak out of the telephone. How embarrassing – how long has that not worked? Why did nobody tell us – it is hard to believe it just stopped working tonight. John tried new batteries to no avail – so tomorrow we’ll buy a new one.

How many more glitches will we discover?  Off to check the bath out now, further reports tomorrow. We’ll try to get Debbie to report her findings too.

Bargain midweek break in Tom’s Barn!

We’ve succumbed. We daily turn away so many hopeful people who want unavailable dates, we couldn’t believe we’d find ourselves with a midweek break absolutely nobody at all  seems to want…!

Maybe it’s been a battle of nerves, with someone out there waiting to see if we’d drop the price. Well, we have! We have reduced it by £40 to £305. If it doesn’t go, John and I are proposing to do a bit of hands on quality control (does that entitle us to write a review on TripAdvisor? Most certainly not, I’d say).

We have tried out both barns, but several years ago now. We have made many changes since then – all to the good, we fondly hope, but as one of our guests very rightly pointed out, you can only guess – you cannot know – how convenient or how comfortable something is until you have actually experienced it personally.

However, don’t let our good intentions put anyone off booking next week. If the dates go (and the weather had been quite beautiful for the past week) we will make a point of booking in for a short break in both of our very popular cottages for two in the winter once we have some more gaps.


LATEST NEWS

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