Tag Archives: Holiday

Spray that Again

Holiday season has begun. This week Scary Boss Lady was off for her summer break. Just in case we were thinking of having a wild party with the Dechra rep who had made an appointment to come and tell us about their range of skin products, she left her daughters Ena and Sara in charge. Tornado Tawse was also presiding over the nursing duties and therefore the whole clinic was a hive of efficiency. Four pallets of pet food arrived at lunchtime on Thursday and within about ten seconds, the entire delivery had been redistributed onto the shelves. Before I knew it on Thursday, all the rooms had been cleaned. Luckily Gerd and Irene had booked me in some cases to see, otherwise I might actually have been at something of a loss for what to do.

One of the cases was desperately sad. A cat had been attacked by a dog and its injuries were serious enough that it had to be put to sleep. There was a little girl there. It is so difficult watching a child having to say goodbye to a loved pet. At the other end of the spectrum, Magne and I performed surgery on a lovely Cavalier King Charles spaniel for pyometra (infection in the uterus). Without our intervention, she would very likely have died. It was a pleasuritself to operate with Magne. This is the second time we have worked together on an uncomplicated pyometra and everything just clicked into place both times. It’s a delicate operation that requires nimble fingers and great care and the process itself was intensely satisfying, but the end result, when the dog comes round safely and greets its owner is the best feeling there is.

Due to the efficiency drive I mentioned above, I did have time to pop in and out of the dental room where Wivek and then Jan-Arne were working. Wivek was enormously helpful with the injured cat and so I was keen to do all I could to help her in return. Obviously she is much better than me at the actual work, but I was able to fetch things that she wanted. Jan-Arne was on good form as usual, telling me how simple Norwegian was. After all, he explained, there were very few words and some of them sounded exactly the same as each other. Prayers, beans and farmers are all pronounced in the same way, he said. At this point, he was about to set to with the ultrasonic descaler. His foot, he thought was not quite on the floor-pedal that operates it and so he reached out with his toe to pull it towards him. It was only when the instrument sent a jet of water right into my mouth that he realised that actually his foot had been on it the whole time. At least that was his excuse anyway. Personally I think it’s odd that that jet was pointed so accurately at my face. If I now come down with some awful cat-tooth disease, I know who is to blame.

The Dechra rep I mentioned at the beginning turned up late. He was meant to arrive at two thirty with lunch and so by two thirty five, everyone in the clinic was sitting in the staff room with bright expectant faces. For some reason, he had called into the clinic in the morning with boxes of sweets for everyone and as the clock ticked onwards, it seemed more and more likely that we were actually going to lunch on forty eight chocolate hearts and seven slightly-worse-for-wear grapes that someone had found lurking at the back of the fridge. However, at three pm, he finally arrived clutching a bag of seven enormous sandwiches to be split between the eight of us who were present. Looking around the table for someone to deal with this delicate situation, Gerd, officially recognising my superior surgical skills asked me if I could dissect each baguette into two. Sadly nobody had thought to tell the rep that Jacqueline was vegetarian and so she was left removing pieces of chicken to leave her with a lettuce and dressing salad. Hungry as ever, Jan-Arne demanded that she hand over the meat. Oddly though, when we later offered him the massed bits of cucumber, mayonnaise and chicken that had fallen from Ena’s sandwich and the slice of lemon that I had removed from mine, he seemed strangely to have lost his appetite.

The afternoon ended with Jaqueline delightedly swapping her Toffifee pack for a box of Sara’s chocolate hearts. Rarely have I seen such a pleased look on her face. Magne had to make do with the enormous pile of leaflets and pamphlets that the Dechra rep had left. For some reason, when I suggested he could take them home for a bit of light holiday reading, he seemed less enthusiastic. Anyone watching might easily have been fooled into thinking that really we clinic staff were actually more interested in the food than in the important information about what drugs the man was trying to sell. As if we were both hungry AND shallow people. Obviously though, as all of you kind people that read my blog know only too well, that could never be the case. Thanks for reading.

Today’s photo is Billy, who was in to see Wivek for some blood tests.

Food ‘n’ Trams ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll

On Friday 20th November, Charlie and I travelled to Milan. The excuse for going (if one can be said to need an excuse for a trip to Italy) was to see Simple Minds, but I confess I was looking forward to the food as well. In this I was not disappointed.

Here is Charlie, about to consume (second) breakfast in a wonderful pasticceria.

Charlie in Sugar
Charlie in Sugar

I think actually we were very restrained as you will see from this picture of a small selection of the cakes in the window. Apologies for the poor quality of the photo due to reflection from the glass.

IMG_6641

As we were sitting, trams were rumbling past. The network seemed to be very extensive and there was an astonishing array of different types. With my father in mind, I thought I ought to photograph one or two, though I fear he might be disappointed in me for not being more selective in my choices.

This seemed to be the standard livery on these old trams.
This seemed to be the standard livery on these old trams.
But this one was definitely more festive.
But this one was definitely more festive.

We did pass the odd bit of culture in our extensive three day walking tour of the city. This is Castello Sforzesco:

Castello Storfesco
Castello Storfesco

And this is the Cathedral:

Duomo di Milano
Duomo di Milano

But then it was back to the food. To whet the apetite, an Aperol Spritz is invaluable. This rather fine restaurant was the Ristorante Valentino Legend:

IMG_6665

The food was fantastic. Obviously photographs can never do justice to the full experience, but the meal really did taste as good as it looks.

Unfortunately I can't find this in the online restaurant menu, but it was one of the most incredible dishes I have tasted. It was a light pastry tart filled with asparagus with the most wonderfully savoury cheese sauce. There were also truffles included, though whether those were in the tart or the sauce, I'm not certain.
Unfortunately I can’t find this in the online restaurant menu, but it was one of the most incredible dishes I have tasted. It was a light pastry tart filled with asparagus with the most wonderfully savoury cheese sauce. There were also truffles included, though whether those were in the tart or the sauce, I’m not certain.
Sea Bass Ravioli with Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto of Capers
Sea Bass Ravioli with Cherry Tomatoes and Pesto of Capers
Scallops au gratin with Butter Lobster on a bed of creamed sweet Peas
Scallops au gratin with Butter Lobster on a bed of creamed sweet Peas
Prawns wrapped in Toscan Bacon and au gratin with cream of white Beans. Technically this was Charlie's, but we shared everything.
Prawns wrapped in Toscan Bacon and au gratin with cream of white Beans. Technically this was Charlie’s, but we shared everything.
Trilogia di lamponi
Trilogia di lamponi

All this food was consumed on Saturday before the main event, which was of course, the concert. Despite some reluctance on Charlie’s part, we managed to get a place very close to the stage. As anyone who reads this blog religiously will know, we have been to see the band a few times before, but they never disappoint and this was no exception. Jim Kerr seemed to be particularly enjoying himself. The only sad part was that he was conversing with the audience most of the time in Italian, so I had no idea what he was saying, but the audience roared their appreciation all around us.

Jim Kerr, still frisky...
Jim Kerr, still frisky…

IMG_6725

Charlie Burchill was right in front of us for most of the concert.
Charlie Burchill was right in front of us for most of the concert.

IMG_6729

IMG_6840

I don’t have as many good photos as I have had for the previous two concerts. Not so long ago, Jim Kerr expressed his frustration that too much of the time he found himself staring into a row of phones so I was aware of that, as well as wanting to be in the moment when we had invested the effort to get so close to the stage. Charlie tells me that during Let There Be Love, Jim Kerr pointed to us and mouthed “You Two.” So now our twenty year love affair has been officially stamped with Kerr approval. Well, I’m looking forward to the next twenty years and I hope for many more weekends as wonderful as this one. Simple Minded ratification notwithstanding, I have published the few decent photos I have on a separate page for those who are sad interested.

The weekend did not end there. Sunday remained and we awoke to find the mist had lifted and the sky was blue. So did we spend this time enjoying the wonderful sights of Milan? No, we went out to eat, this time at Spoon. We arrived at about two and were presented with a Sunday Brunch menu. Initially, we were told the a la carte menu was not available, but after a quick word with the chef, our waitress returned with the real deal.

Crispy scallops with beetroot mayonnaise
Crispy scallops with beetroot mayonnaise
Tortellone with ricotta cheese and anchovies
Tortellone with ricotta cheese and anchovies
Apologies to the chef for not showing the original presentation, but for me, this was a perfectly cooked steak
Apologies to the chef for not showing the original presentation, but for me, this was a perfectly cooked steak

Our profound enthusiasm was not lost on the waiting staff. To our surprise, instead of offering us the dessert menu, they arrived with spoons and a moment later, announced that they were giving us a selection of desserts “on the house”.

IMG_6875

By the time we were finished, the sun had gone down. We spent a while looking round the centre. As those of you who know me well will know, this is about as near as I ever get to high fashion.

IMG_6892

Perhaps feeling that we had not spent enough time exploring Milan, Charlie felt that as a fitting end to our weekend we should pay a visit to the Navigli district, a beautiful area of the city built around canals. Following the GPS co-ordinates on Trip-Advisor, we took a tram and then a bus and alighted in an area that, to our surprise, appeared more Vauxhall than Venice. We walked a few minutes, passing shops with the lovely descriptive name “Sexy Shop”. This didn’t seem as tempting as the bohemian restaurants that Trip Advisor promised. Still, Charlie checked his map again and confirmed there was a canal nearby. So we walked some more (we averaged 20,000 steps per day… we needed to do something to work off all that deliciousness) and when we finally found it in the darkness…

IMG_6896

…there was no water.

Retreating to a down-at-heel coffee shop, where a man was pounding a slot machine with the dedicated intensity of the addict, Charlie, following a long session peering into his phone announced that yes, the person who had added the Navigli District to Trip Advisor had put in the wrong co-ordinates. Undaunted by our trawl through the red light district, we made our way to Central station and hopped on the Metro. By the time we found our way to the real canal, Charlie was hungry again and as we had not, as yet, had a pizza, we finished our weekend in style in a tiny pizza restaurant: I Segreti di Pulcinella.

Wood pizza oven
Wood pizza oven

All good things must come to an end and it was sad to wake up on Monday morning knowing that the weekend was over. Still, the wonderful staff in the Lancaster Hotel wished us well. And maybe one day, we will return.

IMG_6639

A Polish Odyssey

We landed in Gdansk on Saturday evening. The first slightly disconcerting moment came when we went to Avis car hire and found an empty desk. Fears of a long session of negotiation with another company, or finding ourselves stranded in northern Poland with no means of proceeding to our accommodation were soon dispersed when we lifted the red phone receiver and the attendant explained that she had just nipped home for dinner, but would be back in fifteen minutes.

Half-an-hour later, safely ensconced in a Ford Focus,  we found ourselves rattling along a very rough road. When landing in a new country, there’s always a charged moment when you discover whether your 100 km journey will take one hour or ten. Happily within a few minutes, we found ourselves on a very efficient motorway. There were a few giggles elicited in the intervening period however, as the nicely spoken man in the GPS machine tried to get his tongue round ‘ Ulica Juliusza Slowackiego’ and ‘Ulica Jana Wojnarskiago’.

Slipping quietly through the outskirts of Tricity, I was interested to see the beautiful classical northern European architecture admixed with starkly contrasting utilitarian Eastern Bloc high-rises.  I was also struck by the shops which included Tesco hypermarkets and a plethora of Lidls. It is easy to forget, when I so rarely leave Norway, just what a closed shop my adopted home country is to external supermarket chains. It was also disconcerting to see so many signs and not understand a word. With a smattering of French, German and Latin (as well as Norwegian) it is rare to find myself so much at a loss. Still, for me it only added to the frisson of discovery. I love new places.

And so, after a couple of hours, we arrived at our hotel. The Poraj Palac is a substantial country house hotel surrounded by gentle rolling countryside. The grounds and surrounding area team with wildlife. The evening air is filled with the singing of frogs from the nearby pond, the night brings the screeching of barn owls and in the morning, the cuckoos begin calling. The staff are friendly and the food is wonderful and fresh. English speaking travellers are few and far between. I feel very lucky to be here.

Poraj Palac
Poraj Palac
Room No. 12.
Room No. 12.

Artwork in the grounds.

IMG_5618

 

IMG_5615

IMG_5614

 

Mieszko bringing us cocktails in the garden.
Mieszko bringing us cocktails in the garden.

 

Evening view.
Evening view.

And, just for Jan-Arne, some photographs of the very colourful food.

Traditional sour rye soup.
Traditional sour rye soup.
Hungarian potato cake.
Hungarian potato cake.

 

Nut pancakes
Nut pancakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nut soup.
Nut soup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roast duck with apple
Roast duck with apple

 

Mieszko's first ever iced coffee.
Mieszko’s first ever iced coffee.

 

Dawn

So much has been invested in the past weeks. The pre-Christmas anticipation (for me at least) lasted more than a month. And then the day arrived and was beautiful, yet so brief.

There were imperfections. It was impossible to get to sleep due to the activity in my brain, rehearsing for the next day, and (irony of ironies) the insomnia caused by the worry that I might not get to sleep soon enough. Soon enough for what, you may ask.

The oven decided to play up. The electrics in our house are old and… well cobbled together would probably be a good description. No neat and tidy holes through the ceiling or floor: the wires line the walls. When there is a surge of power in the kitchen, the fuse blows. After a bit of fiddling with the water heater, the electric radiator and the extractor fan, the vegetables managed to limp to boiling point, though limp is an inappropriate word because for once, they weren’t overcooked. At least it happened in the latter stages, by which time the pork had already achieved fragrant crispiness. We eat ribbe now: a wonderful side of pork with tasty crackling that complements the roast potatoes and stuffing rather better (in my opinion) than dried out turkey.

Anyway I have been fighting that sad day-after-Christmas feeling, on and off. We watched Call The Midwife this morning, downloaded from the internet. It was presumably meant to be uplifting. After last year’s sad topic, and the Downton death debacle of Matthew Crawley, I watched with the strangely demoralising certainty they would give it a happy ending, but it left me feeling a kind of melancholic nostalgia. Not that I was alive back then. It is set a decade or more before I was born; the costumes are notably like those I see in photos from when my parents were young. But these programmes make me yearn for “when things were less complicated”, which is odd because it isn’t as if things were easier back then, and that was clear in the storylines which were of post-war PTSD and polio.

I guess what I secretly yearn for, is that time when I was a child, and it was someone else’s job to ensure that Christmas went swimmingly. To a time when the world seemed wide open and anything was possible. I know that the reality wasn’t like that. Teenage was a difficult time of wanting and hoping so much. I achieved something wonderful, getting into University to study Veterinary Science, but what I really wanted was a wonderful man to sweep me off my feet. Some people are never happy.

But that’s just it, you see. On the whole I am very happy. I have that wonderful husband. My life is stable and fulfilling. I see on websites sometimes people setting out their “bucket lists”. I don’t bother because I have done almost everything that was really important to me. One thing remains and that is to have a novel published. I’ve already seen my name in print of course. I’ve had short stories published in the Veterinary Times, and even been paid for the privilege. But as I am about to embark upon the painful journey of trying to find a literary agent who loves Tomorrow, I can only hope that this time… this time I have got it right.