It’s a long way down!

We sometimes struggle to finish the jumbo crossword in our Saturday newspaper, but that challenge seems small compared with this week’s Radio Times crossword. Mr TLC is currently looking at the clue for 3456 down. This may take some time…


86 Jedi Knights in Crookes there are

Found them on the 2011 census website we did.

The 2011 census data site is a bit of an internet rabbit hole. Having started browsing I spent a surprisingly long time discovering data about the area where I live.

I thought the religion section was particularly interesting. There were religions I had never even heard of. In fact, some of the categories themselves are quite intriguing, although the supporters of the campaign to get heavy metal recognised as a religion will doubtless be disappointed to see themselves listed as “No religion: Heavy Metal”.

Should you wish to disappear down the rabbit hole for yourself, you will find the UK 2011 census data at

Thanks to Blue Witch for the link!

(An Unusual) Measure for Measure

Voigt_Cancellara_TDF_2010_Cambrai_(cropped)How much is too much? We have plenty of space in the back of the car, but when buying bags of sand and pebbles as we did today, the big concern isn’t space, it’s weight. I didn’t want to do more trips to the builders’ merchant than necessary, neither did I want to be the idiot who overloaded her car and gave the AA man a funny story to tell. My solution involved what might be described as non-standard units.

As we stood looking at our trolley of goods, debating whether we already had too much to carry or whether we could manage some more, I realised that I knew what the car could carry safely: the two of us, plus three passengers and a bit of luggage in the back. Now I’m not very good at weights of people in kilograms, but I do know the weights of some cyclists. Adding up the weights of the materials we had so far came to much less than 2 Paolo Bettinis, I was sure we could easily carry more than that. We allowed ourselves a limit of 3 Fabian Cancellaras, which meant we could buy everything we needed. It worked, we made it back up Crookes Mountain with no trouble and without the car feeling overloaded. I like this new unit, next time I’m faced with a similar problem, I’ll be measuring in Cancellaras again.



Image Credit: Fabian Cancellera, cropped by BaldBoris from larger photo ‘Voigt Cancellara TDF 2010 Cambrai ‘by Thomas Ducroquet. Used under Creative Commons Licence, via Wikimedia Commons

Post originally published on More Than a Maths Teacher

Five things

  1. Futoshiki puzzles are strangely addictive (they are basically Latin Squares/Sudoku with < symbols). I used to enjoy these in my Saturday morning newspaper, but they were brutally axed. Now I’ve discovered that you can play online. Given how long I spent doing this yesterday evening, I’m not sure that this is a good thing.
  2. It appears that Ginger Cat is a cat burglar. We found some evidence earlier today in the form of a small toy mouse tucked away in one of his favourite spots in the garden. Since this mouse bears no resemblance to any cat toy that we have ever owned, I can only assume that Ginger Cat has been nicking stuff from his alleged second home.
  3. There are some two legged burglars operating in our area. The Polis have visited us and delivered some advice and an anti-burglary toolkit. This is not quite as impressive as it sounds, since the ‘toolkit’ is actually just a leaflet, filled with great pearls of wisdom along the lines of ‘don’t go out and leave all of your windows open’.
  4. Presumably the recent spate of burglaries accounts for the unexpected appearance of a Police Community Support Officer on the beat, walking up our road. Not sure he could have caught any burglars though, he looked absolutely shattered and we were taking bets on whether he was going to make it to the top of the hill without stopping. (He did, but only just.) I notice Ginger Cat took one look at him and scarpered. Guilty conscience I reckon.
  5. I have now been Saying No to Magic for a whole week. After the best part of two years in which my (fiction) reading has consisted almost entirely of sci-fi and fantasy novels, I decided it was time for a change, so I’m aiming for a month of more varied fare. Two crime novels and one fifth of Madame Bovary later, I have to say I’m enjoying it.

Taming the Urban Jungle

August 2013

This used to be a garden. Several years of neglect have taken their toll. We started doing some cutting back, but we didn’t get far – we spent too much time running away to the seaside every time the weather was fine. Still, we had an enjoyable summer and at least we made a start on the gardening front.

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February 2014

Some fine weather permitted pruning of apple trees, which got us started on a rather major garden clearance project. Pruning the giant buddleia at the end of the garden revealed that it was very rotten, so down it came. The pine tree that had got completely out of hand soon followed. The garden still looked a mess, but it was opening out. Suddenly there was space to hang out the washing. Woohoo!

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April 2014

Two trenches dug, two retaining walls built – it seemed like a huge amount of work for two apparently tiny walls. However, the end of the garden is looking like a place where things might actually grow. There are spaces to keep wheelie bins and compost boxes hiding behind the small conifer tree near the end of the garden.

There is supposed to be a paved area in the middle of the garden (grass doesn’t do well in this small north-facing space), but most of the paving slabs are so sunken and overgrown that they have disappeared from view. Fixing that will be the next big project, but it has to wait until exam season is over.

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August 2014

What a difference a year makes! The old paving slabs were all removed (some of them even came out in one piece!), the area was levelled (I can’t believe how much bigger it looks) and paving laid out ready to go back in.

Not finished, but getting there. We even had a go at sitting in the garden with a nice cup of coffee. Well, I had just been given a very fine new mug.

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Full of Beanies

2014-08-09 14.59.27Once upon a time, when I first lived in Sheffield, my housemates and I were fairly regular customers at Beanies Wholefoods. Officially described as a wholefoods cooperative, it sells a wide variety of vegetarian foods and greengrocery and is an Aladdin’s cave for lovers of good food.

Despite only living a short distance away, I had slipped out of the habit of shopping at Beanies. These days our groceries tend to come form a mixture of the supermarket and our local traders in Crookes. In fact, I had slipped out of the habit to the extent that I never even thought about Beanies when trying to track down various ingredients after my favourite deli closed a few years ago. However my memory was jogged when Beanies got mentioned in conversation during my Pastries in a Day course at The Showroom. I decided it was time to pay a return visit.

There is an amazing array of products on offer for such a small space, including lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, grains and some beautiful looking bread. They also had an ingredient which has proved elusive in recent years – fresh yeast. It has to be ordered in, but they supplied me with a small bag with just a couple of ounces of yeast, plenty for some home baking. Lovely. Guess what I’m doing today?

I’m not sure why I neglected Beanies for so long, but I’m sure I’ll be making a return visit quite soon.

Pastries in a Day

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I have never mastered the art of folding and rolling needed to create layered pastry, so I decided that it was time to do something about that. When I spotted the Showroom Cinema’s Pastries in a Day course, I jumped at the chance. The fee of £39.95 is really good value, considering that it includes a day of tuition, with ingredients, lunch, many cold drinks and cups of coffee – and your creations to take home. What a great way to start the summer holiday.

Under the guidance of sous chef Jon Tite and Jodie Thompson, a small group of us mixed and kneaded dough firstly for Danish pastries and then for croissants, before going on to the process of folding, rolling and resting the dough until it magically transformed into a mass of layers. We watched Jon make crème patisserie and learned how to shape and assemble our Danish pastries. We cut and shaped our croissant dough, making both the traditional crescent shaped rolls and pains au chocolat. Finally, we did a spot of decorating: glazing, icing and adding some flaked almonds to our freshly baked Danish pastries. What had seemed complicated when described in a cookbook became accessible when demonstrated by an expert.

2014-07-26 15.14.44Jon was not just an expert chef, he was also a really good teacher. He managed the difficult balance between knowing when to help, when to simply encourage and when a bit of intervention was required. His infectious enthusiasm kept us engaged throughout the day, as did his well-judged mixture of advice, information and anecdotes. Jon’s passion for cooking was evident, and he happily answered our many questions about a whole range of skills and recipes, not just pastry making.

I had a great time. I learned a huge amount and I have managed to put this into practice at home, both by reproducing the recipes from the day and by having a go at some puff pastry. OK, so my first attempt was flaky rather than puffy, but it tasted great, which is the most important thing.

If you would like to learn about making pastry, I highly recommend the course.

The Showroom does a Bread in a Day course too. I’ll be signing up for that one.


Today is the day that A level students across the country will find out their results.

I’m sure there will be tears.

Let’s hope they are the joyful variety.

The Colour Purple

We are rapidly becoming acquainted with the many faces of the Snake Pass. Now that SuperMum has moved to a new care home, it has become a regular journey for us.

I had always assumed that the name came from the twisting and turning route followed by the road, but last year we found a claim in a tourist information leaflet about a local event that the name actually comes from the snake crest of the Cavendish family. I haven’t managed to find anything that corroborates that, so who knows?

Wherever the name comes from, it looks spectacular at this time of year, especially near the Glossop end of the pass, where the hills are a mass of purple heather. Just beautiful.

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A Grand Day Out–a flock of seagulls (and a few puffins) at Bempton Cliffs

There seemed to be a lot of puffins in the media this year. Every time we opened a newspaper or a magazine, there seemed to be a puffin lurking somewhere, flashing its plumage and showing off its beak of many colours. Which is why we eventually got around to asking Uncle Google where we could see puffins, expecting to be offered far-flung Scottish isles and other exotic locations. Actually, it turns out that one of the best places for puffin spotting (outside the paperback book section in the children’s library) is right here in God’s Own County.

Bempton CliffsBempton Cliffs

I had never even heard of Bempton Cliffs, which are on the East Coast of Yorkshire, north of Flamborough Head. That’s an easy day trip for us, so I took Mr TLC for a birthday excursion earlier this summer.

Bempton CliffsBempton Cliffs

Entering the RSPB reserve at Bempton feels like wandering into a programme by David Attenborough. It’s hard to convey the sheer numbers of birds. They are everywhere – wheeling in the air, calling out to each other, fishing on the sea and packed together as they perch precariously on the cliff faces. I suppose heights aren’t scary when you can fly.

Bempton CliffsBempton Cliffs

We went to Bempton for the puffins – and we did see some of these excellent little birds – but it was the gannets, kittiwakes and guillemots that stole the show. The gannets were easily my favourites, they don’t seem to be the most photogenic of birds, but there were incredibly graceful and also very tolerant of human observers.

Bempton CliffsBempton Cliffs

The only downside is that with so many birds, a rather pungent smell is inevitable. A great place for a day out, but perhaps best to eat your picnic lunch some distance away from the cliffs.

The puffins have probably all headed out to sea for now, but we will definitely be returning before the end of the summer – and before the reserve closes for development work in September. This really was a grand day out, if you are in the area, it is well worth a visit.