Travel Games

1. M1ldred

Mr TLC is a bit of a classic car fan. Our car does not resemble a classic, but we like spotting more venerable vehicles as we trundle around. We used to mark sightings with a shout of “Classic car!” but at some point that changed to a hearty cry of “M1ldred!”. All old vehicles score, but actual M1ldreds are obviously worth extra points (not that we keep count).

2. Say it with Sandra

Sandra’s dulcet tones have prevented many rows in the TLC-mobile. Since we purchased our first Sandra-SatNav, irritable exchanges between driver and navigator have become a distant memory. Our current Sandra is a pretty good navigator, but she does have a few linguistic quirks, which have resulted in us engaging in a strange call and response activity every time we use her.

We generally respond to Sandra’s odd pronunciations by repeating them back to her in an enthusiastic manner, but we do make an exception for Bakewell, or as Sandra prefers to say Bake Well, which elicits a chorus of “for 40 minutes”.

Sometimes Sandra wins the game by leaving us so totally baffled that we fail to repeat what she has said. She did very well in Normandy last Autumn, making a decent attempt at saying the name of every place that we visited, until we headed back to Cherbourg. It took us a little while to equate that with the town of Sherry Boo that Sandra wanted us to head for. Sounded like a dodgy 1970s cocktail to me.

A trip to Wales resulted in something too bizarre to describe adequately. As we crossed the border, Sandra switched to saying the place names in Welsh. At least, I assume she was trying to speak Welsh. I can’t even begin to offer a phonetic representation of what she was saying. It bore no resemblance to any Welsh place names and it was certainly beyond us to repeat her efforts. Still, she got us to our destination, which is the reason we have her in the car.

3. Dickens or Disney

Some places have brilliant names. After years of seeing signposts for for the excellently named Hadfield Padfield, I was a little disappointed to find out that Hadfield and Padfield are actually two separate places. By that time we had also spotted the sign to Shirley Longford (alas, also two separate places) and invented the game of Dickens or Disney.

I always imagined Hadfield Padfield as being a Dickensian gentleman, whereas Shirley Longford is definitely a character from a cheerful Disney movie. Dry Drayton? Has to be Dickens. Cherry Hinton? Disney.


Of course, sometimes we just admire the views as we travel from place to place. Are we nearly there yet?

Up hill and down Lathkill Dale

We took advantage of a fine day on Tuesday to enjoy a walk with some colleagues. We set off from Youlgreave and headed to Lathkill Dale.

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There was a diversion to Over Haddon for some lunch. It’s a picture-book village, with a nice pub and some excellent views over the local area.

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In fact, there were great views throughout the day…

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… and several interesting finds, including a repurposed telephone box and a gatepost with an impressive moustache:

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That ticks all my boxes for a perfect walk: great company, beautiful scenery, decent weather, interesting things to look at and a conveniently located pub. Nice.

Thanks to J, L, Mr TLC and T (who is surely the Best Behaved Dog in Derbyshire) for a grand day out 🙂

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.