No-one will know you’ve cheated

Wednesday January 25, 2006

Negotiations concluded this morning with an agreement in principle to aim for an exchange of contracts sometime in the next four to six weeks, to be followed by an extended period before completion in mid-April. There are only three links in the chain—us, our buyers, and their buyers, who have already exchanged contracts on their property. That suits us. As soon as we have a formal exchange we are as good as cash buyers and can start negotiations for our next home from a position of strength.

Now it’s over to the solicitors and the hangers-on to play the paper chase game. They’ve already passed over draft contracts; the next thing is the searches and, on behalf of our buyer’s mortgage supplier, a valuation survey on our house. There’s nothing for us to do now but wait.

We’re used to waiting. We’re used to the thought that it ain’t cut and dried until contracts are exchanged, too. We can live with it and we’re not celebrating yet.

Other than that, and thinking about it now, it’s been a lovely sunny day. Very cold, though, too cold for comfortable walking so it’s just as well that this was my rest-up day after walking round the town in Skegness yesterday. I did no more today than to take a very short turn up the lane and back again, and returned to the warmth of the kitchen with considerable pleasure.

They say it’s going to get gradually colder over the next few days but they’re being careful to avoid the issue of just how cold. Much of central and Eastern Europe is in the grips of a full-scale Siberian winter. Even Athens and large swathes of mainland Greece have had heavy snow, and that’s not something that happens too often; I’d love to see it but I’d not want to be driving on Greek roads in snow and ice—Greek drivers are most decidedly not used to those conditions.

Like the house sale, winter ain’t over until it’s over and we could still be in for severe weather, even here by the fens.

I suspect most of the Kingdom saw at least a little of the Celebrity Big Brother show this evening, anticipating and then relishing in the eviction of George Galloway. I am pleased to have witnessed the nasty little mountebank get his come uppance. Shouldn’t have expected anything of him, I suppose. He’s a politician, and it’s a little foolish to expect much of any of that breed.

So, overall, a nice, quiet day, which I rounded off with a cheat’s pork loin casserole served with roasted winter vegetables.

How do you do a cheat’s pork loin casserole? Heat the oven roasting hot (about 220C), lightly grease a shallow pyrex dish and place a couple of decent sized pork loin steaks in the bottom. Pour a can of chopped tomatoes (laced with garlic if you like it) over the top, sprinkle them with a little dried basil, and cover tightly with foil. Bung the dish on a baking sheet, stick it in the oven with the vegetables and bake for about an hour. Towards the end of the cooking, loosen the foil to allow the sauce to reduce a little. When the vegetables are nicely roasted, the casserole will be ready to serve.

How do you do roasted winter vegetables? Chop up a parsnip or two along with a couple of carrots and a medium size red onion, keeping the pieces quite large. Add a little sliced red pepper. Put into an ovenproof dish and drizzle generously with olive oil and shove in the oven. They’ll take about an hour to roast; turn them gently once about halfway through the cooking and keep a careful eye on them towards the end, ready to snatch them out if they show signs of burning.

Serve the whole with crusty bread rolls. Just about the easiest thing to cook, but one of the tastiest of meals you can imagine. You can scale the whole thing up as much as your oven will allow for serving at a casserole party; no-one will know you’ve cheated.


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