It was very quiet here over the Easter weekend. The weather didn’t help of course. Other than a few sunny periods yesterday afternoon, it was cold and grey. As we are not remotely religious, we didn’t have to attend any church services, and there was no local Easter Fair, or similar community activity that appealed. This left us with a fairly normal weekend, especially as Julie had to work on Saturday anyway, breaking up the days off that might have made a trip somewhere worthwhile. We did have an Easter Sunday meal of roast duck, something we don’t have that often. There was also the consumption of some hot cross buns; but like most things in the UK, that tradition is spoiled by them being available more or less all-year round these days.
Walking Ollie as usual, I noticed the absence of our regular companions. Some had travelled abroad for an Easter break, others were visiting family, or entertaining guests themselves. There were new people to discover, and more importantly for Ollie, some new dogs to meet. They were visitors, coming to the area to see family or friends, and directed to the Meadows, or Hoe Rough, as a good place to take their dogs. Some were caught out by the stubborn mud, not dressed for the occasion, stepping awkwardly around the deep ruts, and avoiding the standing water. Their dogs rushed up excitedly to Ollie, then scampered off again, too overwhelmed by their new surroundings to bother to play. I exchanged pleasantries, and carried on trudging. Yesterday, I was hit in the eye by a flying insect, one of the first of the season. In all of the countless square miles of Norfolk available to it, the thing managed to impact my eye at speed, and felt like a tiny bullet. It has been watering constantly ever since, and feels bruised to the touch. If only I could have such ‘luck’ with lottery tickets.
Returning home like a wounded Nelson, I resolved to do something useful with the rest of the day, and foolishly decided to clean the oven. Or should I say ovens, as it is an electric double-oven affair. It works very well, with a fan assisting the cooking, ensuring an even spread of heat. Unfortunately, this also means that it bakes on any unwanted splashes or deposits, and the job of cleaning the thing has to be tackled like a military operation. The removable racks are first soaked in biological washing powder. I bought a special plastic tray for this purpose, itself the size of a small paddling pool. As the trays and racks are soaking for up to four hours in near-boiling water, a spray oven cleaning foam is applied inside. This stuff is so caustic, gloves are essential, and woe betide that you inhale during spraying, unless you are wearing a suitable gas-mask. After covering the kitchen tiles with newspaper to catch any spills or leaks, you retire and wait. Sounds easy? Believe me, the hard bit is yet to come.
When enough time had elapsed, I walked with heavy step into the kitchen, to face my oven demons. I arranged a selection of abrasive and non-abrasive pads on the worktop, alongside a fresh roll of kitchen towel, and some extra paper. Working from the top down, I cleaned the extractor fan unit with a spray cleaner, and the glass shield with something suitable too. Despite the fact the the whole thing looked quite clean and tidy, and there are normally only two of us to cook for, it never ceases to amaze me how much sticky grime can be removed. The flat hob is the easiest of course. A dedicated cleaning paste is applied, then buffed off. Job done. If only the rest was as simple. Before tackling the inside of the ovens, I removed to the sink, and began to get the racks and grill-pan out of soak. Even with the action of the washing powder softening the weeks of carbon deposits, they still need a hearty scrub. I used a wire ball, the sort usually used on metal pans, and after almost an hour, they were all rinsed and gleaming on the side. I was putting off the inevitable though.
Are you still there? Still awake?
Kneeling on stone tiles is not something I like to do at my age, to be honest. The drop-down oven doors add eighteen inches to the reach required to get right inside these ovens, so you are at a stretch before you even begin. The first task is to scoop out the now greasy and stained foam cleaner residue. This means a lot of paper, and being very careful of spills and splashes. Then the cleaning pads have to come into play, applied with enough force to get the stuff off, but not so much that you will scratch the inside. Additional bursts of spray cleaner have to be applied to the most stubborn spots as you go, and constant rinsing of the pads is essential. The small top oven completed, I take a break before facing the lower one, as it is twice the size. This is also the fan-assisted oven, and it seems to mock me with the intensity of its burned-on grime. I change to a new pad, and attack it like someone who hates it. (As in a way, I do) Just this one space takes almost an hour, and two more pads, before it is eventually acceptable.
The glass doors have to be tacked with more dexterity, and a careful rotation system, so as not to lean too heavily on the hinges, or displace the glass in the frame. By now, I am sitting on the cold floor, changing arms to combat fatigue, and sincerely wishing that I had never started. Some people get the joy of satisfaction from a job well-done. Personally, I get my satisfaction from others doing that job instead of me. By 7PM it was finally over. The racks were replaced, the ovens gleaming, and I could take a well-earned rest.
A belated Happy Easter from Beetley.