I like the Aga. I feel like a traitor to the working classes when I say it but it is warm and it is the nature of things to cling to what is warm. It disappointed me last night though. I tried to make chocolate eclairs. It might have been ambitious but the Aga stands there like a giant reproach. "Use me," it says. "Call yourself a woman? Bake something, damn it." So you have a glass of wine and think: "I know. I'll make eclairs." I have never made them before but the recipe sounded simple enough. Melt butter and water and slowly bring to the boil, add flour all at once, beat in the eggs a little at a time. Admittedly, I did not think it made the "smooth paste" the book called for which you then piped in rows along a baking tray. More like playdo when it has been left out of its popping cup a while. Ever hopeful, I slid the tray into the roasting oven. Twenty minutes later, I pulled out bread sticks. The recipe had said leave room between them to expand. They did not expand. They shrank in on themselves outside the dark, hot privacy of the Aga. My husband said: "What are they?" I said "Eclairs. But I don't think the cream will fit." I thought about dipping one end in whipped cream and the other in melted chocolate but I did not think they would convince. I wanted to bake because the little ladies who used to live here, one in this house and one along the row, were coming up for coffee this morning. They had shortbread; I bought it.
Before they arrived though when we were still at breakfast, the builder walked in. He had started work cutting tarmac for the farm gates at around 8.30am and the chap renting the cottage next to us who arrived yesterday went out to complain about the noise. He told my builder he had paid "good money" to come away, having been told it was a "really peaceful" spot. Maybe it was, once upon a time.