We were relieved to welcome poor Olga back today. As it turned out the first and simplest explanation was the right one: she had had the winter vomiting virus very badly, and couldn’t tell us because she couldn’t muster enough English to do so in terms which would not offend or alienate us (there being a world of difference between ‘I not come to work, okay’ and ‘I’m terribly sorry but I’m still feeling very wobbly and the doctor doesn’t want me to go out’). She still doesn’t know us that well. The poor thing is not mistress of English conditional and subjunctive clauses, which are such an aid to courteous self-espression, and evidently feels the lack. I don’t know much about the Baltic languages but I begin darkly to suspect that were she trying to express any such sentiment in her native Latvian there would be quite a lot of bells and whistles. In herself, she is looking a bit washed out, but she ate a reasonable lunch, and certainly got us very tidy — we weren’t that bad, in fact. The canine moult is producing such outrageous quantities of fur that we were pretty much driven to the wielding of broom, mop and Hoover. Soon I will go through to the kitchen to organise our supper, which will be the occasion of broaching a new bag of rice, a more exciting event than it perhaps sounds. When the Professor went down, as he did, to England’s curry belt shortly before Christmas, I asked him to see if he could get some good rice (we have become luxuriously accustomed to Dehradun rice rather charmingly called ‘Pooja’, with a curvy sari-clad lady on the packet who is making a little domestic sacrifice; this is obtained in Edinburgh). He therefore ended up wandering into a late-night grocery store in somewhere like Bradford, where he found a couple of cheerful young men taking up space in the vicinity of the till; the sort of hoodie-clad young Asians who tend to trade as Ranj or Sri or something of the kind (though these particular ones were more probably Alis or Bils), and enlisted their aid. They were helpfulness itself. He was firmly advised, ‘you don’t want that T*l*a, it’s shite’ (naming a rice available in British supermarkets), and ‘Pooja’ , which is self-evidently Hindu, was not to be had, but was passed, in principle, as edible. ‘But this’, Bil, or Ali, said firmly, ‘is the dog’s bollocks, mate’. So the Professor, who has more sense than to argue with experts, did as he was told. Tonight we open the dog’s bollocks, otherwise trading as two kilos of ‘Lubna’ 2009 vintage super kernel Basmati, in a bag made of surprisingly good quality cotton, with a zip. Real rice nuts believe in maturing the stuff. Await reports.