Sunday, 14 December 2008

Mistletoe and Whine

Well hello, nice to see you, to see you........ I really must stop watching Brucie on that Strictly Come Dancing thingy, I think it may be getting to me. Anyway, how are you? Ready for Christmas?

Of course, the correct answer to this if you are any friend of mine, is absolutely, definitely "NO WAY". Please don't tell me you've already wrapped all your presents, iced your cake, cleaned out your freezer and filled it with home-made goodies. I just couldn't stand it. And if you are one of these hideously organised people who have made their own cards from sticky backed plastic and glitter way back in November, please speak to the hand 'cos the face ain't listening.

No, I prefer the haphazard chaos theory of Christmas preparations - ignore it for as long as possible, throw up my hands in horror that it is in fact NEXT WEEK, tear around like a maniac buying all manner of unsuitable gifts, open the Harveys Bristol cream and fling decorations on the tree whilst steadily getting festively merry.

Catering-wise I've decided to take the easy road this year with ready-stuffed turkey, pre-prepared veg, M and S gravy and Mamma Mia DVD for afters. Hopefully having produced this gourmet feast I'll be wearing a new pair of those furry slippers that look like Ugg boots, my feet up on the sofa, a tin of Quality Street on my lap, waiting for one of my doting family to bring me a cup of tea after they've washed up and tidied the kitchen.

In my fantasy world all presents will have been received with enthusiasm, Christmas dinner will have passed without anyone having an argument, I will remain sober until tea-time and no one will notice we've lost half the Scrabble tiles since last year. It will all have been absolutely perfect, worth all the effort and everyone will be happy.

In reality I have only two words to say to that. One is "fat" and the other is "chance".

But really, what is a "perfect" Christmas? For me, it's having my family around me, my kids under my roof once more, sitting at a table with everyone I love around it.

So this coming week when we're all struggling with bags of shopping in the pouring rain (unless you've pre-booked your Sainsbury's delivery slot, in which case you can stay at home and be smug), or standing in a queue at M and S listening to everyone around us moaning about the amount of stuff other people are buying ("it's only two days after all, I don't know what all the fuss is about"), let's hold on to what's really important to us this year. Whatever you wish for yourselves, I hope you get it. Within reason, of course.

Happy Christmas everyone, try not to throttle each other, and enjoy.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Black Dog Blues

Some days it's hard to be a woman. Or a man. Or a goddam dog, come to think of it. I'm having a blue period at the moment, frankly an extended jag of feeling down in the dumps, a black mood tinged with a bit of grey laced with a few great gobbets of purple. I am fed up. Don't know why, that's just the way life is.

Counting my blessings works, but only up to a point.

I need something fantastic to bring back the spring in my step. Something to restore the old sense of humour, to bring back my faith in humanity, to give me a bit of a warm glow. Preferably not related to alcohol and chocolate, if at all possible.

So what've you got for me?

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Over A Barrel At The Bank

We got our mortgage statement recently. We thought they'd made a mistake. It showed we only owed a relatively smallish amount of money, in comparison to the relatively huge-ish amount we used to owe. How time flies when you've got a mill-stone around your neck. We looked at each other and said "Blimey, shall we pay it off and be done with it? We could save ourselves a fortune in interest". This would however involve raiding the piggy bank, big-time, living on curried dust and wearing our children's cast-offs but we'd both read in the financial papers that the best way to survive the current hideous financial turmoil is to pay off as much debt as possible, spend as little as possible and avoid paying anyone any interest if at all possible. It seemed like maybe this was a Good Plan.

"Hello, we'd like to talk about paying off our mortgage" we told the advisor at the bank. We waited for a fanfare, fireworks or a twenty-one gun salute. We'd even have settled for a round of applause. I thought they'd be thrilled to get some money back in their coffers in view of the current financial climate, but no, nothing. In fact, if anything, she looked very unimpressed. "In one go, completely, totally finished" I added, just in case she hadn't understood. She sighed.

"Yes, you could do that" she said, "but it'll cost you about £400 in penalty fees for ending your mortgage early and £50 for us to send you your deeds." Fifty pounds to send us a few papers?? I wondered where on earth they were getting their stamps.

"Oh, that seems a bit mean doesn't it" I attempted a bit of light-hearted humour, "the bank charging us to give them their money back to them? What about if we just let the mortgage run on, and continue to overpay, how much interest would we be charged until the end of the term?"

There was frantic jabbing at the calculator. "About £400 give or take a few pounds. And of course £50 to send back your deeds."

Of course.

"So, let's get this straight. If we give you back several thousand pounds of the bank's money, they'll charge us £400 for doing it. If we don't give it back all in one go, and continue monthly payments, you'll charge us £400 in interest for doing that."

"Yes," she said "that's correct."

Undaunted, we tried a different approach.

"Could we change to a different mortgage then, with a lower interest rate?"

She nodded. "You could, but there is an arrangement fee for changing to a different mortgage product."

We were ahead of her here. "And how much is that fee?"

Yes, you guessed, it was £400.

So in summary, if you pay the bank back, it costs you money. If you keep the loan going, it costs you money. If you try and overpay to finish it off a little bit early, it costs you money. And if you try to save yourself a bit of interest by switching to a lower rate "mortgage product", it'll still cost you money. And don't forget, when they've finally wrung out all of the money you think they're going to get from you, the first edition Penny Black stamp they buy from Sotheby's to post your deeds to you will cost you the rip-off sum of £50.

Banks, eh? Just institutions whose mission in life is to find as many different positions as possible from which to screw you, whilst at the same time pleading poverty because they've all paid themselves too much in bonuses for pissing your money down the drain.

No wonder we're all over a barrel.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Credit Where It's Due

I feel I must start by thanking you most sincerely if you are still with me after the endless moaning rant I've been indulging in about the holiday. Sorry. It's been a marathon drone even by my standards. I like to think that getting it out in the open has helped me deal with the sheer bloody annoyance of wasting a huge amount of dosh and annual leave on an experience I wouldn't have wanted if they'd paid me to go. But still. Enough already. We did have some nice times too, but what's the fun in telling you about those? So I've decided that from now on I can let the whole sorry episode wash over me, learn from it and move on.

Or so I thought until the post came this morning.

Got the credit card bill today. There it was in black and white (soon to be red I fear), the whole sorry catalogue of disaster documented in pounds and euros from start to finish. The Travel Agent's rip-off con trick. The hire car which somehow magically appears to have cost many, many more Euros than we were quoted. That first night meal which had me puking for England, literally, (didn't tell you about that, too much detail). Even the eighteen quid bottle of bog cleaner masquerading as white wine, it was all there as evidence of a bad time had by all.

And there was the bill for the umbrella, purchased in a "raindrops keep falling on my head" moment in an attempt to make things more bearable with a bit of retail therapy, that was there too. Sheltering underneath it in the pouring rain, dodging heaps of Day-glo dog-poo, we dashed through the city streets looking for shelter and warmth.

"Let's start again," suggests husband, "let's try and make the most of it, even though it's not really our scene" he says as we wait to cross the road.

"OK," I say, "it hasn't all been bad, we're having some nice times too I suppose. Looking on the bright side, at least I've gone a trendy new umbrella."

"Let's treat it like a bit of a watershed then" he says, laughing.

He can be such a witty bugger at times, thank goodness.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda.

We've never had a proper holiday flop before, so really we should have counted ourselves lucky, but instead as the days went by we tormented the life out of each other with thoughts of what we would rather have spent the money on had we not sleep-walked (or should that be slept-walked?) into this situation.

We could have gone to Paris on Eurostar, always a favourite of ours, stayed somewhere swanky and hit the shops big-time. True, someone had set fire to the Chunnel the day before, so that was a bit off-putting, but still. Or maybe we would have been better going to Barcelona for a few days, got a bit of Ramblas shopping under our (designer) belts and a little culture to boot. Right at the start I should of course have insisted on a destination from my recommended list, but no, here we were, disenchanted and disgruntled, unable to find the light at the end of the tunnel which wasn't in fact an on-coming train.

The morning after our arrival we woke up with two matching hangovers, the result of drinking far too much on way too empty stomachs. Husband had refused to be thwarted re the lack of red wine and had charmed the hotel receptionist into producing a bottle of white from the back of a cupboard somewhere. Actually, I guess it might have been from under the sink. It was disgusting, tasted of pencil sharpenings and ear-wax (I imagine) but did the job of numbing the pain until dinner time when we re-emerged, slightly pissed but re-energised, re-fettled and ready to party. We had gone on foot in search of the village and spent a good time searching for it before we realised that the dingey parade of shops reached by four flights of un-lit, slippery concrete steps, was in fact, it.

In my dreams the village would have had little waterside restaurants with candle-lit tables, smiling waiters and gorgeous food. In reality we were greeted at the local Pizzeria with a scowl, made to sit outside because the staff hadn't yet finished their supper, and only allowed back in when they'd done. It was bloody cold out there. The food took hours to arrive and when it did it was average, so we did the only sensible thing under the circumstances and kept on drinking. We left a huge tip in the hopes that if we had to eat there again during the week, this time they would like us more and maybe give us a smile, or be a little more friendly. It didn't work. This was obviously a local pizzeria for local people. Later that night I regretted both the tip and the tortellini I'd eaten there as my stomach lining and I violently attempted to part company.

Consequently, the following morning, things were dire. We went down to breakfast and again, not a soul in sight. I began to fantasise about the reason for it and finally decided that the whole hotel, which was pristine, white and hushed, reminded me of the euthenasia clinic as featured in the BBC1 TV series Holby City a while back. No one was coming in or going out, although I suppose it would have been a lot more worrying if loads of people had been coming in and no one going out. Whatever. It made me a bit suspicious of the breakfast juice, I can tell you.

And still it rained.

We went into town by taxi, bought an umbrella, hired a car and had a row. I ruined my best flat shoes and my hair went frizzy. Husband trod in dog-mess (unavoidable, the whole place was covered in it - what DO those dogs eat??) and got it on his jeans. Day one was not going well.

We looked across the grey sea towards Elba, shrouded in mist.

"Napolean died there you know, some say he was poisoned" said husband, trying to distract me from my misery with interesting facts, but failing totally.

"Not bloody surprised, probably ate at that fucking pizza parlour."

I shouldn't have said that. It was not helping, I know that now. I really needed to get a grip of myself, cheer up and tone down the smart-aleck remarks.

But all I could think about was that it was still six more days until I could go home.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

If The Rain Comes

The journey from airport to hotel would have been so much better undertaken in the dark. We'd arrived mid-morning, had been greeted by a cheery holiday rep who put us in a cab and waved us off, all the while trying to smile a happy smile even though she was getting thoroughly soaked to the skin. Apparently it hadn't rained in Corsica since May, and whoever or whatever controls the weather over there certainly knew how to pick the best possible moment to welcome us with a storm of monsoon proportions, with raindrops so large they could hit the ground and bounce back up your trouser legs, soaking you up to the knees of your jeans in ten seconds flat. Trying to make us Brits feel at home, no doubt. How kind.

Sitting back in the taxi my husband reached for my wet hand. I didn't look at him. Instead I continued to gaze through the steamy cab windows at the passing vista of crumbling high rise flats, industrial yards and derelict concrete buildings. I bit my lip to stop it quivering and wished I'd packed an umbrella and cyanide pill.

We arrived at the hotel which was surprisingly pretty considering it's urban surroundings, and my spirits began to lift. I gave myself a bit of a mental telling off for being so defeatist and silly. Maybe it was going to be OK after all. At reception we asked about getting some lunch, we'd been up since 4 a.m. and had avoided the in-flight cold bacon ciabbatta on the grounds that it looked like a bit of a health hazard, and now we were starving.

The bad news that this particular hotel had no food service at all apart from breakfast came as a bit of a shock to us, ditto the revelation that everything in the village would now be shut, it being Sunday lunchtime, and wouldn't be opening again until that evening. Perhaps. The only place we would be able to eat at this time of day was back in town, from where we had just come, and as we weren't due to pick up a hire car until the following morning, we were, quite frankly, buggered. And no, sorry, even though this is indeed a hotel in wine making country, we don't actually have a bottle of Corsican red in the so-called bar for you to take up to your room to help pass away the time until dinner.

So we started our holidays tired, wet and hungry. And just a little bit grumpy.

Things could only get better, right?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

And So The Die Was Cast

"OK then, Bastia it is" smiled the Travel Agent, outstretching her hand to take my husband's credit card. I couldn't quite remember agreeing to it, but I suppose we must have.

I watched in stunned silence, my mouth opening to form the words "hold on a minute, I'm not actually sure......" but husband just beamed at me and said "I've always wanted to go to Corsica, it'll be great" and punched in his PIN.

The words "I don't really think I fancy it" withered and died in my mouth. I felt the noose of commitment tightening around my neck. I was trapped into a decision I wasn't sure about. I gave my husband a panicky look, willing him to telepathically get my drift and get the transaction voided. Or maybe get me voided. I tried to say something but it was too late, my protests fell on deaf ears, largely because it was only the voice in my head which was shouting "I've changed my mind".

I am a total holiday nightmare. I can never decide where to go. And if, by some weird twist of fate I do actually make a decision, the very second the decision is made I want to get out of it. Make up some silly reasons not to go. It might rain (it did), we might not like it (we didn't), it seems an awful lot of money (it was).

The only thing I fear more than going to new places and seeing new things is not going to new places and not seeing new things. I have to really push myself to take that first fearful step and our ultimate destination has to be worth all the effort. I'm not a natural born traveller, nor an adventurer, but merely a home bird with occasional migratory tendencies, eager to fly the cage that I have constructed for myself but rarely brave enough to spread my wings.

Usually my fears prove to be groundless and once we arrive everything is fine, but this time I was really worried that we'd made a big mistake.

And when we got there, saw the lie of the land, that voice in my head was saying "I told you so."

Monday, 22 September 2008

Now How Did That Happen?

So I said to the travel agent, "I have a list of places I'd like to go to, recommended by some well travelled friends of mine." I think she was impressed. Thanks to your input, it was a very long list.

Top of my list was Italy in general, Lake Garda in particular, and if she wanted me to be even more specfic, how about Malcesine? Or if not Garda, how about Maggiore? Or Verona maybe with a little excursion to an Italian lake, or vice versa, or even a short break? If not for a week, then maybe just three or four days or so? Or anything at all?

There was nothing available, sorry. I said I was really surprised, that we'd expected there to be loads of last minute holidays given the current financial climate and everyone worried about the price of chicken breasts and bread, and sacrificing their holidays in order to pay the milk bill or keep grandma off the streets. She said that because the weather had been so foul and the news so dire, lots of folk were just desperate to get away from it all and had booked a holiday anyway, and that because several small airlines had so recently gone tits up (OK, she didn't say tits up, but that's what she meant), people were booking through travel agents for last minute deals so that they were protected financially. Or something like that. The long and short of it was that last minute deals were hard to find, and non-existent in some cases. Anyway, there was bugger all in the Italian lakes.

So OK, no problem, back to the list. What about Alghero in Sardinia? I'd heard from a reliable source that it is fab. My friend Mimi says there are good views, fab food and very, very laid back people. I really like good views, fab food and especially very, very laid back people, and they usually like us, so can we go there then?

No flights available for our week unfortunately.

Mmm, what about Cyprus then, my mate Norman thinks it's simply the best. I trust his judgement so what about it?

Same thing, couldn't fit a week in around our dates.

And so it went on, through my shopping list of desirable destinations until we'd been through them all and not been able to find an available week anywhere to fit in with our holiday fortnight. No to Alghero, forgot to ask about Santorini, couldn't do Malcesine, Maggiore, sorry about Verona, forget Sicily. And Sorrento? Sorrento at such short notice? Pah, you must be kidding. Maybe Cyprus if you fly in the next half hour, but not sure about next week being available and definitely not to any of your mate's other suggestions, that's for sure.

And suddenly, she said "Ever thought about Corsica?"

I can't say I ever have, to be honest.

So I said no, I hadn't.

And the next thing I knew, we were going.

Oh Bastia.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Am I Being Too Fussy?

I'm almost too embarrassed to tell you but I'm still in rainy Blighty, despite all of your fantastic travel tips for which I am eternally grateful. They all sound so great, but unfortunately I think we've left our run a wee bit too late. The travel agent surprised us by saying that there aren't that many late-deals around to the places we want to go to but can offer us hundreds of holidays which we don't really fancy. In fact, some of the deals on offer made me want to hide in the airing cupboard until next April. Top of his list was an "adult-only" holiday in a concrete village in Spain, all inclusive, as much as you can eat and drink with all night entertainment and escorted trips. Great if you like that's your sort of thing, but my personal idea of hell.

Next up was a Mediterraean cruise, ditto the above details but this time waking up in a different location every day with forty-five minutes or so ashore to "do" the area local to the port, then back on board and off to the next one. Sounded absolutely knackering, and thankfully I was able to use my claustrophobia as an excuse to say no thanks to an inside cabin deep in the bowels of the ship.

We could have gone to Egypt if only I'd had the jabs previously and the time to get them done before we set off. Not that I wanted to go to Egypt particularly anyway (no offence, Egypt), as my taste buds were working overtime for Italian food and culture at the time.

So here we are, still at home, with two weeks' holiday and as yet nowhere to go. And it's still pissing down.

I feel so stupid.

Remind me to book earlier next year.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Tell Me Where To Go

Lord Snooty and I are trying to book a holiday. We have two weeks off in September and as yet we haven't arranged anything. The problem is that himself travels a lot and I don't. He's been there, done that and has several hundred tee-shirts to prove it. Me, I have a wardrobe of foxy summer clothes, as yet unworn, and a burning urge to pose in them. I need a little warm sun on my skin, a poolside glass of something potent and fruity with several floating umbrellas and a decent amount of fizz in my hand. I need sun, sea and, erm, anything else that's going, if you get my drift. I just don't know where to go to get it.

Husband is happy to take a holiday wherever I would like to go, within the bounds of possibility, but the trouble is I just can't decide. That seems like a very spoilt thing to admit to, but I don't mean it in the way it sounds. I just can't choose. I am having one of my famous dithers.

I quite fancy Italy, but which bit? Positano sounds extremely cool but hideously expensive and now that I equate everything in terms of kitchen equipment (just a mini-break in that area costs twice as much as a new dishwasher, freezer and cooker-hood combined) it is definitely making me think twice about spending that sort of cash for a few days away. It feels almost immoral. The Italian lakes look fab, and more realistically priced, but which one to choose? I also like the look of those Trullo thingies (you know, those little pointy round stone huts), but is that going a bit too far on the "authentic Italy" scale? Presumably they have electricity, or where would I plug in my hair straighteners? These are all very important questions, the answers to which I simply do not know. I need some unbiased help.

So this is where you guys come in, please pay attention:

We don't like:

Anything to do with caravans, camping or mosquitoes, long haul flights, injections for hideous diseases (OK, that's just me, husband's already jabbed up) or in fact the actual hideous diseases themselves. We are happy to give destinations known to induce diarrhoea and vomiting a miss too.

Also not keen on:

Inner city litter. Scary dudes who grab your bag and make off with your passport, money and (worse still) my makeup. The bastards.

Can do without:

Screaming kids who cannon-ball into the pool and splash you and bat you with their sodding beachballs.

Really dislike:

"Real English Pubs" when they are not, in fact, in England.

We really, really like:

Sun, great scenery, good food and wine, nice restaurants and bars, a touch of arty-farty culture, a little bit of light shopping and comfortable but not too over the top accomodation, although I've never been one to turn down an upgrade or a little bit of unashamed luxury if it's on offer.

We could go back again to where we always go, which ticks all the above boxes, but it seems a shame to do the same thing time and time again when there are so many other places to go and things to see, but perhaps it's the safest bet.

Unless, of course, you've got any other suggestions?

Monday, 18 August 2008

Ignorance Is Bliss

Back in the office, the breaking news that my veins apparently resemble "Cheesy Strings" has caused a mild amount of hilarity given that I am the one who everyone agrees "eats healthy" in that I don't have lasagne and chips for lunch in the hospital canteen but take my own box of rabbit food instead. They are incredulous that I should have a problem with what I eat since mostly I am on a low calorie diet with plenty of fruit and veg and my lunchbox usually resembles the salad bar at Sainsbury's, minus the mayo. It's not unusual for one of my workmates to peer into the Tupperware and comment "Hmm, that looks healthy" before happily tucking into a cheese and pickle baguette and bag of crisps, leaving me to wade through the grass clippings which are my lunch.

It's not easy being in an office full of women who celebrate anything and everything with cake, biscuits or chocolate. There is no excuse too trivial to prevent a break-out of buns. You come back from holiday, you bring in chewy foreign sweets in lurid colours. It's your birthday so you buy cream cakes. You go into town to buy a pair of tights and bring back a huge slab of chocolate on special offer from Woolies, or a bag of Thorntons. You drink diet Coke so that you can, with a clear conscience, have a Mars bar just because it's Friday. That kind of thing.

It's all a cholesterolaemic's nightmare. Temptation is everywhere I turn. No other person in the office knows what their cholesterol is or has any intention of finding out. Taking a survey of what healthy eating issues actually worry my colleagues, the main areas of concern appear to be whether or not any particular food induces a) heartburn, b) flatulence or c) halitosis. The fat content of anything does not appear to be a question regularly asked, although the calorie content does in fact remain a very important one. To a woman, we all know exactly how many calories there are in a small Kit-Kat (107) or a bag of Maltesers (183) and some of us even know how many there are in just the one (10). But who can stop at a single Malteser? No one I know.

But cholesterol? Who knows? Who cares? As long as it doesn't make you fat, why worry? Refusing a piece of chocolate cake today, and having to admit to my new low fat regime, I explained that I had been told by the GP not to eat cake or chocolate any more "except at Christmas or on birthdays."

"But whose birthday did he mean?" my workmate asked, pushing the plate torwards me, "Just yours or everybody's?"

I am doomed.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Fat Of The Land

Went for the results of my cholesterol check today. Oh, bloody hell. The figure quoted sounded like a Richter measurement of a massive earthquake, or the number given to a very severe gale force wind on the Beaufort Scale. It's so bad I can hardly say it.

OK, it was 8.

Apparently my veins are full of lard and from now on I need to live on porridge. Dry porridge at that. Or for a special treat I'm allowed a bowl of curried dust. Marvellous.

I'm totally puzzled by this revelation and I am struggling to understand how so much of my "good" cholesterol turned so, so bad on me. What on earth did I do to offend it? And when did things get to this pretty pass? How can I possibly have a cholesterol of 8? Looking at the wall chart given to me by my GP (foods which are either good, not too bad or a ticking bomb, only to be eaten by those with suicidal tendencies) I still can't see where I've been going so wrong. True, I have been known to snaffle the odd chip now and then, or a bit of Brie, but generally speaking I am a careful eater. I even put my specs on to read food labels whilst I'm shopping, checking the fat content of everything in a particularly nerdy way. Yes, I know I waxed lyrical about Waitrose's Gourmet Sausage but I hardly ever actually eat one in reality. So how the hell I've managed to exchange my blood for a river of cooking oil, I really don't know.

I don't want to end up on cholesterol lowering drugs, so come on everyone, tell me how to reduce this terrible number to something more respectable. Three or four would be nice, but I'd settle for a five if that's all you can manage.

But don't say "give up chocolate". That would be silly.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

A Wet Weekend At Waitrose

Hasn't the weather been gorgeous? Been in the garden? Had a barbecue? It's been fabulous, hasn't it? Or not, if you happen to be in charge of the ordering department for Waitrose stores. For you, last weekend was a washout. You must have been the one person in Britain who opened the curtains last Saturday morning and thought, "Oh shit, it's sunny."

Determined to make the most of the summer now it's actually arrived, midway through last week we decided to invite a few friends round for a bit of a get together in the garden, as you do. With British weather being a touch on the taciturn side, I thought it would be a good idea to plan a weather-proof menu - a barbecue if it turned out nice again, a couple of lasagnes and a vat of chicken curry available should the weather decide to rain on our parade, and a massive strawberry Pavlova (or Eton Mess if it all went horribly wrong) for pud. Simple. I knew that whatever wasn't used could be frozen and eaten at some later date, apart from the Eton Mess of course which we would have to eat until we made ourselves sick. But either way there'd be no problem. I'm adaptable, me. And a little bit greedy.

So last Saturday morning off I went to Waitrose. At the risk of being labelled rich/old/posh (I am definitely none of those things, especially not the middle one), I have to say that I've always loved the store, their food and the staff so I make no apology for using the W word so gratuitously. I know it would be much cheaper to go to Aldi or Asda but frankly I just can't be arsed fighting my way round those megastores - and besides, they don't do Waitrose Gourmet Sausage which, frankly, are worth every penny. So there am I with my list, my recycled jute tote, my Bag for Life carriers, expectantly pushing my trolley round when, whoah, what's all this then? Or, more accurately, what isn't all this then? Hardly any Gourmet Sausage? No burgers (and these aren't just any old burgers, these are lamb and redcurrant or pork and apple burgers) and no strawberries? No fresh rolls or crusty bread? But why? What's gone wrong? Am I in so early I've got here before the delivery truck?

Apparently not. They have none. Bugger all. All gone. Maybe try tomorrow. Or Monday. I go to another Waitrose store (there's loyality for you) and when I speak to the manager, the story is the same. He says he is sorry, madam, but they've been caught out by the weather. At this moment I want to ask him if he's related to Michael Fish, but resist the temptation. By the look on his face I don't think he'll find it at all funny. He says that they didn't realise it was going to be so nice this weekend and had been told it was going to be wet, so they didn't order enough. It being summer and all.

My ghast had never been so flabbered. A store like Waitrose falling to order enough strawberries because someone told them it was going to be wet? How silly. Surely I can't be the only person who eats strawberries when it's raining, or cold, or even just a little bit nippy? I'd eat them with my raincoat on and thigh-length waders if necessary. Any why so low on sausages? Don't try and tell me that they're seasonal too. Surely sausages transcend season, you can eat them any time of year, any time of day or night. You don't need a weather forecast to tell you how many sausages to order, do you? Apparently, you do.

Ironically, despite the distinct lack of seasonal foods, Waitrose could have supplied me with everything I needed had I wanted to cook a Christmas dinner, a stew or roast pork. But nothing for my summer party. Drat.

So I did the only sensible thing, I left my half full trolley, took my list, my jute tote, my bags for life and my debit card and buggered off in a huff to summery Sainsbury's where they had loads of English Organic strawberries, and plenty of everything else too. Obviously they must have a better weather forecasting system or a more accurate piece of seaweed*. Or perhaps someone on their staff has bunions which play up when it's going to rain, and as she was tripping the light-fantastic throughout the previous week, totally pain-free, they knew we were going to have great weather at the weekend and ordered a shed-load of barbecue food. Or maybe they are simply more worried about keeping their customers happy than they are about having a couple of punnets of strawberries left over at the end of the day, should the heavens open. Who can say?

On the up side, on Tuesday, having forgiven Waitrose enough to pop in for some low fat yoghourt (back on the diet again), I was able to fill my freezer with all the unsold and reduced priced roasting pork, braising steak and as many Gourmet Sausages as I wanted.....

.... which goes to prove that every cloud has a silver-lining, or even that it's an ill wind which blows nobody some good, or any number of other weather-related proverbs.

Braised beef and carrots, anyone?

* For those of you too young to understand this obscure seaweed reference, in the olden days pre weather satellite, we used to be able to tell what the weather was going to be like by looking at a piece of seaweed which you'd hang up outside the back door. If it was shrivelled, it was going to be dry. If it was not, we were in for a rainy spell.

Or alternatively we'd just stick our heads out of the door, and if we got wet we knew it was raining.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Let The Good Times Roll

Lord Snooty and I have been having quite a bit of fun lately, especially since the summer has decided to actually grace us with it's presence. We've been doing a bit of tearing about in the little grey sports car, eating al fresco at lakeside watering-holes, enjoying the odd BBQ at home with friends or just pottering about in the garden, me in my lime green Crocs with an ice cold jug of Pimms on the go. I'm really enjoying it and when I can stop my other half thinking about work all the time, so is he.

We've both been working way too hard of late so I've made it my business to take time out every now and then to just enjoy life and make himself do the same, which is a bit of a struggle I can tell you. I felt it was time to stop awhile and think about what I've done, which is precious little really apart from work, work, work, and plan what I want to do in the future. Hence the blog-break. Hopefully, I've come to some sort of arrangement with myself now. It sounds a little sad and maybe a bit defeatist to say that I suppose at some stage you just have to come to terms with the fact that you're probably not going to do all of the things you thought you would, may never reach your full potential or make your mark in life in the way you hoped. That this, in fact, is it. You won't be any sort of high-flyer unless something miraculous happens. You have found your niche, even if you don't think it was the one intended for you, and being reasonably good at a few things should actually be enough. Like growing mint to put in your Pimms and making a bloody great lasagne, or, as in my case, swearing.

And do you know, having come to terms with that I feel a lot better. Striving for something unattainable and knocking yourself out trying to make things happen is very draining. Living for the moment and appreciating what you have right here and now is obviously the way to go in the search for contentment. I'm slightly annoyed that it's taken me this long to understand that, but there you go.

So, unusually for us, on Saturday, we abandoned all our multiple catch-up tasks and drove out to a country pub, ate lunch outside under a shady parasol on the village green, watched cricket for a bit and went home for a sleep in the garden. Later on I watched five recorded episodes of "Desperate Housewives" back to back, ate Cadbury's chocolate, drank tea and admired my freshly painted toe-nails whilst my feet were up on the sofa. Lovely colour by the way, Chanel "Madness" (how apt), looks like blackberries.

No work, no worry, no guilt. That, for me, is one hell of a result and something of an achievement in itself.

It felt so decadent, so good and so about bloody time.

So what's your recipe for contentment then?

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Lord Snooty

So, we're sitting in a bar, my husband and me, chatting as you do about this and that. A companionable silence develops, we are relaxed, drinking our wine and watching the world go by. A hugely fat couple waddle past us, he wearing low slung football shorts revealing the hairiest and mightiest of butt-cracks, she giving us the benefit of a really good look at her pregnant, veiny abdomen as it balloons out between maternity jeans and cropped top, belly ring twinkling in the sunlight.

I look at my husband, the master of disparaging remarks, a warning gleam in my eye.

"Don't even say it".


"You know what I mean. You're such a snob. Don't even think it."

He shrugs.

"I wasn't thinking anything, just going to say something along the lines that if you sit here long enough, all of life is here."

"Oh. Sorry." My mistake.

"Including pond."

Friday, 20 June 2008

I'm Off, And I May Be Some Time.....

This is quite a difficult post to write. I'm thinking of jumping ship for a while. Not because I don't love you all dearly, because I do, but I really feel as a blogger I've more or less ground to a halt for the time being. It's been nearly a year since my first post, I've laughed, almost cried, ranted, raved, moaned and generally taken the piss out of more or less everyone and everything, including myself. And now I'm worried about getting boring and wondering whether it's best to go out with a bang rather than a wimper, or at least take some time out.

I love talking to you, it's always fun, but I've begun to run out of steam. Maybe it'll come back to me, I don't know. I've really tried to write entertaining stuff and all the while blogging and enjoying it, but suddenly I think it's time to give it a rest and have a break for a while.

So I think I'll take a few weeks off and hopefully bounce back with a vengeance ...... we'll see. In the meantime, take care of yourselves. I may not be writing, but I'll still be reading.

Here's looking at you kids.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Beam Me Up Scottie.

I'm having a really sad day today. Working in a hospital, as I do, has it's fun side but often things happen which shake you to the core. Stuff happens which you can't talk about to anyone else, you just bottle it up inside and the sheer sadness of it, the total madness of it, tends to seep into your soul. Mostly you keep a lid on it, compartmentalising upsetting, frustrating or worrying events in order to retain your sanity and your spirit. You do your best and try not to give up. But it's hard to know when you've done enough, how to rationalise the mind-bogglingly stupid things that occur, how to put harrowing case scenarios out of your mind and then go home and watch Eastenders.

But you have to do it. I'm giving myself a bit of a talking to and reminding myself that although shit certainly does happen, and to a huge amount of people, sometimes the sun shines too. For every evil bastard that hurts a child there are ten, twenty, a hundred people who spend their working lives trying to make this sad world a better place. For every one person who isn't going to get any better, there are hundreds who will, courtesy of the sort of people I work with day in, day out. When I've had a tough day like today, this is what I tell myself.

But it's hard. Am I making a difference, or just knocking myself out for nothing? I want to change to world, but where to start? It's a tough question. People often criticise the NHS, and with some reason, but for those of us trying to do a good job despite the hurdles and pitfalls placed in the way by a supposedly well meaning but clueless bureaucracy, some days it can all seem a bit too much effort.

Today I just want to give up and sell lipstick, or hang up clothes in Marks and Spencers. Today I want to do something frivolous and fun, breathe fresh air that doesn't smell of dust and filthy lifts.

Who can make the NHS work as it should?

Not just me, that's for sure.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Would You Adam and Eve It?

What a lovely weekend it's been. We've spent most of it a) in the garden digging, or b) in the garden, drinking or c) in the garden rather pissed and silly, pruning things which shouldn't be pruned in such a random fashion with the kitchen scissors. I've come in before it's too late and my beloved garden takes on the look of a bad haircut from a visually impaired barber with a red wine hangover.

Anyway, yesterday, to enhance the loveliness of our courtyard garden (sounds so much posher than "the patio" doesn't it?) we decided to ponce it up a bit with some solar lights. I went on the internet and had a good look around, finding just the very thing at John Lewis, but unfortunately at a price which made the husband snort with derision. Apparently he would expect a fitted solar panel on the roof of the house which powered all our lighting, heating and hot water for that sort of money, so back to the researching I went. Although not wishing to spend an arm and a leg we didn't want anything that was too tacky, naff or unacceptably hideous, but finally much to my surprise I found just the very things at Wilkinson's. They were actually metal and glass as opposed to plastic and plastic, looked a bit John Lewis-esque but were at a gob-smackingly amazing price - five pounds each! Needless to say I wasted no time at all, got out of my gardening gear, slapped on some lippy and whizzed down to Wilkinson's to get a trolley load.

Back home and triumphant (did I tell you they were only FIVE POUNDS?) it was just a matter of screwing all the bits together, charging the little suckers up in the sunlight and hey presto - nearly all of them worked, with just one refusing to charge or glow at night (the party pooper). Despite the fact that there were only a fiver each (have I mentioned that before?) I got back in the car and took the faulty one back and changed it. Back home once again I found that although the replacement lantern was fine the little hooky thing it was supposed to hang from didn't screw together properly. Flange bracket a) just didn't want to fix into flange bracket b) or c). Oh bugger.

So back into town I went, this time a bit hot and bothered as I had by then been to the goddam shop three times and still not got a full set of working lights. Yes I know they were only a fiver, but still they should all work shouldn't they? And by then I'd spent more than that on parking and petrol. Grrr.

At the till the cashier was a bit puzzled to see me again so soon and even more so when I tried to show her the problem.

"You see these three pieces of metal tube? Well, that one should fit into that one, and this one should fit into them both, but they don't. The problem is that there are three female ends and no males."

She stared at me a bit, slightly taken aback.

"Three female ends and no males. I don't understand what you're talking about."

I tried again. Someone standing behind me had a little giggle.

"Well, somewhere along the line, there's got to be one end that goes in, the male, and another that receives it, the female, and I've got three ends that receive and nothing to go in. Three female ends and no male."

I hear several sniggers from the growing line of shoppers in the queue.

"Still not quite with you there love" - the cashier shook her head and gazed and me, mystified. I think she is definitely having me on, but I can't be quite sure as she remains dead-pan.

"It's simple," says I, undeterred, demonstrating with my left hand fore-finger and thumb, making a circle and using my right index finger to poke through it to demonstrate the problem visually. "It goes through like this, only with more screwing." I am too intent on my mission to fully realise the visual impact of my action at this point, or the fact that my mime might in some circles be considered obscene, but I am aware that I am causing a bit of a stir. I'm pretty sure I saw the cashier's mouth twitch a bit at the corners, as if trying to suppress a smirk.

The muffled tittering behind me is turning into a the sort of laughter a stand-up comedian would be pleased with. I can't understand why the cashier isn't getting my drift if everyone else is. Or is she? I begin to wonder if they are laughing at me, not her. Her lip is definitely quivering.

"Sorry, she says, smiling broadly. "I still don't understand the female receiving and the male screwing bit. I'm just not getting it"

From the near hysterical queue behind me, a highly amused middle aged woman, helpless with laughter, chimes in:

"You and me both, dear. You and me both."

Next time I'm selling tickets.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

I So Hope This Is True

Another snippet from the office email.

An award should go to the Virgin Airlines desk attendant in Sydney some months ago for being smart and funny, while making her point, when confronted with a passenger who probably deserved to fly as cargo.

A crowded Virgin flight was cancelled after Virgin's 767s had been withdrawn from service. A single attendant was rebooking a long line of inconvenienced travellers. Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk. He slapped his ticket down on the counter and said, 'I HAVE to be on this flight and it HAS to be FIRST CLASS'.

The attendant replied, 'I'm sorry, sir. I'll be happy to try to help you, but I've got to help these people first, and I'm sure we'll be able to work something out.'

The passenger was unimpressed. He asked loudly, so that the passengers behind him could hear, 'DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO I AM?'

Without hesitating, the attendant smiled and grabbed her public address microphone: 'May I have your attention please, may I have your attention please,' she began - her voice heard clearly throughout the terminal.

'We have a passenger here at Desk 14 WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHO HE IS. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to Desk 14.'

With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically, the man glared at the Virgin attendant, gritted his teeth and said, 'F*ck You!'

Without flinching, she smiled and said, 'I'm sorry, sir, but you'll have to get in line for that too.

Don'cha you just love it?

Thursday, 29 May 2008

It's All In The Mind

Now where were we? Oh yes, I remember. I was having a right old moan about the chaos theory which is my life. I was having a rant about how things never seem to go right, how my to-do list never gets any smaller and how I just can't manage to make headway with anything. I took comfort and advice from your comments, although admittedly I did have a snorty little laugh at the suggestion that I should get rid of the list and stop worrying about all that was on it (if only), and it was really good to hear that I am not alone in the battle to get things done in the face of constant frustration.

One thing I did manage to do was book a holiday. Bearing in mind that husband wasn't due to jet back into the UK until the night before we were going away (great planning, nothing to do with me), things went surprisingly smoothly all things considered. I'd spent the previous three evenings getting a few things done - washing, ironing, selecting a jaunty capsule wardrobe (as you know, it's very important to me that I remain stylish at all times, obviously) and generally sifting and sorting so that everything was absolutely ready for the off when we'd packed the car in the morning. Husband arrived home at 1 a.m., delayed courtesy of some dodgy landing gear (the plane's, mercifully, not his), yawning and knackered with coffee breath, a suitcase full of dirty washing and a bottle of Cointreau. He showered, fell into bed and slept like a baby (a snoring, stubbly baby if truth be told) until 8 a.m. the next morning when up he sprang, fully energised and ready for the off. How does he do that? I of course, lay awake half the night worrying about what I might have forgotten, my own lack of sleep rendering me slug-like with tiredness until lunchtime.

This difference between us got me thinking. Husband had been up for eighteen hours, travelled hundreds of miles, hung around in various airport lounges whilst the ground staff buggered about with bits of plane, but still arrived markedly more zingy than me. In contrast, I had been colour co-ordinating holiday clothes at home, eating chocolate, emptying the fridge and doing a bit of light ironing, but was absolutely drained and wondering whether a few days away was really worth all the effort.

At the risk of using a bit of psycho-babble, I think the difference between us is all down to PMA - positive mental attitude. He's got it. In bucketfuls. I think I used to have it but lost it somewhere along the way. Perhaps it's down the back of the sofa. Or maybe I just let my PMA desert me while I worried about trivia and wore myself to a frazzle dashing round doing things that don't really matter in the overall scheme of things. I think I've been so busy looking at individual pixels, I've sort of failed to see the big, wide screen picture. So the holiday, despite getting off to a shaky start, gave me a lot of time to think and proved to me that sometimes you need to get away from everyday surroundings to see things in a totally different perspective and realise what really is important to you. It's good to give yourself time to sit and stare, and just re-prioritise. Sitting on the quay-side, gazing across the river, or looking at the fresh May greenery of the woodlands - all these things somehow made a mockery of my self-induced pressures and limits. So why worry about everything on that damned to-do list? It's now gone, I am list-less and loving it.

As husband so rightly (but irritatingly) says, about virtually any subject, "it'll either be OK, or it won't". This may sound like a statement of the blindingly obvious (and one which sometimes makes me want to sneak up behind him menacingly with a cast iron frying-pan) but actually this philosophy is probaby why he doesn't waste any mental energy on trivial worries. Which is a nice trick if you can do it.

I'm giving it a go.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Hi Honeys, I'm Home!

Sorry, I should really have left a note saying I was about to bugger off, but time ran away with me and I just didn't get round to it. Decided on the spur of the moment to get the hell out of Dallas (or Birmingham, strictly speaking, but Dallas sounds so much more cool)and go for a swift break for a few days to restore the old batteries, which are now well and truly fizzing. We've been down to Dartmouth for the Music Festival which, although a bit wet weather-wise, was still brilliant. There's nothing like wandering round the streets with an umbrella in one hand and a hot pasty or beer in the other to revive a weary woman's sense of fun. And then the sun came out. Fantastic.

Will be back to blog some more when I've unpacked, opened the mountain of mail and stuffed the washing machine. Hope you've all been good while I've been gone. I'll be checking later.

So, what have you been up to then?

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Procrastination Is The Enemy Of Progress

Or is it "the thief of time"? Or something like that.

I'm having a devil of a job making any headway with anything and everything in my life at the moment. I've got a "to-do" list as long as a roll of Andrex loo paper, and absolutely nothing, repeat nothing, is getting crossed off it.

First of all, the kitchen. Why-oh-why did you let me even think about getting it refurbed? The whole thing's turning into a complete nightmare. First of all, various men came into the house, stomped through to the kitchen scattering bits of other people's building works hither and thither, looked at my ceiling or cupboards or floor or windows etc., sucked air in through their teeth whilst shaking plaster encrusted heads as if I'd asked them to reproduce the artworks of Leonardo da Vinci by Friday. Replace a kitchen? This year?? And replaster your ceiling??? Sharp intakes of breath all round. They will see what they can do. They will try to get an estimate to me in the post by the weekend at the latest.

And do they? Of course they bloody well don't. Either they don't like the look of my kitchen, or me (fair enough I suppose). Or maybe we just don't look daft enough to pay an obscene amount of money for bugger all. Whatever.

Secondly, holidays. Now I know I'm not exactly Judith Chalmers when it comes to travel, and I have been known to get pre-holiday jitters par excellence from time to time, but I reckon the only way to conquer this syndrome is to continuously expose myself to it, if you'll pardon the expression. But can I get husband to co-operate and actually help choose somewhere to go? No, I can't. He travels all year round and would probably be just as happy sitting in the back garden for a fortnight, but I don't really go anywhere much and want to see more of the world. As I am sure Oscar Wilde would have said if I'd asked him, "I fear doing nothing with my life more than I fear actually living it". There's a big world out there and I haven't seen nearly enough of it.

And then there are the zillions of tiny little things which I should do which I don't ever seem to get round to - filling in forms, checking accounts, getting some exercise, phoning the "dink" man to remove a dent where some swine opened their 4x4 door and dented the little grey sports car (bastard), chasing up the insurance company re the hole in the roof, choosing some tiles, going to bloody work, having a life, etc.,etc. And trying to write something worth reading, that would be good. And so on. Blah, blah, blah.

You know the sort of thing. How do you sort your life out when it seems to be full of clutter and trivia, you can't make any progress and you haven't got any time to do anything? I'm tempted to ignore it all and maybe, like cleaning, it'll become invisible and after a while the crap will just cease to be important.

And what's more, I can't even blog properly at the moment. Feel too distracted. How sad is that?

I really am becoming a moaner. Sorry.

And by the way, I have absolutely no idea how these rating stars got here (please tell me you can see them too). It's a complete mystery to me. Have been trying to remove them but can't, worried in case I get thousands of "hated it" votes.

Bloody hell, another thing to sort out.

Update: They've gone! Was it something I said?

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Lip Service

Still busy, and uninspired at the moment, so hope you enjoy another office email. I did.

According to a news report, a certain private school in Washington recently was faced with a unique problem. A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the girls' lavatories. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints. Every night the caretaker would remove them and the next day the girls would put them back.

Several memos were posted about this. Finally the principal decided that something had to be done. She called all the girls to the toilets and met them there with the caretaker.

She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the man who had to clean the mirrors every night. To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, she asked the caretaker to show the girls how much effort was required. He took out a long-handled squeegee,dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it. Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.

There are teachers, and then there are educators....

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

In The Real World......

A bit busy this week, so I'm sharing this with you. Donated by kitchen weary work-mates.

1. Nigella's Way
Stuff a miniature marshmallow in the bottom of a sugar cone to prevent ice-cream drips.
The Real Woman's Way
Just bite the end off and suck the ice cream out of the bottom of the cone, for goodness' sake. You are probably lying on the couch with your feet up eating it anyway.

2. Nigella's Way
To keep potatoes from budding, place an apple in the bag with the potatoes.
The Real Woman's Way
Buy Smash and keep it in the cupboard for up to a year.

3. Nigella's Way
When a cake recipe calls for flouring the baking tin, use a bit of the dry cake mix instead and there won't be any white mess on the outside of the cake.
The Real Woman's Way
Tesco sells cakes. They even do decorated versions.

4. Nigella's Way
If you accidentally over-salt a dish while it's still cooking, drop in a potato slice.
The Real Woman's Way
If you over-salt a dish while you are cooking, that's tough!. Please recite with me the Real Woman's motto: "I made it and you will eat it and I don't care how bad it tastes."

5. Nigella's Way
Wrap celery in aluminium foil when putting in the refrigerator and it will keep for weeks.
The Real Woman's Way
It could keep forever. Who eats it?

6. Nigella's Way
Cure for headaches: Take a lime, cut it in half and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away.
The Real Woman's Way
Cure for headaches: Take a lime, cut it in half and drop it in 8 ounces of vodka Drink the vodka. You might still have the headache, but you won't care!

7. Nigella's Way
If you have a problem opening jars, try using latex dishwashing gloves. They give a non-slip grip that makes opening jars easy.
The Real Woman's Way
Why do I have a man?

8. Nigella's Way
Freeze left-over wine into ice cubes for future use in casseroles
The Real Woman's Way
Left-over wine???? Helllloooo....

Monday, 21 April 2008

Your Life In A Limerick:

Here’s another Meme. This time I can’t blame anyone else, it was my idea, though I should say that Amy over on Blog to the Bone is the real culprit because she started it first. The Limerick theme I mean.

Although obviously, as you can imagine, I know some really awful ones (or good ones, depending on how broad your sense of humour is) I decided to put a twist on my Meme (don’t I always?) and this time ask anyone who wants to join in to write a limerick describing themselves, or their life in general. Unless you happen to actually be that Young Man From Tashkent, (who’s genitals were very bent, dah dah dah di dah, dah dah di di dah, and instead of coming you went), in which case we will allow you a bit of poetic licence, but other than that, no filth please unless it’s very, very funny or pertinent to your story. And that means you Travelling. And Knifepainter. Oh, and Cath - don't think just because your Dad's away you can be rude.

Here’s mine:

A mother so normally caring,
Got pissed off and then began swearing,
She ranted and raved, became so depraved,
*And ended up putting it all on the internet and then was ashamed of herself and wished she hadn’t done it because eventually her children might see it and think that she’s an embarrassing foul-mouthed harridan not realizing that she did it
Quite simply to appear a bit daring.

*OK, so I cheated.

Over to you.

Friday, 18 April 2008

If Anyone Says "You're Only As Old As You Feel" There Will Be Trouble!

That naughty little minx, Mean Mom, has tagged me with a Meme. Is she psychic? How did she know that I'd sunk into the slough of despond (remember that slough, it's despond can be very nasty) and was wallowing in my own self-pity, unable to blog, and needed a well aimed kick up the backside to get me going again?

The problem? Well, it's been a really crappy week at work. People keep mentioning my age. Someone only three years younger than me told everyone I was "powering down to retirement" - that really hurt, considering I'm working far harder than some of those who are supposed to be powering up. Then I set fire to a baked potato in the office microwave because I was multi-tasking and answering everybody's goddam phone whilst I was at work and they were not. Now they must think I'm a senile old bat who can't be trusted with hot food. Bollocks.

I. Have. Had. Enough. A joke's a joke, but things are getting on top of me and I'm beginninig to lose my sense of humour. I need some time out, so have taken the week off to go away and think about what I'm doing with my life, which is very little considering the length of time I've been on this planet.

In the meantime, the Meme. Can't believe there's anything you don't already know about me, but simply because I love Mean Mom and she's showered me with awards, I am going to do it anyway. But not with good grace, obviously. I am after all a crabby old bag. And don't think I'm obeying the rules (or telling you what they are) or passing the meme on or anything like that either, because at my advanced age I'll probably forget, simply not bother or be too bloody arsey to do it properly.

Sorry about that.

Now go get a blanket and prepare to nod off while I carry on dribbling down my cardigan:

What were you doing 10 years ago?

Precisely the same sodding thing that I'm doing now. Only I was younger and not "powering down for retirement". Huh.

Name 5 snacks you enjoy.

1. Charcoal baked potatoes, left in the microwave too long because I WAS RUNNING ROUND LIKE A BLUE ARSED FLY and didn't notice the smoke.
2. Stewed apple that doesn't interfere with my dentures.
3. Anything that can be liquidised and taken through a straw.
4. Gruel.
5. Crustless bread dipped in warm milk, thank you nurse.

If you were a billionaire, how would you spend the money?

Go into work on Monday and tell everyone who annoys me to sod off.

Name 5 jobs you have had.

Five jobs too many. All involved working my arse off to make someone else look like a frigging genius.

Name 3 bad habits you have.

I can occasionally go over the top with my moaning and swearing(really?).

I am sometimes a bit vitriolic about people who annoy me (the whole wax/doll/pins scenario).

I have a burning urge for senseless violence and hideously bad language when riled (no shit, Sherlock).

I am seriously angry a lot of the time (surprise, surprise).

And yes, I know I am only supposed to have three bad habits, BUT DON'T ARGUE WITH ME, five is my absolute working minimum at the moment.

Name 5 places where you have lived.

Leamington Spa - lovely, lovely, lovely. Really lovely.

Birmingham, not the posh bit. Not very lovely at all. It wasn't my idea.

Birmingham, the slightly posher bit. A bit more lovely.

Tamworth, not very posh or lovely but very friendly. With very affordable housing.

Birmingham, the very posh bit, thinks it's lovely, but is just up itself really. And still not as lovely as Leamington.

So that's it. Wish it was a bit more interesting, but there it is, my life in a nutshell.

And what the fuck does it all amount to?

I have absolutely no idea. Not enough, that's for sure.

And did I mention it's my birthday next week? Probably not.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Home On The Range

It's all that Nigella Lawson's fault. I've started cooking again. Not just meatballs and frites, though as we all know they are totally delicious, but real homecooked gourmet grub. I used to be quite good at it, pre-children, but faced with endless demands for fish-dogs (hot dogs with fish-fingers instead of sausages, bloody gorgeous with tomato ketchup) and cheese and potato pie with sausages and baked beans (shaped to look like a face or a boat, obviously), I somehow went off the boil catering-wise. The Nigella Express cook book husband bought for me at Christmas (was that a hint, do you think?) has somehow kick-started my interest in actual cooking again and now the kids are grown, they're so grateful for a Mum dinner I can virtually get away with anything. Fresh tuna with black beans, spicy salmon, stir-fried just about anything. You name it, they're all now well and truly up for it, and so am I. Not that I am averse to opening a jar of Dolmio and bunging it into a pan of mince, or making a quick dash round to the chippie, somehow the luscious Nigella has caught my imagination with her easier than pie super-fast, minimum fuss dinners. She's caught my husband's imagination too, though in an entirely different way, but that's another story and absolutely nothing at all to do with the kitchen, if you get my drift.

Anyway, moving swiftly on, since my renewed enthusiasm for all things culinary (I've even started to make my own garlic oil for goodness' sake - please be impressed) it's become apparent that my knackered old kitchen could do with a refurb. Think I mentioned this before in a previous post. Husband was hoping that we'd tour a few kitchen shops, I'd get bored (this is what usually happens) because I don't see anything I like that we can afford, we'd go back home and think sod it, let's go on holiday instead. We were following this well trodden path and had almost got to the sod it stage, when suddenly (in John Lewis) I saw it. A range cooker. One grill, two ovens, one fan and one gas, five burners, a wok cradle, a griddle and a cute little rail to hang your tea-towel over, in a farmhouse kitchen kind of way. It comes in four colours. There's a chimney to go with it. With another cute little rail on that too. I've never had a chimney in my kitchen before, with or without a tea-towel rail. I think I want one. No, dammit, I need one.

So the internet marathon began. I'm now glued to the computer day and night trying to find the best possible price. If asked, I can quote all the different options, fuels, accessories and colours. I know what each model comprises, the pro's and cons of all of them, the available extras and delivery times PLUS haulage costs. In short, I could be on Mastermind with my specialist subject being "range cookers, dual fuel, gas and electric, circa 2008" and be assured of winning the trophy, no problem.

Predictably, the simple idea of tarting up the kitchen by adding a few well chosen bits and pieces here and there has turned into the threat of a full refurb, with a new cooker and fridge, tiling, lighting and units. The thing that worries me a bit is that if we do all of this, will I feel obliged to turn out culinary masterpieces day and night in order to justify the huge financial outlay? Whilst I'm having fun with food at the moment, I haven't forgotten that less than a year ago I was the one who reminded everyone that life was too short to stuff a mushroom, and now I'm contemplating equiping my kitchen with enough hardware to stuff just about anything I damn well please. That bloody yapping dog next door had better watch out.

But you know I can just see myself, making jams and baking cakes, taking huge sizzling joints of roast beef out of the oven (sorry, make that ONE of the TWO ovens, did I mention that?), producing fragrant casseroles, popping corks and sipping wine whilst cooking dinner... proper Mrs. Housewife kind of stuff. I'm even considering throwing away my old apron on which is printed the words "IF YOU THINK I'M COOKING DINNER TONIGHT, YOU CAN SOD OFF" such is my enthusiasm for this current project.

But does that image fit with what you know about me already? Or do you think I'll revert to type, get bored with domesticity, start making reservations for dinner instead of venison casseroles, only use either oven for reheating Marks and Spencer's Chicken Kiev and set fire to the tea-towel hanging over the cute little chimney rail because I've had a pre-dinner gin too many?

Difficult question.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

It's Only Rock 'n Roll But I Liked It

Actually, the Stones/Scorcese film "Shine a Light" isn't only rock and roll, it's pure magic. Have just come back from the local premier showing (darlings) and...well, it was absolutely fantastic. The hardest part was sitting through some of the best Rolling Stones music ever without getting up and dancing, although someone did but unfortunately it wasn't me.

Superb music, superb cinematography, just superb everything. Even better than Ikea meatballs and worth all the aggro I went through to get the tickets. Even got a free t-shirt.

As long as you've got blood in your veins, rhythm in your soul and an appreciation of something really special, this film is for you.

Start queueing for tickets NOW.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

I Heart Swedish Meatballs

So yesterday being Friday, husband was working from home. It's my day off too but I am not supposed to interrupt him, though obviously I do if at all possible. His study door stays firmly shut with a "Do Not Disturb" notice hanging from the doorknob. I view this as a challenge to get in there and cause havoc, my excuse being that as he is working away so often when I do have him at home I can't leave him alone for long. It drives him crazy.

The good news is that in the aftermath of last week's home improvements debacle, he is rapidly going off the idea of strapping on his toolbelt and getting stuck in personally. My subliminal put-off lines have been seeping into his subconscious mind throughout the week and now I think we've reached a stage where he too can't be arsed with the hassle of DIY. So, wishing to strike whilst the iron is hot, I needed him to come with me to one or two kitchen shops and view some units. With fridges. And sinks. And of course, cookers, or more specifically range ovens, with those trendy chimney thingies instead of the old-fashioned cooker hood that we currently have which threatens to put my eye out when I lean forward to stir the gravy. And I need his input re worktops - Formica, wood, marble? And of course, tiles.

Now I've discovered the only way to do anything as hideous as this is to suggest it whilst he is doing something else even more mind-bogglingly boring than looking at kitchens. Yesterday he was doing his expenses, a task so mundane that he needs multiple coffees throughout the morning in order to stay awake long enough to get the stamp on the envelope to Head Office. Coming up to lunchtime so bored is he that he's usually desperate for diversion, so if I want to distract him at all that is the best time to do it.

Coincidentally, my daughter is off work too. She has had a vile affliction called labrynthitis which brings with it dizziness, nausea and general debility. She's had this for a while but is now on the mend, thank goodness. It's ages since she's been out and about so she was getting a bit stir-crazy - there are only so many episodes of Bargain Hunt one can tolerate before madness sets in, so I asked her if she'd like to come along for the ride and look at kitchens with her Dad and me. Being so desperate to get out of the house, she said yes.

So off we go, visit a few showrooms and stare at a lot of kichens. The range is mind-boggling and very, very expensive. I'm not sure we're up for that sort of outlay, so Daughter comes up with an idea and suggests we go to Ikea where kitchens come in kits with cute names such as Ulriksdal and don't tend to cost as much as Third World Debt. And hey, it's Ikea, so what's not to love?

Now it's quite a long time since we've shopped at Ikea. Back in the days when our kids were small we kitted out bedrooms galore with Billy bookshelves and Leksvig beds, but we haven't been there for years despite the fact that a massive Ikea (is there any other kind?) is about half an hour's drive from home, so I don't really know why we've been away so long.

I LOVE IKEA. I love the fact that someone really clever can design a whole flat pack living area, including kitchen, bedroom, lounge and bathroom in the space of a double garage and it can still look incredibly trendy and welcoming. I love the way you get drawn round the winding walkways with lovely goodies either side, room settings containing stuff you don't need but which demands to be bought. Can anyone walk through and Ikea and buy nothing? Not me, for sure.

So impressed were we with the ingenious drawer dividers, the pull-out breakfast bars, the subtly lit glass shelved cupboards that we almost failed to notice Daughter looking a bit pale and wan. Her vertigo had obviously kicked in and her internal gyroscope was throwing a bit of a wobbler, making us wonder if this trip was just a step too far in her recovery process. She sat for a while on a sofa called Ektorp while I fussed around her. Shall we go home straight away? Was she hungry? How about a piece of chocolate cake to raise the blood sugar? She took one of her tablets and said that maybe a cup of tea might help. So off we went to the Ikea Cafeteria trailing a drugged-up daughter who was weaving around looking like she'd OD'd on tequilla slammers.

I've got just one thing to say to you about the Ikea Cafeteria.

Swedish meatballs with cream sauce, lingun-berry "jam" and thin fries.

Despite the fact that I was obviously concerned about my little girl's health and welfare (she is only thirty after all), I couldn't help but be distracted by the pictures of very appetising looking food at very reasonable prices displayed around the servery in the cafeteria. I checked again to see if she was hungry, but the mention of meatballs in cream sauce made her go even paler than before, and anyway she was feeling better now, courtesy of a very sweet hot chocolate. She was fine and ready to continue. And no thanks, she didn't want anything to eat, at all. No Mum, definitely not. Couldn't face it.

But I just couldn't get those meatballs out of my mind, which is very strange for me because I am usually a bit sniffy about factory produced processed meat-products, especially frozen ones, declaring this type of food "nuclear waste" and refusing to have such spawn-of-the-Devil in the house. (If you've ever seen those programmes about how such meat is "reclaimed", you'll know exactly what I mean). But husband assured me that, being Swedish, the food standard would be high, the ingredients would be wholesome and the meatballs would be great. Apart from which, he fancied them too.

So in our large blue recycled Ikea carrier bag, alongside the kitchen brochures, we had one manly looking apron, one matching oven glove, one three way plug adapter with timer, twenty-four Dime bars, 1 kg of frozen Kottbullar Swedish meatballs, two packets of Graddsas cream "gravy" mix and a jar of Lingonsylt lingunberry jam - all for less than fifteen of your English pounds.

And even better, husband says he'll cook so that he can use his new apron and oven-glove, while I browse through the kitchen brochures.


Monday, 24 March 2008

Getting A Man In

Despite the snow, icy winds and mini-tornados I think Spring is definitely on the way. How do I know that, apart from the tiny lime green shoots of hope that are begining to unfurl in our weather-worn gardens? I know that Spring is here because, instead of a young man's fancy turning to thoughts of love, my old man's fancy is definitely turning to those of DIY. Now to those of you for whom DIY equates with getting all those niggly jobs done in the house, let me fill you in on the horror of DIY, Swearing Mother style.

First of all, we must identify our project. Cue for a couple of hours' depressing discussion from breakfast till coffee time, where we come up with a list so long we just stare glumly at each other. Husband comes up with some really outlandish ideas, I make a few snidey and sarcastic comments about the last time we took on such a project and just look at it now. We have another coffee, eat a few biscuits and calm down a bit. We start to talk constructively - OK, shall we finish the terrace/deal with the rotten kitchen window/sort out garage? The list seems endless. How to choose? It has to be a new project to capture the imagination of him indoors; bringing up the subject of finishing previously started but abandoned projects is viewed as not playing the game and any mention of them by me is, apparently, nagging. To hell with the fact that my ten year old kitchen still has a piece which was never fitted, that's old news now and therefore those little niggles have long since become invisible. Ditto some ungrouted tiles, the odd unpainted door, a helluva mess in the garage and a new fuseboard which remains stubbornly unfitted, celebrating it's fifteenth birthday under gardlands of cobwebs in the electricity box. I could go on. And, believe me, I do, at length.

So eventually we decide on a task. This usually means a protracted trip to one or more of the hideous DIY sheds along with the rest of the local walking dead who have been drawn out of their crumbling homes to view mass manufactured shit, cunningly got up to look like the really useful stuff you need rather than the total crap that it actually is. This weekend top of the list are some additional kitchen units and worktops because the ten year old (as yet unfinished) kitchen is now sadly needing a refit and a new fridge. I know this doesn't strictly come under the heading of DIY, but the thought of embarking on this kind of disruption fills me with dread, especially as husband thinks he can probably do a lot of the work himself (cue hollow laughter from moi) but I want to get a man in.

Now the phrase "getting a man in" is probably one of the most emotive things it's possible for me to say to my husband. It carries with it all sorts of inferences, i.e., an implied lack of commitment on his part, or lack of ability, lack of drive, confidence, expertise - you name it, "getting a man in" is almost tantamount to infidelity in our house. For a husband who is pretty damned good in the, er, household maintenance department given the time and opportunity, to him my wanting to get a man in is the ultimate betrayal. Like reading maps, bleeding radiators and going to the tip, this is HIS job and he doesn't want another bloke poking his screw-driver in where it isn't wanted.

So we reach an impasse. I don't want the chaos of infinished work bugging the life out of me for aeons, husband doesn't want some strange bloke getting his hands on my hanging units. Guess it's a territorial thing.

So now I'm on to the gentle wheedling campaign. I'm casually mentioning the fact that, really, it's a false economy to do such major work ourselves when we are both so busy, time is precious, we could be doing so many other more enjoyable things and letting someone else do the work. And then as the weather is getting nicer, we could be driving out to country pubs, taking a weekend trip to Barcelona, doing a bit of shopping in London. Whatever. Let's leave the big jobs to the professionals and just do the little leftover tasks ourselves. What do you think? Yes?

But the rot has set in now. I've caused a total distraction from home improvements and now we're doomed, the place will fall about our ears. We will neither get a man in, because husband doesn't trust him, nor DIY because I can't face the fuss. The little niggly jobs can go hang.

Stupidly, I've mentioned weekend trips, pubs, London, fun.

No wonder we never get anything done in our house.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Just Let It Be

I spend quite a lot of time worrying about the effect I have on other people. Have I been mean to someone? Was I a bit sharp? Am I being unfair? That kind of thing. I have a dread of saying something a bit too near the mark (apart from swearing of course) and upsetting someone, or being unfairly critical or hurtful. I don't like that in others, so hate it in myself. But I know I occasionally do it even so.

The problem is, I am a real bitch when riled. Or even when moderately annoyed. Or mildly cheesed off, come to think about it. I regularly give myself a good talking to about that. Having the ability to answer back, to always think of the killer put-down and never be lost for words is something of a curse if you happen to have a conscience about what you say, but an inability to stop yourself saying it. I really wish I was a nicer person. I would like to be able to see something really irritating happening and not feel compelled to comment about it, to just shrug and sigh and walk away, maybe sagely nodding my head. But it just ain't happening. I always wade in, fight my corner, your corner, anybody's corner, whoever. And you know what? I'm getting a bit tired of myself. I need to change, I want to be sweetness and light, I'd like to just let stuff wash over me, my feathers remaining unruffled. A new serene me.

And what has brought about this epiphany?

Well, have you seen how ugly Heather McCartney looks in all the papers this week? The more she rants and raves, spits venom and chucks water, the more unattractive that girl is looking (which is more than can be said for Sir Paul's divorce lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, who looks so much better soaking wet than dry). Everyone is laughing at Heather and she still doesn't know why. All in all she's made a complete fool of herself, but still argues on and on and on, despite the fact that she has been well and truly rumbled. The girl just doesn't know when to shut up.

So, as I was looking at her pictures in the papers this week and wondering why, if she's got so much money, she doesn't sort her eyebrows out (and yes, that was my bitchy self speaking, I haven't quite got it under control just yet) and noticing what anger, vengeance and greed can do to a person, it occured to me that getting so emotional can't be all that good for you. Perhaps sometimes it is true that you can't always get what you want, and not getting it is maybe good for the soul or something like that.

Anyway, from now on expect a cool, calm and collected Non-Swearing Mother, who never says anything remotely bitchy or offensive (at least until the end of this week). After that let's see how long it lasts.

Happy Easter.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Stone Me!

~The ticket saga continues: Gave up on the phone, gave up on the internet, went off and made myself some beans on toast (comfort food) and watched Cash in the bloody Attic or whatever tripe was on day-time TV. Had a bit of a sulk. Bloody phones, sodding internet, useless piece of junk that computer, anyway. And that website! Makes you enter your life history and then, just because you've not ticked a box which asks if you've got a mole on your left and/or right buttock it clears out all the previous boxes you've filled and makes you start all over again, just to teach you a lesson. Then it times you out because you've taken so long. Well sod it. I will not play any more. So there. Stamp, stamp, huff, huff, slam.

Made a cup of tea and decided to forget the whole silly episode. Stupid, stupid, stupid sodding internet and bloody, bloody, bloody automated phone services. To hell with the lot of them. What was I thinking anyway? Why was I trying so hard to get tickets for a film preview, when only a couple of weeks later we could go any time we liked and for far less money. So just what is the big deal about seeing a film on the night it's released? Probably crap anyway. And you know damn well you'll end up sitting in front of some fifteen year old texting chav eating a tomato ketchup filled donkey-burger which squirts down your neck as soon as the film starts. Bollocks to it. They can keep their stupid tickets. Pah!

So that was it then. Made up my mind to give up and do something else. Got out the ironing, hell knows it needed doing. Told myself to stop wasting time on the phone or thumping seven shades out of the computer. And stop bloody swearing, it was scaring the cat.

But then a taunting little voice in my head said "You going to give up that easy? That's not your usual style. Going soft?" and before I knew it, the bloody sodding computer was back on, I was filling the online booking form in, absolutely no problem, and KER-CHING!! Scored four tickets!!! How and why it was so easy this time, I don't know. Maybe I'd just shown the damn thing who's boss. Ha!

Which would have been absolutely fantastic if I hadn't immediately had a call from the husband to say, "good job you didn't get those film tickets, I've just heard I've got to be in Italy on that day anyway".

Oh bloody bugger and bollocks.

Anyone fancy a night out with Swearing Mother?

Friday, 7 March 2008

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Don't know if you're a Rolling Stones fan or not, I am. So is my husband. We met at a disco (which would now be called a club) and fell in love whilst Mick Jagger strutted his stuff, wiggled his skinny hips and puckered those famous lips. At the time we did a huge amount of lip puckering of our own, quite a bit of strutting and definitely went in for hip wiggling, big-time. Sad though it is to think about it now when my hips have expanded to a size where they don't so much wiggle as wobble, back then we thought we were quite cool, actually, and looking back at the photos of us then, I think we really were. Years later we're still Stones fans, cavorting about behind closed doors to Brown Sugar or exacerbating our tinnitus by listening to Honky Tonk Woman on the car stereo way, way too loud, even though now we're supposed to be old enough to know better. But it's so great that the Stones are still around, carrying on regardless and doing their own thing as ever. I so identify with that. And, what's more, they're even older than we are.

All in all we feel that band is, somehow, ours.

So last night, the day before preview tickets for Martin Scorcese's Rolling Stones film "Shine A Light" were due to be released, I spent hours cruising the net trying to find out how to get tickets for the advanced simultaneous showing of the film at one of the selected cinemas across the UK. This is going out on April 2nd via satellite at the same time as the rich and famous will be seeing it in London, and is probably going to be the nearest we ordinary folk will ever get to going to a film premiere. I know it won't be the same fetching up at the Erdington Roxy, or wherever, but in spirit I'll be walking down the red carpet at the Leicester Square Odeon, should I be lucky enough to get some tickets. I'm already planning what I'm going to wear.

But I'm not experienced at booking this sort of thing, I just couldn't find a "how to" or "where to buy" site, however hard I looked. I've even registered with the film company website, hoping that this will give us a chance if there's a lottery type draw for tickets. Fingers crossed. But how frustrating.

Then suddenly, whilst I was writing this post, I took a quick look back at the website and, bloody hell, there was a new web address where I could get tickets, so I logged onto that only to be told that the cinemas listed in our area don't accept internet bookings for this one-off preview event. Bugger. They did however give the booking line phone numbers, so I rang and got put through to an automated phone service which bounced me round the various options until my ears bled. None of them were what I wanted, so I went round a second time, and then a third. Finally, when I got tired of shouting obscenities at recorded voices that wouldn't answer back, I decided to ring the cinemas direct, whereupon I was told that they couldn't do a credit card transaction over the phone, but I could either a) pick up some tickets in person (how quaint), or b) try again to get them from a different internet address. Great, back to square one. At least this time the voice at the end of the phone had the decency to sound shocked when I let loose a string of expletives which would have made a docker blush.

If there's one thing I can't stand it's being buggered about by automated phone services. If I'm going to be messed about with, I'd much prefer to have the satisfaction of being able to yell at a real person, not a machine. At least they have the decency to fight back.

So, once more into battle.

Press 1) if you'd like to hear a list of films you don't want to see.

Press 2) if you'd like to book tickets for a film you don't want to see.

Press 3) if you'd like to hear perfomance times of the film you don't want to see.

Press 4) if you'd like to send a band of drug-crazed machete wielding miscreants to beat our absolutely infuriating automatic phone service into a trillion smouldering pieces.

All in all, I can't get no satisfaction.

Oh no, no, no.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

If Life Sends You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Did the earth move for you last night? Well, it did for me, and not in a good way either. Husband away on business, me alone in a great big bed, trying to get off to sleep with everything and nothing racing through my mind, finally I doze off and then suddenly BANG the whole place is shuddering and rattling - in blogging language, WTF was that? Doesn't Mother Nature know this is Britain, we don't do the whole earthquake thing, surely? Or if we do, I thought we were only signed up for minor tremors, not a Richter Scale five point whatever if was. Bloody hell. Something to do with global warming maybe? I dunno, but I found the whole thing a bit scarey.

So then of course, further sleep was out of the question. Anyway, I needed to stay awake just in case there was another, stronger, quake on the way. And what about after-shocks (see, I know the jargon already)? Would the chimney fall in through the roof and kill me? Had anyone else noticed it, or was it just me? Aren't you supposed to stand in a doorway to protect yourself from falling masonry? Which doorway? How do you choose? How do Californians cope? Should I get dressed and put my makeup on just in case firemen have to dig me out of the rubble of my house? Do I have time to wash my hair? Many and varied questions such as these spent the rest of the night chasing each other around my over-stimulated imagination, taking turns to keep me awake until daybreak.

In the meantime, in an effort to bore myself to sleep, I tried to imagine what I'd do if a bloody great chasm had in fact opened up in the back garden. I spent a good while fretting about how terrifying it would be, and how annoyed my husband would be that I hadn't been able to prevent a massive act of nature from buggering up his precious lawn, but with a sudden paradigm shift* in my thought process, another more positive idea crossed my mind. Hold on a minute, I thought, a damn great hole in the ground could be quite useful, actually. My own personal land-fill site without having to drive to the tip. What a bonus. I could get rid of all my household rubbish down a chasm that big. For instance there's an old fridge, all of my ironing, a derelict Wendy House (sorry kids), husband's hedge trimmers, a spare lawn mower, a defunct slow-cooker, fourteen old computer keyboards (don't ask), and a very strange contraption which I understand is for putting rivets into jeans or taking stones out of horses hooves or something like that. Always the opportunist, I could view this as a great chance for a bit of a de-cluttering, if ever there was one. I might even be able to get rid of a couple of old bikes and a total waste of money sandwich toaster, used once and shoved in the back of the cupboard, never to see the light of day ever again. Fantastic.

The moral of this slightly sleep deprived and rambling story is that there's usually an upside to most things, if only you take the time to think about what that upside might be. My husband says it's my talent for lateral thinking, which he tells me can be a bit irritating at times. In fact, what he actually says is "always remember, nobody likes a smart-arse." I suppose he's right. For instance, when a Fire Officer recently asked me what I'd do if a blaze broke out in my waste-paper bin, and I replied "throw my filing in it" I thought it was a good idea, but he obviously was not at all amused. I have to re-attend the lecture and this time take it more seriously. Such is life.

Anyway, it's light now, I've checked the grounds for seismic shenanigans and so far, nothing. Looks like we'll have to put all that stuff in a skip after all. Damn.

Which brings me to the question, what would you throw down a gaping chasm in the earth's crust if you had the opportunity? And don't say Paul Daniels, that would be cruel.

*Sorry, Mother Of All This Lot, just couldn't resist.
Can I still keep my award?
(see previous post comments).

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Valentine's Week Massacre

It's Sunday morning, I'm doing a bit of blogging in my dressing gown and listening to the sounds of:

a) Birdsong?

b) Radio 4?

c) The hiss and bubble of the coffee machine?

d) The sound of a chain-saw, crackling branches and a bloke up a tree shouting "get out of the way, you fucking pillock" to his mate below as our neighbours' beautiful trees crash to the ground?

Top marks if you guessed that the answer is d).

What is it with blokes and chain-saws? Give them a piece of throbbing equipment (oo-er missus), a ladder and some lovely, mature trees that rustle and wave their whispering branches so gracefully in the summer, and what do they do?

They chop the bloody lot down, that's what. And that's not all.

Stimulated by the smell of petrol driven mayhem and the excitement of seeing next door's trees come tumbling down, thus rendering our lovely private garden open to all who (wisely) don't really want to see me sunbathing topless this summer, presuming we get one, and not to be outdone by blokes with bigger equipment than his, my husband took leave of his senses and massacred the ancient ivy which has been growing over the walled garden opposite my kitchen window for the past twenty-five years. Needless to say, I wasn't paying attention at the time or I would have sensed the potential act of vandalism which was looming and nipped it in the bud, so to speak. After all, it's an obvious equation that blokes plus power-tools, plus foliage, equals total deforestation and I should have been more aware of the potential scene of devastation that would greet me. Only Napalm could have done the job better.

I planted that ivy. I loved that ivy. That was my ivy.

Apparently, he did ask me, so he says. Or rather, he'd said "shall I give the ivy a bit of a trim?" to which I'd allegedly replied "mmmm, you could do, but nothing too radical." So he took great chunks out of it, obviously, with hedge-trimmers. And guess what? Now he can also play with his power shredder in order to get rid of the mounds of lush greenery he's hacked down. Oh goody.

As for the ivy, it looks like the victim of a very bad hair cut by a blind barber, high on crack. I am supposed to be reassured by the fact that it will grow back, eventually, but this isn't helping me at the moment. You don't quite see the logic in cutting it down in the first place, only to wait for it to grow back? Really? My thoughts entirely. But then I am only a woman, and I don't understand these things. Obviously.

In the meantime the power tools are once again stowed safely in the shed. I have the key. Fortunately for him, husband's off on a business trip to Italy, or he'd be sleeping in the shed too. Sounds a bit harsh, but frankly I am so angry he's lucky that this massacre didn't land him sleeping with the fishes instead the hedge trimmer. In the same way he's in charge of lawns and there would be outright war if I tried to muscle in on his turf, my message to him is if you mess with my ivy, you mess with me.


Saturday, 16 February 2008

Oh No, Not Another Bloody Repeat

Sorry, too busy to post at the moment so rather cheekily, I am recycling an old post from when you didn't know me, way back last summer, in the hopes that you are not one of the two people who read it the first time.

Shit Happens:

Well, have just come back from a quick trip into Birmingham City Centre to return most of the stuff I bought last week whilst on a shopping trip with my daughter. It's all her fault. She eggs me on. I think it's because she doesn't like the thought of me getting old, so she encourages me to buy clothes which aren't really suitable and a bit too young for me. Either that or she's planning to raid my wardrobe sometime soon.

Anyway, we nearly didn't go because I was worried about the heightened security alert we've all been under since last week's scarey terrapin* episodes in London and Scotland, but my husband (whose message is "bollocks to that, I'm going") taunted me with an offer of lunch at Selfridges Noodle Bar which I considered to be worth the risk so off we went with me still a bit nervy. He gave me a pep talk all the way into town about how we mustn't be intimidated or be frightened to live our lives because some people were trying to force their views upon us, etc., etc., and that I was more likely to be hit by something dropping out of the sky than be blown up whilst shopping, and so on (and on). Lecture over, he dropped me off at the back of Rackhams (please note, if you are from Birmingham, this does not mean that I am a prostitute) and went to park the car, so I walked through the sunny Cathedral square, picking my way carefully through the two million pigeons who have squatters' rights there.

What is it with pigeons? Why do they wait for you to politely skirt around them, then suddenly fly up into your face all feathers and flutter? I hate the bloody things. The feeling is obviously mutual because today one actually pooped on me - although judging by the huge acrid dollops that hit me this could well have been a case of formation-pooping by the pigeon tribute version of the Red Arrows. Yes, something actually did fall out of the sky and it definitely wasn't a bit of space debris.

If you've never been crapped on by a pigeon, I can honestly not recommend it - it reeks. It's hot, acidic and burns like hell. You feel so stupid with pigeon-shit highlights and a liquid brown handbag charm when only one minute earlier you thought you looked quite good, actually. No amount of Chanel Number 5 is going to hide this stench. You just know your rope-soled suede wedges are going to be a bugger to clean. It also tends to put a dampener on your enjoyment of beef in blackbean sauce at the Noodle Bar although I can guarantee you'll definitely get an empty seat beside yours where you can put your coat.

Am off to wash my hair, clothes, shoes and bag now so must dash. There must be a moral to this story somewhere though for the life of me at the moment can't think of what it is.

*not using the proper word in case I set off a bloody great hooter at the Anti-Terrapin HQ or something.