Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Suspicion …

Either the system has finally blown up or I have been deluded for very many years assuming that it functioned properly in the first place. The Boy came back from school with a note for me to sign confirming that he had an ‘Authorised Absence’ last Friday. I won’t sign it because he didn’t, and when I asked him where he had skived off to I was assured that he had in fact been in school. I have written ‘More details required’ on the form and given it back. Either they have made a wombat’s armpit of registration and are fabricating the figures (negating the point of doing it in the first place, and I refuse to play ball) or the Boy is lying through his teeth, and again I am not going to back him up. I think I may have to discuss the matter with his form tutor at the Prize-giving tomorrow (Mr Clever-clogs is getting awards for Maths and Physics. I think he’s a changeling). If he has indeed been skiving I’ll have my car-keys back, thank you very much.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Another year over

When I was a little girl my father was enormously influential in my life. In many ways he was very strict, but in other ways my brothers and I were allowed tremendous freedom. He had been brought up by a family whose members were influential in many parts of the world, and who were also sticklers for correctness where honesty was paramount and the work ethic one of the bedrocks of existence. I used to love to hear him tell of his boyhood in India, such as when he and his sister were collected by elephant to go to tea with a friend, or when they used to retire to the hills in the heat of the summer, taking all their household, including the piano, with them.

He was a natural story-teller, and would have us roaring with laughter at his tales of his wartime days in India and Burma. When his CO asked for a volunteer to drive a tank-transporter from the dockside in Bombay to battalion HQ he didn’t hesitate. No matter that he hadn’t driven one before – he could drive a car, and it couldn’t be very different. He was roundly cursed by the tram-driver who was forced to reverse his tram (only because the transporter was pushing it) to let him through. When, at a junction, he got too close to the rickshaw in front the front bumper pushed down on the rickshaw’s stand, raising the shafts (with the driver dangling helplessly) high into the air, and tipping the unfortunate passenger onto his back. The piece-de-resistance occurred on his arrival at HQ, when he may have cut the corner a little too sharply, and brought down all the powerlines for the camp.

He was always one to encourage anyone to do what they wanted, as long as they didn’t do it half-heartedly. Provided we all did our utmost at anything, it didn’t matter whether we succeeded or not. Apathy was despised, boredom forbidden (“Only boring people get bored”) and physical discomfort borne stoically (“Cold is an attitude of mind”).

He died 17 years ago today. And I miss him.

Monday, March 29, 2004


It’s been a very odd sort of day. From the moment I woke I had the strange feeling that I had forgotten something. Something important. I’ve checked the calendar and no, it’s not anyone’s birthday or anniversary. I didn’t have a dental appointment. I had made everyone’s lunch for them (including my own), fed the dogs and put the guinea-pig in the garden for the day. I even checked to make sure that I’d got dressed properly. The feeling hasn’t gone away at all. I wonder what it could possibly be.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

You can see mine if I can see yours

I was somewhat startled when one of our neighbours accosted me this afternoon and uttered those words. I walk past his house most days, and we exchange cheery waves, and he does throw excellent parties, but really …! He led me round the back of his house and lifted a hatch in the floor of his bandstand to expose a drain cover. This he raised to reveal – a well!

Having got all the ‘Well I never’ and ‘Well, well, well’ jokes out of the way I could confirm that the construction of his newly discovered well was identical to that of ours. He found his when he was trying to find a suitable drain to take the overflow from his hot-tub and lifted the cover of what he assumed was a sewer. We found ours when the Boy was small and jumping up and down on the rough concrete near the back door. The concrete suddenly sagged and gave way, but luckily the well had been filled with rubble when our horrid cowboy-built extension was constructed, or he’d have plunged into the depths.

We found, when we emptied it, that our well is only 10 feet deep, although it contained two skiploads of rubble and sludge, and the water level is about 2 feet below ground. Although the level in Rick’s is lower, we are puzzled how the watertable works, seeing as his house is further up the hill than ours. If water is all at the same level, as you’d assume it to be, our ground floor should be under three feet of water.

Ah. Right. I’d assumed we had a minor damp problem.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

A rose by any other name

We were reminded today of a summer’s afternoon, many years ago, when we were walking the dogs in the woods on Edgehill. Every so often we would be assaulted by the most vile smell, which dispersed very quickly. After the fourth attack we realised it only occurred when our Labrador ran past us. She had rolled on a dead rat, and was proudly wearing its perfume (Kennel No 5). We had to drive back home leaning out of the car windows while our other dog glared accusingly at us for making her stay in the back.

This afternoon, when we saw Piglet joyfully rolling in the middle of a field, we knew that we were in for the same delight. I have no idea what it was, but one side of him was completely brown, and walking home behind him was very difficult as my eyes were watering so much I could hardly see. It was going to be time for his first bath.

Piglet is 4 years old, and up until today has stayed clean. Yes, his feet have needed washing occasionally but our dogs have the sort of coat that, once mud has dried, sheds dirt with a good brushing, and baths are generally unnecessary unless they need to be pristine for a show. Piglet isn’t a showdog by any stretch of the imagination, so he has never needed a wash. So having swilled him down in the garden before he was clean enough to enter the bathroom, he was led upstairs on his collar and lead. He was a little confused by this, because the dogs aren’t normally allowed upstairs, and get scolded if they do, so this was puzzling to him. “Where are we going mummy? Gosh, this is quite exciting! Into the bathroom – ooh, this is different! You’re taking my collar off now. There’s a lot of water in that white thing … why are you picking me up? I don’t think I want …aarrrggghh!!!”

Maybe we won’t need the stairgate any more.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Flaked out

This morning I discovered that something had gone drastically wrong with my housekeeping abilities and we had run out of my favourite cereal, and I had a choice of the Boy’s sweet stuff (urgh) and Ned’s healthy stuff (urgh). The bread was needed for sandwiches so toast was out of the equation, and there wasn’t time to cook anything. But wait! What was that box lurking at the back of the shelf? Hmm, I wonder how long that’s been there? Still, beggars can’t be choosers – it’ll have to do. With a few sultanas thrown on it should be reasonably palatable, and, good TOG that I am, I say “pish and tush!” to use-by dates. There have been no dire after-effects, so I can say that, although they tasted somewhat musty, Weetabix that should have been eaten before January 2003 aren’t too bad.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Places to see, people to go

I have no idea what day of the week it is now. I usually go to work on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, but we had a Very Important Meeting scheduled for Thursday (changed at the last minute from Wednesday) so I swapped my days about so I could attend. And it was indeed very informative and productive, with the result that I almost know what I shall have to do over the next month - about three months' work, so that'll be interesting. If I could find a tame American that would be handy, but they don't seem to be listed in Yellow Pages. America may well be full of them, but that's not really any good for the forthcoming job. Still, it may mean overtime being needed, so that'll help the family fortune get started. The downside is that in that case I will see even less of Ned than I do already (he comes home from work as I leave, and vice versa).

My brother phoned me last night and offered to sell me his car. It's a very nice car. It's a lot newer than ours. Unfortunately instead of being simply silver, it is now silver, green and brown, and cunningly camouflaged with foliage and a handy section of chain-link fence from where he took it through a woodlet on its side. On balance, I think I'll stick with the one we have, with the boring wheels that conventionally all point in the same direction.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


What is it that some people are missing in their lives that makes them want to cause trouble to others? I hang about a lot on a dog information forum, where for most of the time we deal with the routine questions along the lines of “I’m looking for a XXXX puppy, do you know of any reputable breeders?” which is a nice easy question to answer. You do a link to the Kennel Club Breed Standard and refer them to the list of relevant breed clubs at the bottom of the page. Job done, everyone’s happy. There are also very many people who say “I’ve got a dog/bitch and want to stud him/breed from her, how do I go about it?” This is trickier, because naturally everyone thinks their dog is the best, and don’t realise that probably 90% of pedigree dogs aren’t good enough to breed from. They are delightful animals and lovely pets, but not a breeding prospect. They have no idea of the tests for hereditary problems that should be carried out, and the research into bloodlines that is required to be as sure as you can be that the proposed match isn't going to be a disaster. As far as they are concerned you just put a dog and bitch (of hopefully the same breed) together and make a fortune. Diplomacy is called for in the wording of the replies because naturally you don’t want them to go off in a huff.

But the really annoying ones are the Trolls and WUMs who simply take pleasure in being stupid and irritating people. They repeatedly get banned from the forum, but re-register under a different username and start all over again. It’s as if they don’t realise that the site owners can trace their computer’s ID. I suppose you have to feel sorry for them, that they have nothing better to do, but sometimes you just want to detonate them and be done with it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Descent into chaos

I can understand why, when I’m out with the dogs, I am often stopped and asked for directions. After all a person with dogs is likely to be local, and therefore reasonably certain to know where they (and you) are, although I was rather taken aback once to be asked for directions to the Farnborough Air Show. You may think there is nothing unusual in that, bearing in mind that Farnborough is only about 8 miles from us. But not that Farnborough. Our nearby Farnborough is a small village of about 500 occupants, and the biggest planes that can land there are powered by rubber bands. The Farnborough that has the Air Show is about 100 miles away. However usually the people who stop me are quite close to their ultimate destination (although some have actually been through it and didn’t notice) and don’t cause too many problems.

There was one lost soul though, who made me realise just how far society has descended into chaos, and that civilisation as we know it has come crashing around our ears. I was stopped and asked for directions by a policeman.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Come up and see me

I’ve been playing some of my Happy Music today. It is remarkable how soothing even very up-tempo music can be, as long as it reminds you of happy times. If I am having a meditation session, staring at a candle-flame, I like to listen to “From Genesis to Revelation”, “Demons and Wizards”, or “Relics”. Unfortunately there aren’t many opportunities to do this, because my copies of those albums are all on vinyl, so I’m limited as to where they can be played. Attempting serenity and tranquillity in the sitting-room with the rest of the household running amok all around is pointless! But given the opportunity all of those can transport me way outside my head into more colourful times, and after the first shock of the return the present seems less grey than when I left it.

Steve Harley was yesterday’s saviour. Listening to his early records (Judy Teen, the Psychomodo and the rest) instantly returns me to my teens, and doing exciting things, such as getting the train to London for the day, meeting up with schoolfriends and scouring the shops in Kensington High Street. We could easily spend the whole day in Biba – the shop was a magical place. There were the most gorgeous clothes in stunning colours, which were affordable even on our very limited funds, and it all smelt exotic. It was a beautifully sunny time when the present was easy and the future bright. The world was opening up to us, and all the paths offered glimpses of thrilling possibilities.

So despite being caught between realities, which is more than a little confusing, I must thank Steve (and the rest of Cockney Rebel) for the memories. You do indeed make me smile.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day

Today has been thoroughly horrid. I have been well and truly 'bitten by the Black Dog' and I shan't bore you by whingeing (or is that whinging?). Good night.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

The blustery day

My goodness, it's been blowy! Excellent for drying washing, despite occasionally having to retrieve clothes from neighbours' gardens where they have been borne upon the breeze, but not so good structurally. Several fence posts have decided that 60 degrees is the new vertical, a large section of guttering is investigating life at grass-roots level and three panes of greenhouse glass have gone forth and multiplied into about 15 million. We shall be busy little people tomorrow.

Unless of course, tomorrow has been planned by a woman. For it is Mothering Sunday, when all mums get treated to a day of rest and pleasure. Household chores will be done by their adoring family, and in the afternoon they can recline with a box of scrummy choccies and watch a romantic black-and-white film on the television. I'll check the TV listings to discover the difficult choice I will have to make. Will it be 'A Town Like Alice'? 'From Here to Eternity'? Or even 'Brief Encounter'? Let's see. A soap omnibus edition, followed by Fame Academy. Rugby. The Malaysian Grand Prix. Enterprise. Or T.J. Hooker.

Well, what do you know? Mothering Sunday has nothing to do with women. I'll be mending the guttering followed by playing the Ironing Game. Maybe next year will be better, eh? But I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Spring has sprung

Today I was going to blog about how absolutely terrifically well work seems to be going at the moment, but as several of the deals are not yet completed, it might not be wise. Suffice to say, if it all comes off we’re all going to be very busy, may have to take on another bod, and all our jobs are secure for another couple of years. So let’s all cross anything that is crossable and emit positive vibes.

So instead I shall share with you the annual local ovine miracle. Our neighbour keeps a few sheep, mainly to keep down the grass in her paddocks, seeing as the numbers of horses she keeps is now down to one small elderly pony with laminitis, so it’s not able to graze. Her flock started from one sickly cade lamb which she bottle-fed and reared to a fine fat ewe. Joyce was, however, no better than she ought to be, and one morning presented her owner with a pretty little ewe-lamb called Cilla (“Surprise, surprise!”). This was despite there being no tup in the vicinity. The next year Cilla had a lamb and Joyce had twins; the year after triplets. The year that Joyce had quins our neighbour decided enough was enough, and Joyce was going to be kept stabled overnight. This year, being an elderly matron of nine years and being lamb-free for four seasons, Joyce has recovered her old joie-de-vivre and found another chap, because she once more has triplets. This is despite there being no tup within half a mile of her field.

Perhaps there’s something in the water

Thursday, March 18, 2004


I had a horrid scare this afternoon with my eyesight. Everything had been fine all day, and I hadn’t even been on the computer as much as usual, so when I realised that I couldn’t actually see what I was looking at I got quite panicky. If I kept my eyes moving I could use the peripheral vision to read things, but when I looked directly at something there was nothing there. Then the view from the outside edge of my left eye went all wibbly-wobbly, just like (I am assured on good authority) in ‘Predator’. After 10 minutes or so it gradually cleared, and as vision returned, so did my reason. It had been caused by a reflection on the monitor of the window behind me, which had left a ‘dazzle-memory’ on my retina. So thankfully it appears I’m not going blind quite yet. The fright gave me palpitations.

I now have a small viburnum in my tub. Although I’m not certain that it is exactly what I really want in it, if I change my mind I can hoick* it out and bung* it elsewhere in the garden, because I already have two and a half viburnums (different varieties) which are thriving in the ground. The soil must be the right Ph for them or something. I also bought a teeny-weeny olive treelet and a teeny-weeny citrus, which when they’ve grown a bit (so that the boys don’t wee on them and kill them) can sit on the patio too, alongside the pomegranate bush which I grew from a seed a few years ago.

My final outdoor task for the day was to set up the rat-trap in the greenhouse. I’ve baited it with a piece of tomato, so we’ll see what (if anything) gets caught. It’s a live-catch trap, so if the wrong thing gets trapped it is unharmed and can be released, or if small enough can escape through the wire. It was a Christmas present a couple of years ago (along with an air rifle for humanely dispatching the victims), and so far the rats have eluded it. I stopped getting the Council ratman to put down poison after he carelessly left it where the dogs could get to it, and we had an emergency trip to the vet for the antidote. I’m not taking that risk again. Now it's one-to-one.

*technical horticultural terms.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Taking stock

The lovely springlike weather of the past couple of days has enticed me out into the garden again, to take stock of the winter's decimation and decide on the plan of action for the forthcoming season. The one remaining guinea-pig is having a hard time keeping up with the growing grass, so I think the mower is going to have to be dusted off before too long. Two fences need a lot of attention, and it smells as though a rat has taken up residence in the greenhouse.

Last year's baby goldfish have survived the winter in the pond, but are still black. Does anyone know how old they are when they change colour? Even more surprising is the fact that Daddy Goldfish has survived. When he and Mummy Goldfish were new (only last year, gosh!) he grew a beard of fungus which, when it went, caused his bottom jaw to fall off and his mouth to almost heal up. How he managed to eat enough to keep going I'll never know, but he was strong enough to court MG and sire lots of babies.

I think this year would be a good one to tackle the problem the garden's design. Now that the Boy is grown we don't need so much open space for football and cricket, so perhaps the borders can be enlarged and a path laid across the lawn from the patio to the vegetable garden. A curving gravel path would look better than the trampled grass that currently exists. (I realise, reading this back, I may have inadvertently given the impression that our garden is somewhat larger than the reality. We only played very small-scale football and cricket. Think more Subbuteo-sized.)

And I still haven't decided what to plant in the lovely big pot that I bought 2 years ago. I want a hardy shrub or small tree, to grow about 5 or 6 feet high, preferably evergreen and ideally with scented blossom, and that will be happy in an east-facing corner that only gets direct sun in the morning. I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Splodgeness Abounds

The shops in Banbury seem to be much better than those in Leamington Spa. The branch of Hawkshead generally has more stock, and the Body Shop actually had the henna kits I'd been looking for! It took me quite a while to approach the display, so I got very suspicious looks from the staff. To understand my nervousness you should know that I was brought up by a family with the attitude that only painted harlots colour their hair. So what I was contemplating was hugely rebellious. Sad but true.

I ummed and erred over the choice of shades. Ravishing red? Jaunty ginger? Passionate purple? Psychotic scarlet?* I'm not very good at decisions, so I selected the pack in the middle.

This henna requires mixing with boiling water and smearing onto dry hair, and is very strange stuff. It looks like a pat from a cow that's been overfed with concentrates, all greeny-brown and splodgy. And it smells vile, just like a stinky old ashtray. However I donned the weird plastic gloves, splurged it onto my hair, put on the plastic cap, wrapped a towel round my head turban-wise and prepared to wait several hours. (I have problems with headgear. I don't hear very well in one ear, having been too close to a mortar at Brentford in 1979 or thereabouts, and hats seem to make it worse. With the towel on my head I found I could only hear with my mouth open.) All seemed well for an hour or so. Then the tingling started. After two hours my whole scalp felt as though someone was sticking pins into it, and I took this as a my cue to rinse. Before all my hair fell out.

It isn't the colour I'd hoped for. As resounding successes go, this wasn't one of them. I think this will be my one and only venture into the realms of strumpetness.

*Names may not be accurate.

Oh dear. I have just realised that Clover's Thursday vet appointment was actually today. The senior moments are becoming more and more frequent.

Monday, March 15, 2004

It doesn't happen often.

Call me a sentimental old softy if you must, but I had a wonderful quarter of hour today. All 7 members of the family were together, in the same room, in perfect harmony with each other. Okay, so the Boy was getting annoyed with himself because of his inability to eat without spilling food down his front (the suggestion that perhaps he shouldn't overload his implements was met with derision), but apart from that all was sweetness and light. Clover must be getting better because Piglet was happy to doze on the windowseat while she was in the same room and Ned was letting sleeping dogs lie (literally). Peace and happiness reigns at Genie Towers.

Lets all breathe slowly and gently, fill our souls with good thoughts, and enjoy the moment.

Because you can bet your bottom dollar it won't last.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Eek, I nearly forgot to blog today, having had a day off yesterday (courtesy of The Merman, apparently!) For that, many thanks - despite it being rushed as you say, I'm sure we could have a good debate about many of the points raised!

Today has been a very strange day. I got very little sleep due to Piglet's brain still being in his trousers, and deciding that he needed to serenade Clover all night. As he threw his head back and wailed, the others all joined in. It was like twilight in Alaska, with the Call of the Wild echoing round the snowy wastes. Except such things are generally not appreciated in Midlands villages. I do hope we have a more peaceful night tonight, though I'm not holding my breath.

Then, on another Forum, a friend suggested I try a game she'd found on the net.
(I'll find out how to do links sometime, but that will have to do as a Copy and Paste.) So instead of doing the ironing for tomorrow, I spent all afternoon solving it. We will all go to school and work crumpled tomorrow. No change there then.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

My Secret Santa Blog
By A.N. Other

I have a theory that the change in the animal kingdom from hunter and predator to cute and cuddly was in fact an overnight affair. We went to bed one night with the animals being competent hunters, and woke the next day to them being sweet and loving and friends to the human race.

The period of which I speak, or in fact the day of which I speak was the release of the first Disney full length film. Until that time we kept dogs in the yard and cats were either around or more commonly not around, being usually in an alley with their peers making mayhem or whoopee. The Disney magic changed dogs into two fairly distinct camps*. One the yard animal who lived in a kennel and walked on all fours and the other a two legged creature who lived on a fluffy cushion and was able to pick thing up in its front paws and even to use household implements such as kettles and knives and forks.

In other early movies dogs which were pets were also divided into two types*. You had the pet who was a house pet. These would be little miniatures and would belong to the rich lady who ate chocolates and would call the dog poochy woochy. These dogs would be cute and lay around all day being pampered. When someone came into the home who might possibly want to marry the rich ladies daughter then the aforementioned poochy woochy would be the guardian of morality and worry the ankles of the suitor till they left the house running. The other dogs in films were the dogs that we now favour as pets. They would be bigger and stronger and be totally dedicated to the safety of their owner (Who was invariably a ten year old boy named Chuck) These dogs would be called Hank and would live either in a kennel in the yard or if the folks didn't spot it sneaking in it would sleep on Chucks bed.

Cats on the other hand have remained virtually unchanged since the time of the Temple cats of Egypt. They are all natural hunters and even after a huge bowl of food will still go out through the cat flap to capture an innocent bird or frog. Cats have always basked in the knowledge that they are by far superior to all other life-forms and that will never change.

I wonder if Ned takes out Goofy or Pluto when he goes out on the 3.11 mile (As measured by Garmin) walk each day? Or if in his mind he is walking the fields with Hank the faithful hound or little poochy woochy**

*Yes I know there are more than two types but this is my blog and I wanted to divide dogs into two types so that is what I have done.
** Again I am using bloggers prerogative to veer from the true facts.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Aren't pets fun? I've been having the most thoroughly unpleasant few days with the dogs. On Tuesday Ned noticed that the oldest girl had a lump on her bum. Now I'm sure everyone agrees that the very mention of the word 'lump' is enough to send a cold chill running down your spine. (Actually 'pumps' is another word that does the same, but that's my problem, and shouldn't really enter the story.) Anyway, back to Clover's bum. By the time we got her to the vet it had burst (the lump, not her bum), so it didn't need particularly high thought-processes to narrow down the possibilities, and an abscess was diagnosed. So I am having to spend my spare time washing and draining the poor girl's abscessed anal gland and infiltrating it with antibiotic cream.

As if that wasn't bad enough, one of her sons (not the sharpest knife in the drawer) has decided that Clover now smells 'interesting' and is all over her like a rash. She is understandably unimpressed with this, and tells him off in no uncertain terms. But like all young men he keeps his brain in his trousers, and because he has the concentration span of a subnormal gnat, life in our house is punctuated at frequent intervals by yells of "Pigletleaveheraloneyoustupidgit".

I do hope she heals soon. Apart from anything else, we are losing our voices.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

This has been a very strange day for blogging. Not only have I been trying to write my own blog, I also have The Great Secret Blogger Experiment to contend with, and write another blog in the style of 'A.N. Other'. So forgive me if this turns out to be more than usually drivel-ridden.

On my own behalf, I shall share with you my recent doughnut-disappointment. It was suggested in the chatroom that, rather than my new teeshirt being too big, my arms may in fact be too short, a physical deformity that could possibly be cured by eating doughnuts. Heavy doughnuts in particular. Always willing to trust in the suggestions of others (who shouted "Sucker!"?) I duly purchased a five-pack BOGOF of Morrisson's toffee doughnuts. If they don't lengthen my arms, nothing will. Or so I thought. I drew out a doughnut, studied it carefully to locate the filling-injection hole, carefully placed my thumb over it (not wanting to repeat Maris's problem) and bit in. Nothing. No toffee to be found. Empty. All of them.

So as yet my arms remain their usual length, and I don't have to sit further away from the keyboard. Perhaps toffee flavour was wrong. I'll try apple next. They say fruit is good for you, so I'll consider them to be health food.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

It was dustbin day today.

Every Tuesday night I try very hard to remember to put the full binsack (we are given one F.O.C. by our beloved Council) outside the back gate to be removed (almost silently) by 7am on Wednesday. I also have to remember, every fortnight, to put the newspaper box and the box for glass, cans and textiles on the pavement for (noisy) collection. I would make all of this Ned's responsibility, but he has devised the excuse of being at work on Tuesday night, so try as I might to lay the blame on him, this is not his fault. There. I've said it.

I was tired last night. Stone cold sober, but tired. So I had an early night, having chatted about Maris's jammy left breast needing a good boil-wash and tumble. And possible starching to regain its former texture. So I forgot to put the binsack outside the gate.

Now in many areas, this would simply result in my rubbish having to wait till next week for collection. Not here. The dustmen have instructions to enter premises to remove black sacks of rubbish, and this is what they did. With many households, this would be a godsend, because then they could have as many early nights as they want without worrying about their rubbish. However our dustmen seem to have an inability to close the gate behind them. This has been a problem in the past, so I have a lovely sign saying

Dogs loose

which I would have thought summed up the situation fairly well.

As soon as the alarm went off I went downstairs, opened the back door for the dogs, and went back upstairs to get dressed. No sooner had I started this when I heard a bark from outside. Outside the front. Looking out of the window I saw, to my horror, two of my dogs playing with the traffic. I think I broke all records getting downstairs and out the front to try to bring them in before total disaster struck.

I stopped the traffic. Mainly because I suddenly realised I was only wearing a teeshirt. Remind me to apologise to the neighbours sometime. Just not yet.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Today, purely for therapeutic reasons, I decided to hit the shops in town during my lunchbreak. I was only after one or two things, after all. As I feel a little jaded, faded and washed out, perhaps a nice henna preparation (no, not senna, stop sniggering) would buck up my morale. I've seen some interesting-looking henna in the Body Shop, so up The Parade I went. Although the Body Shop had a great many very interesting products (a nice perfume, I wonder if I can remember which one it was?) it appears to have absolutely nothing in the way of natural hair colourants. I'm willing to swear it used to - I distinctly recall being a little unnerved by the rubber gloves that went with the kit ...

So because that mission was a failure I decided to cheer myself up with a bag of broken biscuits (£1.30) from the home-made cookie shop. Cos they're scrummy, and sometimes I can eat them all before I get home and Ned and the Boy don't find the bag so they never know I didn't share ... (oops! another guilty secret revealed). But they didn't have any broken ones, and for some reason didn't warm to the idea that I could break some myself and still be charged half-price. Another failed mission.

By this time I'd taken up 35 minutes of my half-hour break, and because I still had SimonG's chatroom to visit before I could settle down to work again it was time to head back to the office. Past the pasty shop. This is not a good shop to go anywhere near when they are baking. I have managed to resist temptation so far, but I'm sure one day I shall throw caution to the winds and indulge. But not today. Not when the queue was out of the door.

Retail therapy isn't always very therapeutic.

Monday, March 08, 2004

I was looking through a box of old papers the other day, and found my old school-issue termly calendars, which listed the names of everyone in the school, what sports matches were to be played and when, what films we would be shown on Saturday night (detention permitting) etc. This particular 8th March featured a Home hockey match (1st XI against HMS Fishguard), Home Cross-country (against Truro School and BRNC Dartmouth) ... and the Sixth Form Dance!

Oh, the annoyance of the annual dance! There were girls shipped in from some of the local girls' schools to partner the boys, but did they bother to ship in some likely talent for us? Not likely! We had to make do with the usual suspects we saw day in, day out for weeks on end. Of course all the 'lookers' of the boys were immediately snapped up by the alien hussies, and we were left with the spotty oiks. The ones whose Christian names you'd never got around to discovering. And of course attendance was compulsory - and so was dancing with the Herberts. Admittedly, some of them were pleasant enough lads to chat to on your way to and from classes, but that didn't mean you wanted to be clasped close to their easily-excited bodies as they wanted to smooch to "Albatross". The clattering of heels across the wooden floor of Big School as the notes of a slow-dance struck up was like a tropical rainstorm on a corrugated iron roof as we tried to escape to the sanctuary of the girls' lavatory. Where Matron was stationed to herd us out again.

Oh, the humiliation. It was a Catch-22 situation. The choice was between
a) Not dancing at all, being despised (by the boys) as a loser, and getting detention for being a killjoy, or
b) Dancing with people you didn't want to, being seen doing so by gorgeous-X, the boy you really fancied, who'd get the idea that you wanted to dance with Spotty-Y, so all your weeks of chatting him up were wasted, and by Spotty-Y thinking you fancied him and getting cross the next day when you didn't want to be his girlfriend so he'd go around telling lies about you to anyone who'd listen.

One day I'll tell you what fun could be had in detention.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Uuurrgghhhh. Over to Ned ...

Hooray! at last, I've been allowed to play.

Well, as you can most likely tell JG still has her tummy ache. Meanwhile, I've recovered from an almost life theatening infection and am on the road to recovery. I was so incapacitated that although my GPS arrived on Thursday, I was too ill to even look at it. Friday came and wow it's great. I now know how far I've walked, how long I've walked for, how high I've been and how low. I played with it for quite a while trying to understand what buttons did what, marked a waypoint for home and then took the dogs out for their walk. I used to think that we went about 3 miles but now I KNOW we go 3.11 miles (I just knew that it would come in useful).

On Saturday I tried for my first cache, and failed. I came back home and looked again at the log and also looked at the encrypted hint. Back again, this time found it almost immediately, (foolish me had seen it on the first visit but had ignored it) hooray! I'm up and running.

When I went on to to register they wouldn't let me use my name, so remembering how Eliot spells his name I'm entered as N3D, it doesn't seem right though.

Today I took it on our Sunday morning walk, I had organised this one and told the gang it was about 8 miles. There was a bit of dissent when they realised that we weren't even half way round and my new marvel was showing that we had covered 4.6 miles. Tempers were soothed when at 7 miles we reached the pub (The Peacock) for lunch. After lunch, (Steak and Ale Pie - not as good as The Halford Bridge's), it was straight back home 10.42 miles in total.

That means that the 10.42 miles of the walk, and the 3.11 miles of the morning dog walk, I'm up to 13.5 miles for the day which I hope will be enough for fitness level for Hadrians Wall at the end of April.

JG has been at home all day, but when I got back I still had to lay the fire, make the tea and now I've had to cook the dinner as well. Oh well, as they say a woman's work is never done. Thats why us blokes have to come and do it for them.

Until next time, Ned

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Ned was feeling so much better he went to Chesterton windmill to play with his new toy and find his first cache. This was so successful he did it twice, because the first time he found it he didn't recognise it for what it was. I guess he was expecting a bright red 'Thing' with flashing lights, saying "Cooee!" in a beguiling, come-hither tone. Oddly enough, it wasn't.

He is now getting all picky, like people did in the twilight days when digital watches were the latest craze. Instead of responding "Nearly half past nine" when asked the time, the pretentious braggarts would reply "21.26.13 .... 14 .... 15 ...." whereupon they were sneered at and summarily dismissed. Well, Ned used to tell me that his morning dog-walk was a little bit over 3 miles. That is no longer sufficient. His morning dog-walk is officially 3.11 miles.

We have traced his lurgy back to his work, because one colleague (we'll call him Bob) has a wife who is a nurse at Longleat CenterParc, where there have been over 100 people infected with viral gastro-enteritis. It seems quite virulent, because Uuuurrggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I have been lurgified. Thank you dear, for sharing that with me. You didn't need to take your marriage vows quite as literally.

Friday, March 05, 2004

When you have spent many months chatting to your cyber friends, it's odd the mental image you build of them. Sometimes you get it pretty well right, other times you're way, way off! I met up with a few virtual chums at Crufts, having exchanged mobile numbers and calling each other when we arrived. Once when my phone rang it startled the person standing next to me who was making the call! That was Liberty (who turned out not to be an overweight trucker called Bert after all, but a very nice girl called Alison). She and Chloe and I were being cyber-cheerleaders for Dizzy (who looked nothing like I imagined) and her dog. Obviously our routine worked (a virtual version of Katchaturian's 'Cyber Dance') because Dizzy's dog took Best of Breed. Lib had brought along the grown-up Ribena, and we then settled to a good gossip. It was a shame I didn't get to meet Brainless, but at least I didn't get decked through calling the wrong person by her moniker. A good time was had by all, apart from my feet. And my arms. And my wallet.

Ned was very poorly, and although the morning post (just after noon) brought his long-awaited Garmin, he didn't even have the will to open it, and instead moped around the house carrying his trusty bucket (just in case). I do hope he doesn't decide to leave it as his first cache.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Shortly after blogging yesterday I had the news that a friend of ours had died. Last year he was taken into hospital with suspected appendicitis, but the exploratory operation revealed bowel cancer. 6 months chemotherapy followed, but to no avail. He and his wife are both GPs, and kept themselves very fit, walking, cycling etc, didn't smoke, ate properly, weren't overweight, and were up-to-date with with any tests. He was a very brave man who refused to give in, and only last week was walking his dog several miles daily. It seems very unfair.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Ned went back to work last night after a week off while they replaced his machine (though it wasn't really a week off as he'd worked two weeks the week before). They promised it would be all-singing, all-dancing, up-and-running and making the tea when he clocked in. Hmm. You know what a technical "exploded drawing" looks like? Well, this was the real thing. An exploded machine. Walkways leading to nowhere (clearly the designer had been a failed 1960s town-planner in a previous existence). Odd bags of bits scattered around. "Show us how it works" he was told. "The computer will tell you how it does it". Unfortunately, the destructions were in German, and Ned's only phrase in German is "Zwei grosse bier bitte", which didn't appear anywhere on the screen. He spent the night cleaning it instead.

My tee-shirt didn't arrive today. Pity. I had plans for it tomorrow - maybe even advertise Thinging on TV! That would be a coup! I wonder if Liberty is really an 18-stone trucker called Bert?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I spent today attempting to identify 'product' that would be suitable for our hoped-for assault on the Amerikaland market. Not as easy as it sounds. I mean, what is at the top of US stairs? A whole lot of nothing-ness, it appears, which must be daunting when you want to get to your bedroom. British stairs ascend to the landing, which is safe and sensible, as it should be. Use of US/UK dictionaries and Googling can find me no reference to the equivalent structure.

And what do their poor schoolchildren have to keep their pens, pencils and crayons in? I had a pencil case for mine. So did all my friends (not my pencil case, obviously - they all had their own). But such things don't seem to exist across the Great Divide. And what do they wear on their feet when it's raining? Not good old wellies, apparently. Tcha! And people go running in tell-tales or something. It's a minefield.

Being quite security-conscious at work, the outer door of our building is usually kept locked, so we were very startled when a little old lady wandered into the office and demanded a bus pass. A strange request to put to a software company. If she'd wanted a mousemat there would have been no problem. She was adamant that she was in the right place, and got quite flustered when she had to be ushered out onto the street again.

Tonight, due to pointed nagging, I have striven and strived and strove and managed to move the Comments-wotsit from the top to the bottom of the post. Happy now, Mallikins?

Monday, March 01, 2004

I was pleased that it turned out to be a quiet sort of day today. I think we opened a bottle of wine too many last night, and of course "once it's been opened you know it won't keep". (Yes I know that's really about madeira, but the principle holds true.) So we had to finish it.

As I said, I'm pleased it turned out to be a quiet day today. The phone in the office only rang a couple of times. It was the same person both times, and each time she wanted to talk to somebody who doesn't work for the Company. She was a little miffed.

I passed a very strange shop in town at lunchtime. Attitudes are clearly becoming more relaxed in R.L.S. because the shop is called 'Planet Bong' and the signboard on the pavement advertises that it is for 'all your head supplies and fashion needs', with a picture of a little cartoon man with a funny leaf-shaped head ...

Thanks to my very kind technically-whizzo friends I have managed to start getting some linkification on here. I have no idea what all the gibberish I typed actually means, but luckily this contraption seems to understand it.

Only saw one magpie today.