Sunday, October 31, 2004

Close your eyes and hope that this is just imagination

It being Hallowe'en, Simon suggested that the BlogRing chums should each write an appropriate story ...

Vera didn’t know whether the fluttery feeling in her middle was due to nervousness or excitement at meeting George’s family in their own home. They had met and spoken fleetingly at several of the parties she had attended that season; the parties where she and George had fallen in love. Now they were engaged and so she was invited to spend a weekend in the country at his parents’ large house. Although George’s family was very wealthy they were also very kind and accepting of her, a mere doctor’s daughter. George had told her about the family home (which in Vera’s imagination was a veritable palace) and she hoped desperately that she wouldn’t make a blunder and embarrass George, or his parents – or even herself! As the car which had been waiting at the station to collect her turned into the drive and pulled up outside the house Vera tried not to gasp. Although not vast, it was an impressive building and it was hard not to feel overawed. But there was George, and, swallowing her nerves, she smiled as he held the door for her to get out of the car.

George’s family were, she was delighted to discover, genuinely pleased for her to be joining their family, and she was soon more relaxed in their company. Later that evening at dinner she asked why the maid who had shown her to her room had seemed reluctant to linger there. It seemed to be an ordinary enough room, pleasingly decorated and equipped with the usual furniture and a very attractive looking-glass over the washstand.

Was it her imagination that the silence which followed her question seemed a little uneasy? Then George’s mother laughed and explained that, like all old houses, this one also had its share of stories of ghosts, but there was nothing to be concerned about, anything that had happened had been a long time ago. The conversation turned to general stories of the unexplained draughts and creakings that gave rise to tales of ghosts and haunted rooms, and then moved on to easier topics as the evening wore on. Much, much later, as Vera tried to hide her tiredness, the party broke up and everyone went to bed.

Her bedroom, as she entered it, was welcoming and warm. There was a small fire in the grate, her bed had been turned down and warmed, and her nightdress lay waiting. She undressed and washed, then thoughtfully brushed her hair while she thought about how the day had gone. As she sat there she glanced into the mirror, and screamed. There, looking back at her, was a man! Vera dropped her hairbrush and fled out of the room in horror. George’s family had heard her scream and came running. George’s mother hugged her as Vera sobbed out what she’d seen, and was aghast at the matter-of-fact way it was explained that a previous visitor had hanged himself in that very room, and occasionally made his presence known in this way.

It would perhaps be too easy to round off the tale with the ending that despite this shock, Vera and George married and lived happily ever after. But it wouldn’t be true. Vera went home the next day after a very uncomfortable night in a hastily-made up bed in another room, and George soon after joined the army and went off to France in 1914. He was killed quite early on, and like many other girls of that time, Vera (my mother’s aunt) never married. Following the deaths of George’s parents some years afterwards the house was sold, and later demolished. Nobody knows what happened to the mirror.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The sweetest thing

I’ve got a lovely husband, you know. He drives me to meetings and sits and chats and drinks umpteen pints of tonic water cos he’s driving and lets me drink umpteen pints of 6X (Ooh, was it 6X?) till I’m nearly horizontal and then he takes me home and he doesn’t get cross with me and he doesn’t expect me to cook so he gets a takeaway and I’ve got a lickle bit of a headache so I think I’ll go to bed. Piccies tomorrow perhaps. Night night.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Yield it, yield it

There’s a saying in the world of animal husbandry that you should never ‘over-face’ an animal in training. This means that the tasks they’re given to overcome, whether it’s a show-jump fence for horses or a down-stay with a dog, should never be too much for them to cope with. Of course this varies from individual to individual, which is where the skill of the trainer is tested. With a horse, you don’t go from popping over a bale of straw straight to the puissance wall at the Horse of the Year Show. Likewise a dog who can manage a down-stay for 10 seconds shouldn’t instantly be expected to cope with a 5 minute one. You gradually build them up, stretching them slightly then consolidating the progress. If they’re over-faced they lose all confidence and may never achieve much again.

I’ve been over-faced. Now please don’t think this is a personal rant against my chums, it’s a rant because I need to let it out. We all have our individual strengths and weaknesses, and what one person finds easy another will completely fail to grasp. It doesn’t mean that one person is worse than the other, just that they’re different. My great strength at school was spelling. I was never brilliant at maths. I learned enough to be able to pass my O-level, but that was over 30 years ago, and I’ve only needed to use basic arithmetic ever since. So now when I’m finding myself faced with questions which are post-A-level standard maths, I have no idea where to even start, and to be honest, I have no intention of taking extra tuition in order to be able to do them.

I’m spent. This is doing me no good at all. I’m stressed out, and trying to keep so many plates spinning all at once has broken me. My sense of humour has eloped with my enthusiasm and may never be seen again. Waking at 4am crying is generally a sign that all is not well, and when it strikes you that the reason is due to something that is meant to be fun, you realise that somewhere along the line things have taken a wrong turn, and have assumed unnatural proportions.

I think this may be where a certain quadruped and I part company. I know there are only two more questions to go, but there’s no pleasure left for me. There’s no “Aaahhhh!” moment when I get the answer; only time to heave a sigh of relief that it’s done. It’s become something I fear. I know the sayings “A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins”. Yes, I know I’m weak, I’m a loser, and I despise myself for it, all right? I don’t need it rubbed in, thanks.

Maybe this is just a bad day. I hope so.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Oh dear, what can the matter be?

The senior moments are becoming, if not more frequent, certainly longer-lasting. In my lunch break today I rushed up the town to get a card for a chum - nothing too sick-making - and eventually found a suitably obscene one. So I queued patiently, and it wasn't until I reached the 'Please Pay Here' till that I realised that I hadn't seen my purse since I put it into my caching bag on Sunday. The tillgirl (who looked about 12 years old) blushed as she looked at the card, and I blushed as I apologised and left the shop cardless. I'll try again tomorrow.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Always should be someone

I think I’ve discovered the reason why the population of our village is growing so fast. When Ned first moved up here from Sussex in 1980, ‘rush hour’ involved three horses and a tractor moving slowly down the road. Now there are several ‘dormitory’ estates, smallish maybe, but still generating a lot of traffic, so now you actually have to look both ways before you cross the road. In fact there are so many new houses that the council was forced to put up street name signs, which until about 5 years ago weren’t needed – there weren’t enough roads to warrant it. Roads were named according to the town or village they led to: Warwick Road, Banbury Street and Southam Street, or to features on the road, such as Bridge Street. Okay, there are three Mill Lanes (and only one mill), but if you keep going round you eventually find the right bit.

Anyway, the village has grown, and the roadsigns have proliferated, much to the delight of the local kiddiwinks, who’ve discovered that the letters can easily be scratched off, with sometimes unfortunate results. In opposite directions from the bus shelter (aka Youth Club) are the villages of Wellesbourne and Gaydon. Or, as the edited signs now read, L*sbo and G*y.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Just a jealous guy

I'm in two minds what to blog about tonight. Both (or all three if my Shift key doesn't buck its ideas up and start doing its job properly) are rants to a certain degree. One concerns a relative (or should that be relation? I always get the two confused) who has upset some of the family, and the other concerns a friend's relation (or relative) who is a waste of space. Eeeny, meeny, miny ...

Okay, tact demands I slag off the friend's kin (ha! An escape from the dilemma!). We were watching, squint-eyed because tonight reception for BBC1 has been rubbish and programmes are being transmitted in a snowstorm, Rod Stewart in concert. Now I like Rod Stewart. He reminds me of when I was a giggly teenager and Life and the Future were optimistic blank canvases on which to make our marks. His voice, though not brilliant, has a raw power that says so much more than a classically-trained operatic voice. What's more, you can understand the words.

This particular bloke is so insecure in his marriage that he has forbidden his wife to listen to Rod Stewart because she liked him when she was single. Who's placing bets on how long that marriage lasts?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

It's a very very ...

There was a weird bloke in Tesco today. We did our little bit of shopping (two boxes of cereal and a sack of potatoes) and queued at the '10 items or less' till, behind a bloke and a basket. The bloke had a basket, you understand, but there was another one on the floor. So the long queue shuffled forwards as the opportunity arose, with the basket being kicked along too. Then all of a sudden this weirdo comes along, smiles and winks at me (Grrrrr!) and steps in front. I give him a Hard Stare while Ned pretends to be elsewhere, and the weirdo offers to toss a coin for the place in the queue. In fact, he insists on tossing a coin, despite my refusals to join in. So he chooses heads for me, and I win, so he starts pushing me forward ... until Ned steps in, pointing out that the basket on the floor was in front of us all the time ...

So I snarl sweetly at the loony and let him go first, and he gets his shopping checked through the till, then realises he's left his wallet in the car and only has a few coins about his person. The till-girl refuses to start haggling about his shopping, he hands over his £1.80 and rushes out of the shop, leaving behind a couple of the things he's paid for.

Harmless, but barking.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Hands move and heart beat on

What miserable weather we’ve had today; all grey, damp and gloomy. It was so uninspiring we’ve done almost nothing, which seems a dreadful waste of holiday, but it was too wet and yucky to go caching or gardening or anything outdoors. So we’ve mooched about indoors getting ratty with each other, which isn’t really what I’d planned for today. 20 years is supposedly the ‘china’ anniversary – at least we’re not yet throwing plates at each other. Happy anniversary anyway, Ned. You must be due for parole soon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Sank 'eavens for leetle girls

Home again, home again! I hope you’ve all had a good weekend while we were away at the Christening of my great-nieces. It all seemed very successful, despite one or two hiccups. The twins are absolutely gorgeous, very smiley, but although I’d deliberately left space in my suitcase I wasn’t allowed to bring one home. I’d even said I didn’t mind which one I had – despite being identical and only 8 months old (though they were 7 weeks early so have to be thought of as being younger) they are developing distinct personalities – Lucy seems to be more of a scamp, and can roll over, while Emma’s more of a watcher at the moment. I’m sure that will change though! Ned and I were very impressed that within an hour we could tell them apart.

Lucy and Emma Posted by Hello

The Christening itself went as well as could be expected, given the fact that despite waiting half an hour we had to proceed without one of the godparents who’d managed to get lost within ten miles of the village, in an area she professed to know! The vicar seemed quite High Church and did a lot of talking so when it came to the actual dunking both girls were getting a tad fractious. I was doing my godparently duty with their older brother, retrieving him from the vestry and trying to help him be patient and wait till the end to see what was in the font, and to explain why the vicar was washing his sisters’ hair, and no, maybe he’ll be allowed to blow the candles out at the very end …The post-dunking bash passed without tears (the missing godmother eventually arrived), though both the stars had been put to bed before the excitement of the day overwhelmed them entirely and they toppled into total hysteria.

Our homeward journey was uneventful, although we did spot car numbers 191, 192, 193, 194, 195 and 196. What a shame we’re still looking for 190.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

One and one is what I'm telling you

A brisk walk around Banbury (brisk because I had to be at the hairdresser's at 2pm - yes twice in one year!), looking in shops both likely and unlikely to have something suitable, eventually turned up trumps when Ned spotted some attractive picture frames in a jeweller’s window. The trouble with so many Christening presents is that they are completely useless (“Oh thank you, that’s lovely, how kind”) and simply get put away in the attic, which is pretty much a waste of money. So we reckoned that these frames, although not suitable for children, might actually be used one day in the future when the girls are older (if they haven’t been broken by then – the frames, not the girls). Anyway, they’re bought and wrapped, and all we have to do now is remember to take them with us.

Friday, October 15, 2004

It's a family affair

Forgive me Blogmeister. I have missed a couple of days’ outpouring, basically because I wasn’t in the mood, so tough. Not a lot has happened, so rather than witter on boringly I thought I’d leave you in suspense.

Tomorrow will be busier. I have the morning to get the washing doing and hassle Ned into walking the dogs, then hasten off into Banbury to look for presents for my niece’s twin daughters who are being Christened on Monday down at my mother’s village in Sussex. It’s not all her own personal village you understand, just a small part of it is. It should be quite a gathering of the clan, insofar as there aren't really very many of us, so will either be great fun or hell. Anyway, we’re off down there on Sunday, leaving the house and dogs in the ‘capable’ hands of the Boy, who has used up all his holiday entitlement and can’t get out of work on Monday, and who has promised to be in the house most of the time, especially overnight, and not to have any horrid mates round to vandalise anything this time. I wonder what disaster will befall Genie Towers this time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

You'll find that life is still worthwhile

Julianna’s sadness has struck a chord with me, because we so nearly went down a similar path to hers. Because the principles of ‘family planning’ are taught to people at such an early age you always assume that having children is as easy as falling off a log, and for many people it is; ironically enough, judging by the numbers of terminations that take place, it’s especially easy for those who don’t want children. Because Ned and I were almost ‘onlies’ (we both had older brothers, but they were much older, so not really playmates when we were young) we were keen to have several children quite close together. We were very fortunate to have the Boy without too much hassle, although I nearly lost him quite early on when we think his twin was lost. He was an awkward little cuss to bring into the world, and the damage done in the process meant we were told to wait a couple of years before trying for another. So we waited – a bit – then got bored with waiting, till it seemed that number 2 was due on the Boy’s second birthday. But I wasn’t pregnant. At the age of 30 I had had a premature menopause – no more babies. Ever.

It was devastating news. I felt like a freak. My dream had died, and it felt to me as though my much-wanted children had been killed. Yes, I know they had only existed in my mind, but there had always been the thought that one day they would be real. After months of tests and scans the prospect of IVF via egg donation was raised, but quickly dashed because of the shortage of egg donors and the full waiting-list. By the time I reached the top of the list I would have been over the upper age limit for treatment. My niece, bless her, offered me some of her eggs, but she was only in her mid-teens then, and not only would the procedure have been very unpleasant for her, there was the possibility that my situation was hereditary, and I knew I would never forgive myself if she missed out on her chance of motherhood due to her kindness to me.

So we settled for just having the Boy, and have tried not to put too much pressure on him merely because he has to be all our children rolled into one. If we hadn’t had him we might well have been tempted to seek private treatment abroad, and quite possibly had our hopes raised and dashed in just the same way as Julianna and her husband have. I’d hoped and hoped so hard that they would be lucky. I know what emotional turmoil they face in the coming months, and all I can do is wish them the strength to come to terms with this blow.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

When you wish upon a star

Nothing scintillating to report from Genie Towers, but please will you all keep your fingers crossed for a good result for Julianna?

Sunday, October 10, 2004

A, I'm Adorable

That man! I wish I wasn't so gullible. The trouble is, being a complete technophobe who not only doesn't know what she's doing has a deep underlying fear of the whole Intermawebwotsit anyway, trusts anyone who tells me what to do computator-wise. I should really know better, because I've used the same principle of "sound confident, then run very fast" myself, and it always works out alright in the end (for me). Except this time I'm the mug who's spent hours trying to relocate long-forgotten passwords which gain access to any numbre of vital sites, having fallen for the "to solve Problem A you want to delete your cookies" scam. So, obediently I do this, only to find not only does it not solve problem A, it at the same time creates problems B, C, D and most likely the rest of the alphabet as well.

If I hadn't taken the precaution of copying everything onto scraps of paper and stacking them in an organised heap on top of the CDs on shelf 2 over the computer I wouldn't be here to tell you this sorry saga.

Friday, October 08, 2004

But I'll stay quiet and then I'll go

That’s a line from one of my favouritest-ever cheering-up re-enlivening songs ever. Cracking.* :) Now I feel as though I could write the splendidest blog of all, which would then inspire me to enscribe at least one of the award-winning novels I have inside me but which are log-jammed somewhere about my diaphragm (which can be very uncomfortable after a heavy meal). However I’m sure the Muse (is it Erato? If so, how appropriate) would desert me after the third paragraph, as has always happened so far. None of this “I’ve started so I’ll finish” stuff. I’ve got a great title, and a brilliant opening line, but it weakens after that. Maybe I should take up hallucinogenic substances to clear the passages, as it were.

*What a tragedy there’ll be no more from such a marvellous voice.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Me, myself, I

It's been a very strange evening, being in several places, and having several identities, at once. Not only was I my usual physical embodimented triplicate personality (Jan, Ned's wife, and Boy's mum), I also had the JG persona in three, nay four places at once on the interwotsit. I was flitting between them like a butterfly, and now I don't know which way is up. So I shall go to bed.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Rolling down the road

Today’s major topic of conversation in the chat was of resignations, and the best way to accomplish them. Should you ask for a reference before or after you hand in your resignation, for example. If you do it before (and before they suspect you might want to leave) you might get a glowing report, but it rather lets the cat out of the bag. If you resign first they might be a bit miffed and not say such nice things. There are whole books about what has been put into references: “His men will follow him everywhere, if only to see what he’s going to do next” is one which springs to mind.

When I’ve left jobs it’s usually because I’ve been leaving the area and commuting would be impossible, so I’ve not been in the situation of, in effect, telling someone they stink and you’re off to work for someone nicer. I hate the ‘leaving ceremonies’ with a deep loathing, so tend to book a couple of days’ holiday at the end and just go on the Wednesday and not come back. Ned knows people who have simply not returned after their holiday ...

The oddest departure, though, was when I was living with my parents in the Borders. Dad was manager at a stately home, and the Family needed a new butler – a job that isn’t easy to fill because of the strange hours; wives of staff like this tend to get very miffed. Anyway, a series of temporary chaps had their month-long trials, and in due course one was appointed. He seemed happy enough in the job, but one morning was nowhere to be found. All his belongings were still in his room, but there was no sign of him, nor was there any message as to where he’d gone. After a couple of days the police were informed, but to my knowledge the mystery was never solved.

Back to the desensitisation – I’ve hit a snag. Piglet, the one who is most terrified of fireworks, is too clever for his own good, and has twigged (after 3 days) that if I go near the CD player something nasty might happen, and goes to another room to tremble. It’s not as if I don’t play any other CDs, for heaven’s sake!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Busy doing nothing

There’s something very daunting about opening up a nice new document ready to receive the latest enthralling episode of the events at Genie Towers, especially when nothing’s happened. I seem to have been very busy, but have nothing to show for it.

Ooh, I haven’t told you about the washing machine! The son-of-plumber arrived 10 minutes before he was due last Wednesday and fitted it for us. I’m glad we didn’t try doing it ourselves – the pipe-cutting would no doubt have gone horribly wrong. But it works, it’s quiet, it gets things clean, though I haven’t attempted a dog-blanket in it yet. It takes its time though – I can get a load started, take the dogs out for their longish morning walk and it’s not finished by the time we get home. So I have to do the laundry more often than I used to, which means there’s ironing to be done on most days. I hate ironing, but if there’s one thing worse it’s having ironing waiting to be done. I can’t bear to leave it because the things dry out too much so then it takes even longer. Now we have to decide where to put the old one – I’m bored with it blocking the kitchen door, so a new home will have to be found. I’ve suggested the garage or the tip ...

Monday, October 04, 2004

I am, I said

I'm not used to being assertive, and I don't think I'm very good at it, but I said my bit today and I think headway has been made, which is good.

Desensitisation stats: With the TV on as well we're okay at level 4.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Hush! Here comes a whizz-bang!

For many years the only dog we had who was bothered by noise was Bella, our old Labrador. She came from good working stock, but was never happy with bangs. She loved going beating until the guns started – then she tried to get into Ned’s pocket. She didn’t like thunder either, and a night-time storm meant she had to be allowed upstairs where she would try to sleep under our pillows. None of the others were remotely bothered by noises until the false Millennium – the one that was celebrated at the end of 1999. Then the fireworks went off thick and fast, and the dogs started getting edgy. That seemed to mark the start of people letting off fireworks at any time of year – birthdays, anniversaries, completing the washing-up – and the problem quickly escalated. By the time the real Millennium came around their nerves were in shreds. I made the mistake of taking the dogs into the garden for a late-night wee at about 1am and a badly-aimed rocket screamed towards the house and exploded about 20 feet above us. That was the last straw.

Since then every bout of fireworks, even on TV, has reduced the poor things to a quivering mess. If they are alone Piglet wets himself in terror, Beattie tries to dig an escape through solid brick walls and Harry and Clover try to cram themselves into the smallest, darkest space they can find, such as under the fridge. Of course you can’t comfort them, because in a dog’s mind comfort=praise, so they feel they are being rewarded for showing fear, and will do it more next time. So you have to ignore the fearful behaviour and praise them when they aren’t reacting. It can be very difficult getting the timing just right.

So to mark the run-up to the dreaded firework season we have started a desensitisation programme. We have a CD of nasty noises which is played at very very low volume (so quiet that it is barely audible) on and off for several days until they are comfortable with that. Then you gradually increase the volume every few days, but never enough to worry them, and hopefully by the time it all kicks off they will be at least a little less terrified. Today is Day 2, and the tolerated volume is level 2.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Well, who are you?

In SimonG’s almost empty chatroom tonight the topic of names came up. Although most of the regulars in there use aliases, we all know each other’s real names, and occasionally use them, especially when we meet – though it is very hard to think of a person by a completely different name to that which you’re used to. But very few people seem to have the name that they would have chosen, given a free choice of all the names available. I detested my full name when I was young, but I’ve become reconciled to its shortened version, and am now quite happy with that, although my JG persona seems to be encroaching rather a lot. When I was born my brothers offered suggestions for names for me, their favourites being the names of popular literary characters. Luckily my parents vetoed their ideas, thinking, quite rightly in my opinion, that ‘Noddy Rupert’ was inappropriate, especially for a girl.

But I have no idea what name I would have chosen.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Like a puppet on a string

Boo hiss to work assessments. :(

Hooray for loving families! :)