Saturday, December 31, 2005

By the left, by the right, by the centre

As we shivered in the garage stuffing banananas we considered the curious conundrum of Taste. Why is it that images of despots and terrorists of one political extreme are considered acceptable, such as Ho Chi Minh, Uncle Joe Stalin (who was responsible for the deaths of millions of his own countrymen) or Che Guevara, which we're assured is still a 'must-have' image in university halls of residence, whereas those of the equal and opposite political extreme, such as Mussolini and Hitler, are considered completely beyond the Pale? Political Correctness is an incomprehensible and dangerous thing.

Happy New Year to anyone who celebrates it. No doubt we will be awake till the small hours until our terrified dogs have finally relaxed from the fireworks let off by all the inconsiderate bastards within earshot. There's no excuse; anyone who hasn't been in a coma since the age of 5 is aware that fireworks terrify animals, wildlife and farm animals (many early lambs are aborted at this time) as well as domestic pets, so they're torturing them deliberately. Why not be content with church bells and vocal good wishes? That's all that's needed.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Do you promise not to tell?

It's a pity I can't tell you about today. It means you won't get to hear about how Ned hopes the lady he saw engaging in activities of a columban nature without previously drawing the curtains was our neighbour's son's girlfriend and not our neighbour (dog-walking with closed eyes is a risky occupation); and how the whimper that I thought was a signal of imminent collapse of a spinal nature turned out to be something else entirely, and which was even funnier than playing hide and seek in Tescos.

But if I told you about all that I'd have to kill you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Grown accustomed to your face

As we walked around Banbury, trying to find an open shop which sold pink thread, we passed a group of small boys walking in the other direction. One of them looked hard at Ned, with his Peruvian hat pulled down to protect his ears from the biting wind. A few paces on we distinctly heard him hiss to his friends "That was Father Christmas!"

I must get the clippers out and tidy Ned's beard.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Momma's got a brand new pegbag*

Yay! We managed to do 100 caches this year as planned! Today we did Pining for the "Ford"s for our 99th and Braunston Tunnel for our 100th. The latter was a much longer walk than expected (although a very interesting one), so I think it'll be one that sticks in our memories.

*My sister-in-law gives unusual presents!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

And a partridge in a pear tree

It's a lovely Christmas! We're all healthy, all happy, all home. Lunch was perfect

and the pudding burned nicely.

The dogs are walked, the fire's lit, and there are no more chores. Happy Christmas! Cheers!

*But I still can't dowse, even though I have lovely new rods. My dad could. Why can't I?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

God rest ye merry, gentlemen*

I think everything at Genie Towers is as ready as it's going to be now. The tree's in, up and dressed; the surface of the dining table's been found and polished; the cards are artfully displayed (thank you to all who've sent them - I can't remember whose cards I sent before the incident with my mother, which rather threw all my organisation out of the water. If you didn't get one, it's not because I don't care about you); Gertie the Goose is defrosting nicely; tonight's gammon's simmering while the honey-and-mustard glaze blends ready for roasting; I've hoovered and tidied and cleaned; I think it's time to crack open a bottle of something pleasant and relax.

I hope everyone has a merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2006.

*And ladies too, natch!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Fuels rush in

So, today I whizzed into Leamington to do seekrit shopping (reasonably successfully), chatted to an ITV person who was going to do a News report about the missing teenager (still no trace :( ), then decided to fill up with petrol because the fuel gauge is playing very-silly-buggers and is showing that we have three times the amount of fuel that the tank actually holds. Keeping a tab on how many miles we've done since the last fill no longer helps because after about 20 minutes driving all the counters reset themselves to zero.

Anyway, I got to the filling station - blessedly unbusy - grabbed the hose and opened the flap over the filler cap. Which wasn't there. Where it should be was a hole. I still don't know why I started searching for the filler cap on the roof and on the ground seeing as I hadn't taken it off. Then I remembered that Ned said he'd filled up in Banbury on his way home from his glingle-trip a few days ago. The fillercap might still be there! having topped up I bunged a rubber glove in the hole and drove off. When I got home I called that garage.

Me: "Is that the filling station?"
Her: "Yes"
Me: "Good. Now, this might sound strange, but have you had a filler-cap handed in?"

Pause while the girl at the garage roared with laughter.

Her: "We have a bagful of fillercaps under the counter. Come and choose one!"

So we did. It isn't actally our original one, but it fits. Just like Cinderella's fur slipper.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

All stood still

Why is idleness so tiring? Today I sat for two hours while we drove to Horsham, I sat for half an hour having a cup of tea with sister-in-law, I sat for an hour having lunch with mother-in-law, and I sat for two hours while we drove back. I'm sure my bottom has spread considerably, and I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

They seek him here

How difficult should it be to buy a jar of piccalilli? Very difficult indeed, if you're picky about the brand. It's easy enough to find jars of yellow gloop which masquerade as this elusive pickle, but the only variety we like is made by The Bay Tree Company; a really scrummy mixture with decent-sized chunks of recognisable vegetables. Many delis stock various Bay Tree products (we know - today we've been to most of them in North Oxfordshire, North Gloucestershire and South Warwickshire) but the piccalilli is conspicuous by its absence. Once we realised it was more environmentally friendly (and quicker) to phone first to check availability we managed to lay our eager mitts on the last two jars within a 20-mile radius. our Christmas gammon will be complete.

On another theme, my mother's vicar phoned today when we were out sourcing our sauce, and left a message to say he'd been up to her house to take communion to her. That's all very well, and I'm sure his intentions are good, but it would be more helpful in the long run to arrange for a member of the church society to collect her on a Sunday and drive her the ¾-mile or so to the church so she could be part of the community again, not isolated in her home. Putting her in touch with local people who'd do home-helping would be a practical help as well - it's not the sort of thing that people living 150 miles away can do. I'm well aware from when my dad worked at Westminster Abbey that this is a rather busy period for the Church, but I also know how willing many supposedly Christian people are to shrug off the more mundane aspects of the Faith. I really must call him back and diplomatically suggest these ideas ...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dashing away with the smoothing iron

Doesn’t laundry smell nice when it’s been out in the frost? It loses all the poofy fabric conditioner pong. It almost makes ironing pleasurable. Almost.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Gee, but it's good to be back home

I'm back. On Sunday I threw the dogs and a change of clothes into the car and went down to the Deep South to help get mother back on the road to recovery after her fall, because she was very unwell indeed. She still has no memory of falling, or being got into a taxi, or turning off her burglar alarm, or the taxidriver putting her shopping in the kitchen, or paying him, but has a vague recollection of him ringing the doctor. She spent the next three days (while my brother was staying with her - lucky him - I can't cope with vomit) throwing up every time she moved, of course getting weaker and weaker and more dehydrated. Three days after the fall the doctor gave her an anti-emetic injection and some tablets to do the same, and she started being able to keep down fluids. It was five days before she could manage a little soup and began getting stronger. She's still frail but I've moved her downstairs where there's an ensuite bedroom, got a raised loo seat with handrails and a racing-zimmer affair with a tray for when she needs to carry drinks or a plate, because otherwise she needs both hands for her walking sticks (when she's better we can play hockey with them).

As she starts feeling better she's regaining her spirit, which took a heck of a bashing. The doctor and I were discussing options of where she should be living, and she was so upset at the thought of care homes and the like she said the only place she wanted to be was with James (my dad). He died 18 years ago. I'm not ready to have her put down yet. It was very distressing to see her so sad.

The vicar got around to visiting her two days after my brother had phoned him to tell him what had happened and to ask him to help find someone in the village who'd pop in and see mother when she was on her own. Mother's helped at the church, cleaning, doing the flowers, getting communion ready and suchlike for many years - now it's payback time.

Mostly the dogs behaved themselves - they were very good and seemed to sense that mother wasn't to be bounced into, although Harry managed to set off her necklace alerter thing by cuddling her, making the phones ring and people asking if she was all right. It was embarrassing to say it was a false alarm, the dog had set it off, but a good test for the system! Piglet was a bit of a git, searching out all the holes in the garden boundary and getting out onto the road twice on the first evening. He and Harry had to be watched every second they were in the garden - not relaxing for me - and spent most of their walks on their extending leads*, and were never both let off at the same time. Oddly, the moment we got home and I let them out of the car he instantly shot across our road and into another garden. Little bugger.

I've left mother with plenty of soup and easy meals in the fridge, which will only need heating up, done her laundry and vacuumed and tidied so I hope she'll be able to manage. My brother's going over tomorrow - he only lives an hour's drive away - and the neighbours have promised to call in every lunchtime if she doesn't have anyone staying. I think I've got everything covered. I wish she lived nearer.

*Tip: Do not use extending leads in woodland unless you enjoy being wound around trees.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

How I wonder what you are

SimonG is great. Official. That is all.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ring a ring a roses

My mother phoned this afternoon to relate the tale of her shopping ‘trip’. Yes, she’s had another fall, and this time has concussion and can’t remember getting the taxi home, switching off the burglar alarm, the taxi driver putting her shopping in the kitchen or paying him. Luckily my brother lives only an hour from her, rather than my 3 hours (and other brother’s 10 hours). She can’t even remember falling this time, which is a worry. I don’t think she’s going to be able to live alone much longer, but every time we suggest she moves somewhere that we can keep a better eye on her she gets very stroppy.

They still haven’t found that missing boy, by the way, although the police have arrested another 17-year old on suspicion of his murder.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

They seek him here

When we were looking for a parking space in Leamington today, having gone in to see if Ned had been paid last month's salary (had he? what do you reckon? lying, cheating bastards) we were surprised to see a large police incident unit near the park, and all access to our caches taped off. There were frogmen in the river too. That's not usual for a Tuesday so it must have been something serious. There was nothing mentioned on the local news but later on we found this article. I hope he turns up safely.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

We don't know what we dig them for*

Watching a programme on archaeology, today we were amazed to learn that, when one finds evidence of a hearth, and the soil beneath bears evidence of burning, it's clearly a site of rituals.

Good Lord! That means people are performing rituals, such as watching TV followed by going to bed, in our sitting room.

*fails to find a lyric referencing grandmothers and egg-sucking

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The hill is the distant horizon

Yesterday we collected most of The Boy's belongings and today he came home for the holidays. He immediately went upstairs to have a sleep, came down for supper then went out to his mate's house. He might be back later. As soon as he's got his music system wired up again it'll be as if he never went away. :)

Friday, December 02, 2005

But a woman like you baby, should never have the blues

The more information we get about this French woman who’s had a face transplant the stranger the situation seems. At first we heard that she’d been ‘attacked by a dog’ and had the lower part of her face damaged beyond repair. This has certainly happened in the past, but it now seems that wasn’t the case. Latest information says that the woman had taken an overdose (deliberately? Not sure) and was unconscious on her sofa. Her dog apparently tried to rouse her – perhaps she was snoring or making other strange noise that worried the dog, or maybe she’d vomited – by pawing at her. Now I know that when I’ve dozed off on the sofa or curled up by the fire I’ve often been roused by one of the dogs pawing at my head (and their nails don’t half hurt when the rake across your scalp!). I’m quite certain that if I didn’t react instantly they’d repeat the scraping, just like this French dog did, getting harder the more worried they become. Yes, if the media is to be believed there were no bite wounds – the damage was done by claws. That's not an attack - dogs don't use their feet as weapons. It’s a bit harsh to be destroyed for doing your best to help your owner.

I hope the woman’s had sufficient psychiatric help for the original problems that led to the overdose, and that there’ll be a happy ending with the success of the transplant.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

There's no business like snow business*

Today we’ve mostly done nothing. It took Ned 3 hours to get home last night because of the snow, and when it froze overnight he decided not to go in today, seeing as it would have meant leaving at 3am instead of 4.30. It looked beautiful out first thing; the sun was shining and the sky was blue, but you only had to step outside to realise that the pretty snow covered sheet ice. I was very glad not to have to worry about Ned being in a ditch somewhere. We especially stopped feeling guilty about him not going in when we discovered he hadn’t been paid. Yet again.

So we’ve tidied the garden a bit, and I made some soup from the onions and artichokes I harvested some time back, and then we played “Try to see the dogs” in the field. When the snow isn’t deep enough to be a complete blanket but instead some of the grass is showing through the dogs are only barely visible when they move. If they stand still they instantly vanish. How to hide in fifteen empty acres.

*Well, someone had to say it.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

My eyes are dim, I cannot see

In an attempt to quell the rising tide of panicky out-of-controlness and uselessness feelings which have been building since a) I was made redundant and b) the Boy went to Uni, I'm having another go at transcribing an old family diary from 1858. I had a bit of trouble getting used to this bloke's handwriting when I copied the letters he'd written to his family, but they were in ink, and the diary's in pencil. Very faded pencil at that ("Paid $4.80 for bread for fifteen men."). My eyeballs may yet fall out.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

There´s no compare with the hard wood logs that's cut in the winter time

Today I, because Ned's been at work, have mostly been splitting and stacking logs. I don't think my spine will ever bend again.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Catch a falling star

Poor old George Best. The media coverage of his last few days has been in very bad taste, verging on ghoulish. I always hated football, but even I as a child could see that he was a rare talent. It was inevitable that he would live the high life – it was the 60s after all, when the playboy, jet set lifestyle was so glamorous. His downfall was almost inevitable, but such a tragedy. Live fast, die hard I suppose. Remember the glory days. I wonder if St Peter's applied for a 24-hour licence?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Yo heave ho

This morning, when I tidied Beattie’s blanket from where she’d blocked the back door, I put my hand in a large pile of cold dogsick. Just what I needed to start the day well. She’s since been sick on the kitchen rug and the sofa twice. Marvellous. I’ve run out of throws; I wish she would too.

Better news is that today we completed our first Bananana order – and got paid! Woot!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Baby it's cold outside

When two days-worth of freezing fog (-4°C) lifts, we get some very pretty sights.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hold your head high

It struck us last night, as we leaned against the bar, that once again we’d come out into a freezing night to watch granddads play great music. Yes, we went to see The Zombies and they were great. Boy, could they play? Terrific stuff; even the vocal abilities were still strong. Colin Blunstone could still hit the high notes in ‘Say You Don’t Mind’, and Rod Argent can get great sounds from the keyboard. And he still has a good head of hair – not as long as the old days, but still thick. (You notice these things after a certain age.) The current lead guitarist (Mark Johns) created some stunning sounds, and visually reminded me of Ned, many years ago, and badly smudged. His hair was similar, but not as lovely, and Ned's much more handsome. :) The bass player (Jim Rodford) in particular was knocking on a bit. I didn’t think he had any teeth, but Ned assures me he did, and that it looked as if he’d paid for them too. Put it this way, he was in a ‘successful local band’ when he introduced his 11-year old cousin (Argent) to rock music. The drummer was Steve Rodford; Jim's son. Was it nepotism? Perhaps he was on work experience - or maybe he was cheap! However I think it was probably due to his ability to play.

I hope I didn’t interrupt anything important ;) Mally, when I snuck you in the back (via mobile) for that great track. How was it at your end?

Friday, November 18, 2005


Every so often, in my guise of PuzzleDonkey mod, I come across someone who hasn't really entered into the spirit of the game. I don't think it's possible for an individual to complete all the puzzles without the occasional hint from someone else - certainly I couldn't! - but some people just don't want to try. The sums ones are my bugbear; numbers just don't do what I think they should, so when someone PMs me for help with a numbers one I can entirely sympathise, but my heart sinks because I rarely understand them well enough to give hints without making it too easy. And where would be the fun in that?

So this person asks for help with a particular puzzle

"hey wats doin, im havin heaps of trouble with this puzzle lol. im doing yr12 methods and im the academic prefect for my school, and i still don't get it, please i want to continue with this site, but this puzzle has put me off heaps. ive been stuck for at least two weeks, can't stand it! Any helpful help will be much appreciated"

and I give the stock reply of "Tell me what you've worked out so far - you might be nearly there". A long conversation ensues about how he (it could be a she, but I like to think a female would rise to a challenge better) thinks the answer should be X (not actually X, but I never give away answers!) but that's not being accepted. Then it's wrong, I say, and ask how he worked it out.

"Show me the equation you made from the puzzle components, and I'll see where you need to concentrate" I say. I got the following reply:

"i dont have an equation,i just put the figures into my graphics calculator program and randomized it. i cameup with possible answer with the given numbers, signs, and brackets, and all i got was the number 1. this question is really really annoying. i dont think i can be bothered to do this site any more"

There's not a lot more to say really.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

In my profession I'll work hard

But how hard can it be to find a simple line image of a clean window? I've been searching for hours and hours. At this rate I'll have to draw one myself.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Time after time

Two years ago today, two of The Boy's close friends were killed in a car crash. Today, so was another. Sometimes Life's really cruel.

We’re busy going nowhere

As it was Ned’s mum’s birthday we’d arranged to go down to Sussex for the day and have lunch with her at Ned’s brother’s house. Lunch was arranged for one o’clock so we set off shortly after 10.30 to be sure of being there in plenty of time to chat. Our hearts sank slightly when we saw the matrix signs telling us that the M25 was closed between Junctions 10 and 8 – we wanted to get off at Junction 9. We pondered getting off at 11, but the traffic was light and flowing freely as we approached it. No matter, we thought, 10’ll do and we’ll cut across country.

You know what I’m going to say, don’t you?

About 300 yards after Junction 11 the traffic ground to a halt, and it took over an hour to get between 11 and 10, most of the time parked with the engine off and everyone getting out to stretch their legs. Luckily it was a sunny day but the lack of suitable bushes on the verge if the need became too strong to ignore bothered me more than a little. It was 2.30 we finally got to Bruvv’s house. We greeted everyone, gave Ned’s mum her present, gulped down the excellent meal which had been saved for us, became a touch hysterical at M’s malapropisms and mispronunciations (did you know that nougat can rhyme with mugger? What a bougat!) and came home again.

We’ve had better Sundays.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

By the light of the silvery moon

It’s that time of year again; the time where my evenings are chaotic. If truth be told it’s not often everything in my life goes according to plan, but when we’re back into dark evenings my ability to time everything properly goes belly-up. You see I like to aim to have our evening meal ready at near-as-dammit 8pm – a civilised time when we can relax afterwards and not feel that there’s other things we ought to be doing. I can’t cope with a meal at, say, 6 o’clock, because it’ll be finished by 6.30 and there’s no way I could sit and do bugger-all for four hours till bedtime. So I’d be up doing chores afterwards, working up an appetite and then need something else to eat, and I’d very soon turn into a blimp. It seems that our mealtime’s out of kilter with the rest of the country, but when people go out to a restaurant for dinner, they don’t turn up at 6pm do they? No, they turn up at – ooh, about 8pm. So it seems clear that later mealtimes are the grownup thing. But I digress …

I tend to start thinking about preparing our dinner at dusk, when it gets too dimpsy to work outside any more and the gnats start biting. In the height of summer that might be about 9.30 (causing complaints from the clientele) but when the clocks change, and it gets dark early, I lose the ability to gauge when to start cooking and overcompensate. Tonight I knew it was too early to start when we were busy stuffing banananas in the garage by the light of a 5-watt (at most) bulb, then cleaning screens by moonlight. (It’s cold out tonight, by the way. We might even have the first frost of the season, which is well overdue.) So I ignored my instincts and stuck some banananas on eBay and sorted out one or two problems on another site, and did the ironing, and put today's banananas in their bags and ... oh bugger! Have you seen what the time is?

Friday, November 11, 2005

It's all gone quiet over there

At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month the guns fell silent at the end of the War To End All Wars. Even though that turned out to be a misnomer it’s good to know that people still pause in their day-to-day life and remember the people who are dying, even today, in the hope that they might be making the world a slightly better place.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I don't want to talk about it

Tonight I have a sore throat, which I narrowed down to a choice of two causes: either I'm coming down with bird flu, which seems unlikely because I don't feel the urge to eat Trill, gaze into mirrors or hit little bells with my nose, or I've been joining in too enthusiastically with the CD I bought the other day. I often sing along to most music (if it's a piece new to me I tend to be a nanosecond behind the note) but these songs are in a key I can hit without distressing either dogs or passing whales. I've had a lovely afternoon with Disc 2 (A Night In) of The Story So Far by Rod Stewart. Great stuff.

*Currently drinking Badger's Golden Glory, a beer which smells of mangoes. Interesting and not unpleasant.*

Sunday, November 06, 2005

When people run in circles

There's something very strange going on in Europe. No, I don't mean the way France seems to be imploding at the moment, but the fact that today this blog was visited by people from Germany, Austria and The Netherlands all of whom had googled "Let's twist again". Is there a Beatles convention happening?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Yes I can, yes I can, yes I caaaaaannnnn

Interview results? The company reported that I had been the best at the editorial test they set (30 minutes allowed, I’d finished it in 15), but felt I might not be sufficiently computer literate. Erm – I told them that for the last two years my work had been 98% computer-based, the remaining 2% involving the tea-round. If they prefer to employ second-best rather than negotiate for the best, then they’re not worth working for. Just as well I'd told you that I'd probably turn down the job, eh? Their loss, not mine.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Working like a dog

I was going to reply to Hutter’s suggestion of getting a job in a kennels in the comments, but it’d overflow the comment box so might as well be a blog in itself. :)

A couple of years ago I did that very thing – applied for the post of assistant manager at a local breeding kennel owned by a well-known charity. A kennel-maid’s job anywhere is rubbish – because ‘working with animals’ is a very popular career choice, the pay’s barely subsistence level for a school-leaver living at home, so it’s only pocket-money for someone trying to maintain a household. But a job at management level can have possibilities. So I applied and went for the preliminary interview, which went very well. My years of experience in dealing with stud dogs, brood bitches and rearing litters stood me in good stead; the interview went well and the tour of the kennels was very interesting; though I know where I’d make improvements. The kennels were beautifully clean and the dogs delightful – friendly and well-trained, and they responded well to instructions from me, a total stranger (which also made me look capable!). But the kennels didn’t each have free access to a separate outside run as I’d have liked – instead the dogs were allowed out of the kennels and into a run a specified times, as well as going for their walks, of course. Personally I’d have given them more opportunity to be outside … but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, I then had a lovely play with the 6-week puppies who were about to go to their intermediate owners; and cooed through a viewing window at the small litter of 2-day old pups. Then we started talking routine, and pay and conditions.

It was a full-time, 37-hour week, with varying shift hours BUT there was a catch. One night every 10 days had to be spent on site – and the time from when the shift ended at 7pm to when the night-shift started at 9pm had to be spent on site too – but was unpaid. The nightshift finished at 7am then you went straight into a day shift till 2pm, when you were finally allowed to go home.

I decided that a job requiring a person to leave her dogs, who wouldn’t be allowed on site for health reasons, and family alone for 30 hours unattended wasn’t for me. They invited me back for a second interview, but I declined.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I'm going to take my time

I met up with The Boy after his morning tutorials and he seems more positive having a) spoken to his tutor who can see there’s a problem and thinks he can help and b) discovering other people are struggling with the same stuff too so he doesn’t feel like the only thicky in the class. I think he said they’re going to be working together more rather than panic on their own.

After that I had my interview which I think went well – but even if they offer me the job I don’t think I’ll take it. They definitely want someone 5 days a week, and I definitely don’t want to work 5 days a week. I’m not willing to risk having to rehome the dogs because they’re left alone too long. Yes, I know loads of people leave their dogs alone all day during the week, and they say “Oh he’s perfectly happy, he sleeps all day”. Perfectly happy when his owner’s not there? You don’t have a very good relationship then if he’s not bothered. He sleeps all day? As opposed to reading a book, or doing the crossword, or doing an Open University course, I suppose. Face it, he sleeps because he’s bored out of his brain and it’s either spend the day comatose or chew things up just to relieve the endless tedium. Our lot are active during the day, pottering about wherever I am whether that’s in the garden or doing housework. Sleeping during the day is for when there’s nothing better – when they’re not “perfectly happy”.

The job sounds great, but not that great. Something better will turn up.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

There's a change in the air

It seems to be interview time. Ned had one today which seems to have gone well, but he’s not sure what to do. The workplace is a lot closer – at least an hour cut off each journey – it’s days rather than nights, but 5 rather than 3, and for a salary cut of £5000. Hmm.

After his interview Ned went to the site of a virtual cache that we thought we might as well get in the bag while he was in the right town and I was at home. No problem getting to the right place – the hassle is that the captured pic’s no good because the sun was in the wrong place. Bah!

And I have a follow-up interview tomorrow, having been recommended after the preliminary one I had last week. It sounds like the sort of thing I can do; proof-reading and inputting amendments, and liaising with graphic designers, for educational publications. It’s not quite full-time, but rather more hours than I was doing before – I’ll have to see if I can manage the hours to suit me, because I don’t want to leave the dogs all day, 5 days a week. Anyway, let’s see if I get offered it first, eh?

And The Boy’s just phoned up nearly in tears because at the moment they’re doing electronics and he’s never done it before, even at GCSE, and he’s completely lost starting at degree level. He’ll work on a particular calculation for 4 hours, and still get it completely wrong. I think unless his tutor can help him get this sorted, he’ll be one of the percentage who drop out. He says he doesn’t want to, but he can’t afford to throw money down the drain, doing something when he’s doomed to fail. He's seeing his tutor tomorrow morning, so I hope he'll get some help in getting out of this mire. I'm possibly seeing him tomorrow as well, so maybe we can get something sorted out.

Monday, October 31, 2005

It was a graveyard smash


Sunday, October 30, 2005

I do not like thee ...

I realise one should never look gift horses in their mouths and all that, and this was a prize in a competition, but it's truly horrible. Almost as bad as Montbazillac - one of the few wines we've poured down the sink.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Eye eye eye eye, See see senora ...

We're going to a Hallowe'en party tonight. We won't be dressing up - Ned's already going as 'The Keeper of the Ghastly Eye'. I can't compete with that.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Oh mother dear, please listen

Some people are just so arrogant I could scream. I was walking back through the village with the dogs and saw two young women – fairly recent residents in the village - with a few young children approaching. I (and the dogs) ignored the little girl in front with the scooter who screamed “Aargh! Dogs! I don’t like them!” and fled back to her mother and we kept walking. Our paths converged at a place where the pavement narrows, and out of politeness I stood, with the dogs, in the road just in front of parked cars, expecting a smile of acknowledgement from the women as they sped their children along to clear the pavement so we could all continue on our way. Was I right? No, the women decided that was a good place to stop and discuss the name of someone else’s child. One of them briefly glanced at me, but other than that I was invisible. Until I loudly said “Excuse me, we’re waiting!” whereupon they looked down their noses at me and stalked off. Honestly, they give us incomers (we’ve only lived in the village 16 years so are still ‘new’) a bad name.

And another thing. Why won’t my mother do as I tell her? Last week her ankle started swelling and looking red, so she went to the doctor who muttered something about ‘cellulitis’ and gave her some antibiotics. She phones me up to ask me to look up medical details on the net, then won’t take the advice I report. Despite the ABs making her feel queasy she’s taken the full course, but this morning she tells me the redness is now above her knee and the skin’s starting to peel off like a snake’s. I told her to call the doctor immediately, and she said no, she’s got a hospital appointment tomorrow so she’ll mention it then. When I suggest that it might be better to get it seen to sooner, rather than risk them admit her for IV antibiotics she assured me they wouldn’t do that, they’d give her an injection like they did when she had pneumonia in 1959.

I think I ought to pack a bag for when I have to dash down south after the hospital calls me tomorrow to tell me they’ve got her chained to a bed somewhere.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Take a chance on me

I went for a preliminary interview today. Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Why, oh why, oh why

There's often a downside to Simon's Good Ideas, and I've discovered the one intricately entwined with his (on the face of it, brilliant) pumpkin carving competition.


You see I was brought up by a mother (and father too, but this didn't apply to him so much as he was in Forrin Parts [no, not that sort so shuttup at the back] at the time) who coped with wartime rationing, and the concept of throwing away food is just not possible. So having toasted the seeds (probably shelling them first would have been good) the problem arose of what to do with the flesh of two pumpkins.

There's pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, mashed pumpkin, pumpkin souffle, roasted pumpkin, pumpkin chips. Pumpkin - why? No wonder as soon as potatoes were brought back from the New World and people stopped trying to smoke them and ate them instead, this waste-of-space fruit (if it's got seeds it's a fruit not a vegetable) was abandoned with alacrity from the British menu, no doubt with national rejoicing and a public holiday.

Addition: Ooh! I've just discovered another of its vilenesses. If you keep your two-day old carved masterpiece indoors it makes the room stink like a pair of sweaty trainers.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

On the road again?

We saw this mini when we were caching. I suppose it could be described as a ‘restoration project’. Or maybe not.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The man in the mirror

Are we the only people who are finding it slightly scary that SimonG is trying to become leader of the Tories?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Thank you for the days

I wrote a nice blog about how lovely today's been, what with us both having a lie-in because I'd switched off the alarm, thinking we were going to be away but we didn't go, and how it has been sunny so we went caching successfully, then how we had a jolly good evening at the cinema seeing Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit and then going to the Indian in Tiddington on the way home and having a fab meal. But when I clicked on Publish Post it vanished. I wonder if it'll magically reappear overnight? It's happened before.

Anyway it's been a lovely day. And I still don't regret marrying him.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

When I'm calling you-oo-oo-oo

It’s just as well that we weren’t able to book dogsitters for this week because we’ve given up all hope of going to visit Mother. Ned’s still not up to a drive of any length, so we’re staying put. Disappointing, but these things happen.

It’s given us a chance to sort out our mobile phone credit. At the beginning of the month we noticed it needed topping up (£1.34 was getting a bit on the low side), so Ned got the destruction booklet and his credit card and topped it up. Then got a message saying that the top-up service wasn’t available at that time. Poo. So a couple of days later he tried again, with the same result. Then we took it into the shop in Leamington and a nice young man took our tenner and managed to get the credit accepted. Hurrah! £11.29 (it cost 5p to make the call) will last ages because we hardly ever make calls on it. Apart from texting Mally at Cropredy to find out where he’s camped!)

Imagine our disgruntlement when the credit card bill came through charging us for the times Ned had tried to top it up. He phoned the card company and they said yes, the phone company said it had gone through fine. So then we called the mobile company and asked Nadia what had happened. She promised to look into it and call us back. And so she did – several times. There were glitches with the old system (“It’s a very old phone, sir.”). She was very good and phoned to say she was going home but would keep trying in the morning. This morning she rang to say she was still trying to sort it, and the system was up again. Later her manager rang to say that the credit had been transferred to the mobile but just hadn’t shown up, and he’d sorted it and now it was. This was a bit of a shame, because we didn’t want another £40 of credit on the phone, but apparently they can’t take it off again and refund us. So now we have masses of credit which will take us a few lifetimes to use.

However thank you Nadia at O2 for your help, and for calling to keep us up to speed. It makes a change to know that we hadn’t just been forgotten. I hope your manager gives you a bonus.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Mum to mud to mad to Dad

Last night The Boy was deposited back at Uni with a case of freshly-laundered clothes, a food parcel and a tummy full of roast beef, roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli, parsnips, gravy, apple strudel and ice cream. We promised to give his love to his granny when we went down south this morning to visit her, do some geocaching and a booze cruise, and be home again for his visit next weekend.

We’re still here. Ned’s back isn’t yet up to the journey, nor to lifting supplies of alcohol. Poor soul, he’s having trouble lifting a single pint, let alone a crate. So I rang Mother to tell her that we wouldn’t be down today, which startled her somewhat because she wasn’t expecting us till Friday anyway, even though I’d carefully explained which dates were involved. So, Plan A is discarded. I wonder if we have a Plan B. I hope so, not only because a) I want to see my mum and b) I’ve printed out several cache pages, but also because it's been ages since we last topped up the alcohol supplies and have been reduced to paying UK prices. This can't go on.

And specially for Laura – no, I’ve never been on a train going through Barnsley, and I can’t email you, I’m afraid, because I haven’t a clue who you are. Sorry!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Let's twist again

So, Ned goes away walking for a week, and covers about 110 miles plus a bit more for when they went the pretty way. He comes home, has a good night’s sleep, and puts his back out the very next morning. He’s now creeping around looking like Richard III on a bad day, and has lost his sense of humour. I can’t get further than “Now is the winter of our discon…” before something hits me. Tsk! Some people have no appreciation.

*mutters “the bells, Esmeralda, the bells”*

Saturday, October 15, 2005

And so peaceful until …

Boy came home for part of the weekend! Hurrah! He slept for 11 hours (“I love my own bed, Mum. I can turn over and not fall out”) then went off to Bristol and Ned’s come home, fortunately not too broken. He didn’t see much of the Lakes because they were walking in cloud for the first three days, but they didn’t get lost too many times (six started, three finished. Oops.). Piglet bounced and squeaked with delight at seeing his Daddy home again. Anyway I’ve had a lovely day doing loads and loads of washing, and am about to start the ironing. Back to normal, if only briefly!

Random observation: my left ear (the one I can't wiggle) appears to be allergic to henna. How strange.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Everything I need

I was going to regale my loyal chums with details of the fascinating time I had cleaning the oven with that obscene-sounding product 'Cillit Bang', but instead I've filched a topic from Stu, who in turn shamelessly lifted it from Miss Sixty. Go to Google, type "(Your name) needs" and choose five results at random. I'm not sure what to make of mine ...

JG needs to check the number of wheelchairs allowed at the venue
JG needs to address this ASAP.
JG needs to be a man and make a retraction
JG needs to find her groove again.
JG needs so much more

However, if I use my 'real life' name, it's worse!

Jan needs a Man
Jan needs to attack Basso for a 2nd place finish.
Jan needs a rest
Jan needs to be seen today
Jan needs help

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

You're all alone

Which isn't entirely a bad thing when you're poleaxed by a migraine.

My eyes (which have lost the ability to focus) feel as though they want to roll up and round to look at my skull, my scalp feels too small and there's pain all down the back of my head, my neck and my shoulders.

I hope it's got nothing to do with Sweavo's Plank of Excitement. I need that like a pain in the ... oh.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It's oh, so still

I'm bored.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

It’s oh, so quiet

Ned’s alarm went off at 4am for him to go off with his gang (think ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ but with more beer and fewer baths on wheels) to the Lakes. They plan to do the first half of the Coast-to-Coast path, which starts at St Bee’s in the west and ends at Robin Hood’s Bay on the east. (I'm not sure exactly how far they plan to walk this week, but it's beyond Kirkby Stephen anyway. The second half is planned for April.) In the past when they’ve gone off to play together, whether it involves canoeing trips or other long-distance walks, I’ve had The Boy coming home occasionally, so there’s been human company. This is the first time I’ve been left with only the dogs for company. It’s awfully quiet. And cold.

The rain steadily falls, trapping me indoors. This is it, I suppose. I’m going to have to do some housework.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I was once like you are now

It was good to be reassured that buffalos haven’t been genetically modified to fly (good grief, can you imagine the damage caused by cowpats falling from 5,000 feet as a herd passed overhead?); neither are ‘buffalo wings’ anything to do with extra-large sanitary protection. But we didn’t go into that bar for lunch anyway – we found somewhere that did two reasonable meals and two fair pints for under a tenner, which was the price range we were after.

I’d met up with The Boy in Smiths, and was so engrossed in reading the magazines ('My Body Was Eating Itself' and suchlike intellectual matter) that I didn’t notice him standing beside me until my mobile rang and I heard his voice in the other ear as well (“Look behind you, mum”). It was lovely to chat with him over lunch and find out that it’s only the weekends he finds dull. Weekdays are fine, with plenty to do, but they don’t have a common room as such, or a TV room, so the only place where you can ‘really chill’ is your own room (not even the Union bar, apparently), and after a while you go barking within the same four walls. Anyway, this weekend he’s off to London, then next weekend he’s combining a home visit with a friend’s party in Bristol (he can buy his own petrol) – she doesn’t actually live in Bristol but several of his gang are at Uni there so they decided that was the best place to have her party!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The cow jumped over the moon

I'm meeting The Boy for lunch tomorrow, and then we're going to have a lovely time in Sainsbo's. But I've been wondering where to go to eat, because ideally I'd like him to have some Real Food, and not have to go to BK, or KFC, or PH or anywhere that can be initialized. To that end I've been racking my brain to locate 'proper' restaurants in Leamington. Some I've discarded as being overrated and overexpensive, but the yellow pages lists one with a website, so I've just had a look. I don't think we'll be going there because I need both my arms and legs, but one item on the menu intrigues me. Has anyone ever tried 'buffalo wings'?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I miss you

My Boy's discovered homesickness.

My brothers and I discovered this when we went to boarding school, so by the time we went to uni we were over it and it seemed perfectly normal. I know it's something that needs to be worked though, and it's easier to work through when there's no alternative, but at uni there's always the possibility of leaving if it seems overwhelming. Boy's been away from home before, but only on holidays when you know you're coming home soon, not when end of term's 10 weeks away.

I was going to visit him next weekend, but he says he's going to London to visit his girlfriend and his mate, so I'm going to fetch him home for the weekend in a fortnight.

I miss him too.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Walk this way

A fab day group-caching with Paul g0tlg, Jenny and Chris, and Stu and Sarah in Leicesesesestershire. A prompt meeting was followed by an hour or so’s rambling (and performing strange ritual dances)

in pursuit of the various stages of this particular multi, which was supposed to take about 1½ hours – which would have been accurate if we hadn’t managed to get horrendously offtrack on the final stage before the cache, ending up at the spot we should have been looking at from across the other side of the river; Ned sulked because he didn’t get to use his binoculars. I successfully avoided taking out anyone’s eye (though Stu came close) with the useful garden cane (required) sticking from my backpack, like the aerial on a dodgem car, and nobody fell in the river even a bit.

By now it was time to adjourn to a local hostelry for lunch (to which we really must return sometime because we were a teensy bit felonious). By the time we were ready to attempt another local cache we found it was past 4pm and we really had to get home. Now we’re finding all the places we ache – legs, feet, back, shoulders … time now for a curry, a pint, a hot bath and an early night. A good day in excellent company.

Friday, September 30, 2005

I wanna jam it with you

I wonder if it'll set properly?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

It's oh so quiet

I'm having a day off from 'my' woodland restoration. Boy's timing was immaculate - he should be doing it.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Bye bye baby

We only set off an hour and a half after we'd planned, so that wasn't bad. Then 10 minutes into the journey Boy (following in his car) rang us to say he'd forgotten his phone charger so was going back for it. Three minutes later I rang him to say while he was there he could get the milk, cheese, bacon, sausages and mayo that I'd left in the fridge ...

So we finally got to uni and joined the throng of people laden down with belongings, like refugees. His room's pleasant enough - I'm not sure why the wardrobe door has a hasp and padlock on the inside, and I don't think I really want to know. Then while he unpacked some of his stuff so that we could take the boxes away with us, we went and did a couple of caches that were within a mile or so - although it's very near Coventry there are some very pleasing sights:

Then it was time to make our farewells and take away the unwanted boxes, and his car, which he's not allowed to have on campus. Bless him, he forgot to tell me it was nearly out of petrol. It made the journey to Leamington 'interesting'.

I was very good and didn't blub once. I wonder if I should phone him tonight, or wait till tomorrow?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I know you’ll all point at me and laugh and tell me how silly I’m being, and I wouldn’t blame you. I’m doing the same thing myself. It’s always been part of the plan, and now it’s imminent, which surely is a Good Thing, but the nearer the time comes to the Boy going to uni (63 hours and falling) the more stressed and worried I’m becoming. There’s so much to organise and pay for and it’s all very complicated. Not only that, apart from being my son he’s my friend, and I’m going to miss his company, especially when Ned’s working. Yes I know he’s a grown man, but part of the maternal job description is to worry and care, and I’ve been doing it very successfully for 19 years. Now I’m redundant. Job done. Next generation raised and sent out into the world. So if I suddenly start howling please excuse me. I’ll get over it, and find my sense of humour somewhere. I might have packed it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

And rest your head for just five minutes

As some of you know, Genie Towers is a pleasant (well, we think so) if somewhat untidy, but ordinary house, as near as dammit identical to many millions up and down the country built at the same time.

Although we have no plans to move at the moment (I haven't really recovered (or completely unpacked) from the stress of moving here in '89) every so often we see houses we fancy. We saw a lovely house for sale the other day (bliar hasn’t yet found a way of charging on daydreams) and went to the estate agents to see the details. It’s a lovely house:

though maybe a tad on the large side unless we plan to expand the family – which isn’t imminent. Besides, until we’ve won the lottery we can’t afford such a magnificent residence. The thing that seems strange is that they say it’s in the same council tax band as Genie Towers.

I think I may have to contact the council and demand a rebate.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Me and my shadow

Beattie is a very silly girl. She’s never been one to appreciate change, and she got a bit distressed when I started paid work again two years ago. Now not only is she bothered by my not going out to work now, she’s also picking up on the tension that’s building as the time nears for The Boy to leave for Uni. She’s a clingy girl at the best of times – when you call her she gallops over as fast as she can and sits as close as possible, usually with her front paws on your feet, gazing up into your face, desperate for reassurance and praise. That’s not sufficient at the moment – when she can’t physically be with us she performs a ‘displacement activity’ to relieve her stress. Some dogs will howl, some dogs will destroy things – Beetle self-mutilates. Rather like a child sucking its thumb, she’ll lick the nearest part of herself – her wrist – until it gets sore.

Then, because it’s sore, she’ll lick it to relieve the soreness until, rather like Lady Macbeth, no matter how hard she scrubs with the wire brush, she can’t get rid of the blood. So, until she feels able to relax again, it’s a case of ‘whither thou goest, there go I’.

Friday, September 16, 2005

It's fun to wander through the alphabet with you

Today I bought:

Crusty bread
Cow juice
Complete dog food

I couldn’t find which aisle had cannabis so I didn’t get any.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

the glorious annual ugly bug ball

About this time every year, walking the dogs through the fields is a hideous experience. Every footstep releases clouds of newly-hatched daddy-long-legses emerging from the grass, and it always reminds me of a weekend back in ’81 when we had a training muster at Shearsby. We were camping in fields adjoining a pub, the landlord of which very kindly left a side-door unlocked at night so that we had access to the toilets. On the Sunday morning, bleary-eyed and somewhat the worse for wear after the socialising of the evening before, my pal Shelley and I, both clad in long calico shifts, strolled over to avail ourselves of the facilities. We entered adjoining stalls to continue our gossip erudite conversation (“Did you see who Dave Thing was chatting up?” “No, really? She must have been drunk.” etc) and settled ourselves comfortably. I’m told my shriek as I was assaulted by a rampant daddy-long-legs who’d been lurking in the pan could be heard in the next county.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Crawling for your love

Look what we found in the garden today! I wonder what sort of beautiful flutterby he'll turn into?

And will Ned get a horrible rash on his hand which will then drop off?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hey, Mister Tally-man

Ned spent a lot of yesterday outside in the rain (look at the downspout from the guttering),

with the hose, making preparations for today’s planned bananana stuffing. As well as some (now quite straightforward) one-colour pulls (new design though) we went over a learning-precipice and tried a bit of two-colour work. And crumbs, it’s much fiddlier and more time-consuming. Getting the two screens exactly in register when they don’t move easily and you’re having to gauge distances by eye and getting ink on yourself results in a lot of very colourfully-described wildlife. However the results were pretty good, and Ned and I now each have logo-enhanced clothing. The logo may yet evolve further, but so far it’s looking not too bad.

I’m not looking forward to our attempts at even more colours though.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Bend it, bend it, just a little bit

Way back in the Dark Ages, when I was a doped up laid-back art student, we had an enormous piece of equipment in the studio that, once you were stood on a box and drew the curtains around you, enabled you to tweak the proportions of any part of your artwork until you were happy with the result. How we'd have loved to be able to save and print the final result! But no, we had to trace it from the flat screen.

So why, several centuries later, can't I do the same thing on a computer? It's not a complicated procedure so it's obvious the programmer would have installed the facility to isolate any part of the artwork and enbiggify, ensmallify, or in any other fashion manipulate the image. Put the cursor on a point and pull it to distort it. Basic stuff. So why the wombat didn't he make it easy to find? I've worked out how to do things on Publisher which can't be done on Illustrator, and vice versa. I can't believe I have to skip back and forth from program to program to do a simple task that would take 10 minutes with a process camera, a pencil and piece of paper.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Living in the past

I bought a book! It’s a book I’ve been seeking for more years than I care to remember. My mum used to get it from the library for me quite often when I was young, but I haven’t seen it for years. Yes, it’s a children’s book but I loved it. And now I’ve got my own lovely sparkly hardback copy which has been excellently looked after (well done, Jo Mitchell!) and I’m getting tremendous pleasure revisiting it.

It’s called ‘Charlotte Sometimes’. (And before you ask, yes it's called that the rest of the time as well!)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

We'll meat again

When we went to the maize maze ten days ago we stopped off at a pub for a snack lunch to lengthen the time we’d have to make our escape before we perished. The only snack-type things they did were filled baguettes which, despite the choice being somewhat limited, were fairly substantial. So much so, in fact, that I could only manage half of mine (ham salad), and carefully wrapped the remainder in the napkin to take home for later. However when we got home I couldn’t find it. I looked under my seat, under Ned’s seat, in the back – no sign. Very odd – either I’d only imagined I’d taken it from the pub and my grip on reality was becoming increasingly tenuous or I’d lost it somewhere. So I gave up.

Today Ned traced the source of the unpleasant smell in the car. The baguette had been safe on the glove shelf all along!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Flowers in the park overgrowing

When we saw that some farms are having their hedges flailed at completely the wrong time of year - all the berries for the wild birds are being destroyed - we decided that picking some blackberries had moved up the list of priorities.

Having a couple of boxes to put blackberries in is a castiron excuse to linger near picnicking muggles who are just about sitting on the cache you want to find. But the end result (both the find and the berries) is well worth the scratches and stings. We were surprised how few brambles there were in the hedgerows, though.

Mmmm - I'll be able to make some lovely blackberry-and-apple crumbles.

There were other interesting finds, too:

Your nuts, sire

Sunday, September 04, 2005

And on that farm he had a ...

Friday evening saw Ned and me sat in front of the TV in eager anticipation of a good educational programme about 17th century homelife, a series (poo, we missed the first episode) called “Tales from the Green Valley”. The reason for our eagerness was that one of our oldest chums (well, he’s not the oldest as in being old, because we’ve got friends older than him, but he’s been a good friend for … ooh, about 30 years) features heavily in it, and we know how picky he is about accuracy and attention to detail. So we felt rather let down when the programme turned out to more of a Junior School introduction to the subject, and with several basic mistakes and omissions.

For instance, when a pig is slaughtered you don’t lay it on the ground to bleed it (and collect about two pints of blood); you hang the (already dead) pig up by a hind leg to get all the blood (about a gallon) out, for your black puddings. The slaughterer also perpetuated the common mistake and referred to the testicles as ‘sweetbreads’. Tcha! Anyone who paid attention in O’level biology classes knows that ‘sweetbread’ refers to only two parts of the carcass; it can be either the thymus gland or the pancreas. Not the testicles. However we chuckled mightily at the archaeologist bloke going greener and greener as various organs were removed from the carcass – our mate Stuart (who was remarkably clean for the cameras) – I expect you know him too, henners, he was in Norfolk's – is much more down to earth about such things. I don’t think I’ve ever known him squeam over anything. Then they explained about using the washed intestine as sausage skins – but they didn’t show them being washed, which they did on Channel 4’s ‘Worst Job in history’ series, where Stuart got Tony Robinson washing them (there’s been a lot of filming one way and another!). The women doing the culinary creations were very good, though.

The chaps making a wattle-and-daub wall were using an unconventional method of daubing, by only doing one side at a time, rather than having one person on either side and doing both sides of the same area at once – much firmer and more weathertight, but requiring a lot more skill. But they did a good job for novices – better than I could have done, I’m sure - so that’s the main thing. The thatcher was enjoying using a slightly different technique (twisted hazel pegs and rope, not iron ones and chicken wire) to that which he usually uses.

Taken as a whole, it’s a pretty good basic introduction to the subject, but we’d have liked a lot more depth. And we know that, given the opportunity, Stuart can talk for England about it!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Gotta hold myself down

The more I see of the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the more bizarre it becomes. It’s a natural disaster, so I can’t feel the outrage I felt after September 11th or July 7th (or any of the multitude of IRA atrocities) because those were all just evil. The planet doesn’t do evil things out of malice and hatred – things just happen. But there’s a very odd feel to the debacle of the so-called ‘evacuation’, and the complete madness that it’s degenerated into. After all, this is the richest country in the world, with a huge army and vast resources, and yet after, what, 5 days?, there are hundreds of people dying because there’s no food or water or medical supplies being brought in. There were more emergency supplies on the ground in south-east Asia after the Boxing Day tsunami than are in a region (albeit a region the size of the UK) of America.

How can people help? Humanitarian considerations compel us to offer assistance to any human beings in such disastrous circumstances, no matter which country they’re from, but what have we got that the US hasn’t got more of to call upon? More manpower; vast oil (if oil was a problem, petrol/gas would be much more expensive than it is, more like the price it is over here) and food stocks; the armed forces have squillions of helicopters and trucks for airlifts and transport; so why has it descended into anarchy in the streets?

It’s a terrible tragedy, and suggests that there’s something basic lacking in the American infrastructure.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Little donkey

Ned’s on strike again tonight, because August’s salary hasn’t gone into the bank. It was meant to go in last Friday. Wombat.

We’ve got our car back – hurrah! Apparently ‘the cat had broken and gone through from front to back’ – no, I don’t understand either. But it explains why I prefer dogs. Though I'm told the dogs in the distributor can be awkward.

Having been reminded by others, I had a look to see how people had stumbled upon this blog. One had googled ‘breakers yards banbury’, but I can’t find the link on the first few pages. However I’m a bit worried about the person who arrived through Google Images, having typed in ‘donkey do’. I imagine they were expecting something else.

Monday, August 29, 2005

That's where you'll find me

We went on a nature ramble today, and we found blackberries (yummy);

and crabapples (a bit blurry cos the breeze was blowing the branches);

and sloes (where's the gin?);

and elderberries (mmm, wine!);

and rowan.

Oh yes - and loads of remarkably well-grown nettles which stung Ned to mongoosery (curse those Romans for introducing them) - and four caches.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Meet me on the corner

I'm either having a Senior Moment (shut up at the back there!) or I already posted this and it vanished and now I'm tryiong to remember what I said, whcih is pushing it.


After we chuckled at Mally and Maddy having problems replacing a cache (so did we) we went off to enfortify one of our own, which people had reported as having fallen from position. So we got there, and Ned grabbed it, then noticed a muggle sitting on the steps not 10 yards from him. We ambled off to a bench to swop over the log and waited till he'd gone. We waited. And we waited. For ages. We watched while he did his deals. We wondered where the police were to move him on. After half an hour or so we reckoned my shoelaces needed tying, and we managed get the micro in position. I hope.

*Clicks 'Publish Post' more in hope than anything*

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The grass is as high as an elephant's eye

Well, not grass, really – maize. Ooh, we did have fun at Hidcote maze! First Simon arrived at Genie Towers, then Lorry, then finally Mally and Maddy, who’d overslept. We had two mazes, actually, because we didn’t have a very good map to get to the site (the maps are in the other car, and we don’t know where that is), and went up and down many rural lanes before we decided to adjourn to a pub for lunch. Refuelled, we made a second onslaught using Lorry’s gps, but abandoned that when it wanted to take us across a field and down a footpath. However success was ours – we scorned the offer of maps and boldly set off into the maize, clutching our flags on 6-foot poles to wave if we needed help. In hindsight it might have been a good idea to find out what we were actually looking for, but there were 10 numbered boards scattered around with little puzzles to collect letters to unanagrammize and solve a puzzle. The first five were found in order, then we found number 5, then we found number 5, then we found number 5 … we’d got into a loop. Whichever direction we went we ended up back at number 5. So we changed tactics, and decided not to try to get away, whereupon we found numbers 7 and 6.

Lorry had decided the best way to carry her flag was to shove it down the back of her clothes which left her hands free. Unfortunately it meant that, to avoid getting stuck under the bridges, she had to either bend double or limbo. That was when Ned and Mally started playing,

Insertion Posted by Picasa

and she ended up with more poles down her clothes than she really wanted. This made her wider than the paths and tended to get left behind when everyone ran away giggling.

Result! Posted by Picasa

Then hurrah! We found ourselves at the central point, and got yarrred at by other venturers. We met them several times actually – sometimes from behind, sometimes head on, even when we were trying to get to the same place. We found number 5 several times more, then number 8, when one of the guides on a bridge asked us if we wanted help. Tchoh! Couldn’t he see we were bold explorers? We scorned him, cantered on and found ourselves at another bridge, still with two more boards to find. He hailed us “You should have turned left after number 8, not before it like you did … twice.” Cheeky swine! Saying ‘twice’ was quite unnecessary! Besides, we didn't feel like yelling the explanation across the field - that we were avoiding a small child who was busy excavating the depths of his sinuses via his left nostril, leaving the findings encrusting on his face ... Anyway, number 9 was found, and number 5, and then hurrah! Number 10! Now all had to do was get out …

*searches books and the web for the difference between a labyrinth and a maze*

Friday, August 26, 2005

Don't let me down

On Monday we tried to drive into Stratford in the rain, but our lovely ‘new’ car started coughing and spluttering, so we took it home again. On Tuesday, in the lovely sunshine, we took it into Banbury, and although it didn’t feel quite right and didn’t have its usual acceleration we didn’t worry too much, until we were about 3 miles from the village when it suddenly died. Hopeful fiddling did nothing, so we called the RAC who were on the scene within 15 minutes. The nice young lad also tinkered with various of its entrails before giving up and towing us home. So next morning we towed it to our usual garage (I hate being towed – 30 mph when you’re only about 10 feet behind the towing car is terrifying, especially when you’re afraid the back of the towing car is going to fall off as it struggles up the hills) and hoped to have it home in the evening. They opened it up and tinkered and couldn’t find out what was wrong. Yesterday they still couldn’t find what was wrong. Today it’s at another garage being plugged into computers, and they can’t discover the fault either. There’s fuel getting through, the starter motor’s turning, there’s a spark, but it just won’t fire. And now it’s a Bank Holiday weekend so it’s stuck there till Tuesday. I expect they’ll have to take it to a main dealer and we’ll have to auction several bodily parts on ebay to afford to get it mended.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A fool such as I

I hate it when people forward bogus warnings...but this one is real*, and it's important. So please send this warning to everyone on your e-mail list:

If someone comes to your front door saying they are conducting a survey on deer ticks and asks you to take your clothes off and dance around with your arms up, DO NOT DO IT!!

IT IS A SCAM; they only want to see you naked. I wish I'd got this yesterday. I feel so stupid now.

*May not be 100% true

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

In the darkness of everybody's life

Isn't life horrible at 2am and you can't sleep?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Swing low ...

For those of you who've been puzzled by the Oshkar option, here is Oshk, the inspiration behind the name, who has figured large in our lives for many years. We thought the alternative spelling would help people pronounce it properly ...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

If he hollers

A) Bananana *note that spelling could create problems*
B) Oshkar

Votes please.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Here we go round the mulberry bush

Since my lovely job came to an end I’ve been vaguely looking for alternative employment, though where I’m likely to find another situation remotely as congenial, I don’t know. My last pay-cheque went into the bank at the end of July and my P45 arrived in the post, so I decided to see what, if any, benefits I was entitled to in the meantime – and officially get my tax and National Insurance and all that dull stuff sorted out and on record – it might help The Boy get more in the way of financial support at Uni. So off I pottered to the JobCentre.

“Oh no, madam, things have changed, you can’t do that here.” I was told. “You must call this number and give them your details over the phone so they can make you an appointment to come in and talk to someone.” So I phone the number. And get informed I’m in a queue, but my call will be answered eventually; or would I prefer to try again later, between 8am and 6pm? So I call back later, and hang on, and get the same message. Over the past fortnight I’ve been trying at all available hours to talk to someone – so far the longest I’ve hung on is 15 minutes – and this isn’t a Freephone number, so it’s all going on my phone bill.

Two weeks it’s taken so far, so I returned to the Jobcentre to be told firmly that ‘the government’ says they’re not allowed to talk to people without a telephone-arranged appointment. Keep hanging on – there’s usually only about 20 people in a queue. Oh, and I was also told that I could try between 9am and 1pm on Saturday. I don’t know why – when I did the answering machine told me they weren’t open on Saturdays. How the wombat is this supposed to be helping people? I wonder what’ll happen if I go back and ask to use their phone to call, because I don’t have any money to pay the steadily-mounting phone bill? I’m getting angrier and angrier. Where’s henry’s Big Gun?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Bring it on back to me

When I came downstairs this morning Clover (who you may remember is nearly 13 years old and almost blind) was sitting bolt upright in her bed and Beattie (who’s 10½) was up and about and very agitated and apologetic. We’d had a thunderstorm last night so I assumed they were still upset by that and went to put the kettle on before I let them out. That was when I noticed that the kitchen window was wide open, and my weighing scales gone from the windowsill. How odd. Glancing around I saw that the side gate was ajar, so all the dogs and I went out together to make sure I didn’t have them going exploring. That was when I noticed, through the garage window, that the main garage door was half open. That wasn’t right – The Boy had definitely shut it when he put his bike in last night – it’s a noisy door and I heard him do it. It was when I went round to shut that as well that I noticed how roomy the garage appeared – three of The Boy’s bikes were no longer there. Arseholes. We’d been robbed.

The police were very good and had a rather dishy young PC (I must have been traumatised because I let him go again) round within the hour to take statements, by which time I’d phoned Boy to break the news and Ned was home from work. We all had a prowl around to see if anything else was missing, and discovered that our two camping-stoves had gone from the shelf, as well as Ned’s chainsaw (so Hutters, you’re safe for the meantime). The main body of the scales was found at the side of the garage and its brass trays were on top of the hedge (slightly surreal); the garden poo-shovels had been moved from beside the water butt to under the garage window (even surrealler). I hope the bastards catch something horrible and die painfully (although the fingerprint man says they wore gloves).

Now I’m afraid they’re going to come back and take the other bikes from the rack, and the mower, and the bananana machine, and … and … and … and come into the house and kill us all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I could be happy

Some years ago, on this very machine, there used to be a programme where I could scan in a picture then tinker with it, pixel by pixel, which was very useful for restoring some of my family’s old damaged photographs, some dating back to the mid-1800s. However since the Great Explodification it’s vanished (along with the Works In Progress) which makes it very difficult for me to alter images for the Bananana Factory. Surely there’s something inside this infernal contraption that’s reasonably idiot-proof? All I want to do is resize, tidy up, separate colours into layers then monochrome – preferably before the keyboard-impression on my forehead becomes a permanent scar.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Like a rolling stone

These are counties I've lived in:

County map
I've visited the counties in yellow.
Which counties have you visited?

made by marnanel
map reproduced from Ordnance Survey map data
by permission of the Ordnance Survey.
© Crown copyright 2001.

And these are counties we've found caches in:
County map
I've visited the counties in yellow.
Which counties have you visited?

made by marnanel
map reproduced from Ordnance Survey map data
by permission of the Ordnance Survey.
© Crown copyright 2001.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

How do you like my feather bed? How do you like my sheets?

I like them lots! Though it must be said last night I was as snug as the proverbial bug in my fleecy sleeping bag liner and my other sleeping bag and another one over the top. The airbed still had a bit of buoyancy and I lay on my back feeling all cocooned. That was at 1am ish after the festival ended and my legs and feet and back and arms ached from dancing and my throat ached from adding my voice to the 19,999 others singing ‘Meet on the Ledge’. A brief summary:

Thursday, setting up camp and meeting Mallers and going to the field and getting rather tipsy in the sunshine listening to ‘Tickled Pink’ was great. Ned hadn’t had any sleep after his nightshift so got very tired and I started getting concerned that he might not last the evening. I was also a bit concerned about Mal too, especially when he picked up Ned’s feet and tried to tip him backwards off his chair. It didn’t work anyway, cos Ned just folded. My suspicions about Mal were confirmed when, after informing me that he thought Ned might be drunk, he fell off his chair, so I suggested a little lie-down might be sensible. So we parted with Mal at his tent and said we’d phone before we met at the main gate at about 8. Ned did indeed need a little rest because he didn’t wake till 7.30. The next morning. At 11.22 Mal had texted ”Blimey! That was a good sleep! You guys awake?” I reckon he guessed we weren’t.

Friday’s line-up included Big Eyed Fish, Edwina Hayes (great singing voice, very squeaky speaking voice), the Muffin Men (I missed them because I was back in the 'servants' quarters' roasting a chicken) but Ned said they were good), the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (great entertainment), Richard Thompson (who it seemed that only death would make leave the stage) and rounded off by the Dylan Project (see previous blog). We went to bed, bloody freezing – you could see your breath. That’s not right for August.

Saturday: Disappointingly unsunny in the morning. Mallers collected Tammy while we did our daily trip home to find that the Boy had yet again failed to look after the dogs the way we’d told him to, so came back to the site in a bit of a grump. Richard Digance opened and as usual worked the crowd well. Then ‘T and LaTouche’, a reggae band from Manchester, came on and sadly brought the rain with them. Shame, cos they were very good – sunshine music with dampness. The audience reminded me of pictures of Bridlington in the rain, stoically sitting under brollies and tarpaulins but determined not to miss out. After a few hours getting decidedly soggy, and the rain dripping off the umbrella into our beer, we reckoned another interlude was called for, but we had to rush back clutching sausage-and-egg butties so as not to miss too much of Beth Nielsen Chapman, who was excellent. Then at 8.30 it was the main event – Fairport Convention and guests (once more it Richard Thompson took some shifting). What more to say? They were fab.

One of the nice things about Cropredy is that the performers aren't too high and mighty to come 'front of house' and mingle with the audience and watch the other acts. I had a chat with Simon Nicol about Tabasco (on the plane he'd been bewailing the fact that they ran out last year so when he was at Cox's Yard we gave him his own sepcial bottle), and also to Peggy about the lyric of Matty Groves (cracking song, performed superbly last night) - he assured me there isn't a definitive version, so Lord Darnell, Lord Arnold or Lord Donald are all equally acceptable.

It was a lovely weekend made even better with the great company of Mally and Tammy (and no, I still don't believe that photo of my 'blonde' bits). I’m already looking forward to next year and submitting an order for sunshine ...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Smoke gets in your eyes

Ned went back to work last night after eventually being paid and I spent the evening wrestling with ebay – reasonably successfully. I’m sure I’ll find I’ve made some catastrophic blunders, and we’ll end up losing out. Ho hum. I also started trying to transcribe an old diary from 1857, but it’s written in pencil and is very faded. It makes my eyes go all squinty.

This morning I went into Leamington and failed miserably at a) finding a new collar for Piglet and b) signing on. If that cleric who’s fled to the Lebanon can live here for 17 years on benefits, I’m sure I can manage a few months. (They told me I need to phone up to fill in a form then they give you an appointment to go and complete it or something. It seems much more complicated than it was in the 70s. I’ll try again after the weekend, unless we win the lottery first.) Then this afternoon I set some rice to boil for Clover because she’s got the squits, had a senior moment and promptly forgot about it until the smoke alarm went off and woke Ned. I hope it’ll be possible to rescue the pan because it’s the only one the steamer fits onto. But it’s good to know the battery in the alarm’s still working.

Can anyone remind me what I should have bought to take to Cropredy tomorrow? My mind’s gone completely blank.

Today’s Zen thought: If a man stands in a forest talking and there’s no woman to hear him, is he still wrong?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Hard to tell if anything is going to sell

Yesterday saw us at our freebie evening at Cox’s Yard, seeing The Dylan Project. Now, I like Dylan’s music, but not his voice. This lot played the music extremely well, and Steve Gibbons unfortunately did an uncannily accurate imitation of Dylan; very good and clever, but disappointing. Lots of people can do Dylan stuff without sounding like him. However, it was a free night out so gift horses’ mouths shall be left unexamined. It was pleasing to see that Dave Pegg and Simon Nicol are still talking to one another after whatever happened on the US tour.

The Dylan Project Posted by Picasa

Today has mainly been spent sorting out banananas; when Ned rang a supplier for information to be sent to us the supplier recognised the name; if it’s memorable it might be a good idea to stick with it! The packaging has arrived; postal charges are determined; photos have been taken. Advertisements are being prepared, and I’ve had a fab idea for a logo but don’t know how to get the computer to do it for me. Hours have also been spent trying to get my head round eBay’s labyrinthine twists and turns; the hoover’s being worked overtime clearing up the hair I’ve torn out in frustration. Surely it’s not as difficult as it appears?

And the Boy phoned from Newquay to ask us if we knew where he’d put his car keys since he last saw them at 10 this morning. Oh God.

*feels really smug about the double-whammy title*

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Numb me, drill me, Floss me, bill me

I don’t like having fillings replaced. It always hurts more afterwards than it did before. And why do dentists ask you questions when they’ve just stuffed your mouth full of hardware? And I’ve been contaminated with a Northern lurgy, which has given me a very sore throat and a deep, husky voice. Oh, and Ned’s on strike till he gets paid. Of course, they'll dock his days' absence from his salary when/if they do get around to paying their workforce. But sometimes you've just got to make a stand.

Addition: Are we the only people who get a RunTime Error once we've clicked on the right-hand side of Mongers' site? It starts off as something about bundebangles, then the computer crashes ...

Monday, August 01, 2005

You must have been a beautiful baby ...

Emma (or Lucy) Posted by Picasa

Lucy (or Emma) Posted by Picasa

Unfortunately I couldn't get a picture of them together at the reception when, for I think the first time in their lives, they wore identical dresses. But once they're released they scatter. One day I'll snap them together ...

Sunday, July 31, 2005

I remember you-oooooo

So, on Saturday we got up an hour too early and drove to Birmingham International to get our plane to Glasgow for my nephew’s wedding do. The first couple of times I flew (US and Sri Lanka) I went in a jumbo, and last time when we went to Italy it was a rather smaller plane, but still quite sizeable – one aisle and 5 seats wide. This time we had the sort of plane that needs to be pushed to the big elastic band at the end of the runway in order to get enough speed to get airborne (Embraer 145 if anyone’s interested). Two seats on one side of the aisle and one on the other, and not enough headroom for Ned to stand up straight. Still, it got us there, and my brother met us at the railway station. The afternoon was spent at his house with family then we went to the hotel to have a sleep to keep us going till the evening. The do went well – the show was stolen, as expected, by my niece’s twin daughters, who at 15 months old are walking like zombies with their arms held out on front, and have grown even more similar than they were last time I saw them, and are stunningly beautiful. We didn’t drink a lot – not at the prices the bar was charging (“A pint of beer and a glass of wine? Let me relieve you of six of your Sassenach squids, sir.”)

After a very hot night in a ground-floor hotel room with only patio doors and no window, which found me in the wee small hours sat butt nekkid playing at punka-wallah and fanning the outside door back and forth to get some air, my brother gave us a lift back to the airport. After a minor squabble about who was going to sit by the window we watched the other passengers boarding. “Ooh, doesn’t that bloke look like Stu?” we said to each other. (Regular readers may experience a touch of deja vu here.) “Scuse me, are you Chris Leslie?" asked Ned. And it was! Then Simon Nicol and Ric Sanders appeared. The only Fairport member missing was Dave Pegg. We asked them how the American tour had gone, and there was a horrid silence. “The first eight hours were fine” said Simon “then we broke the bassist. Bass players are rubbish. They only play two notes and manage to get those in the wrong order …” It sounds as though there had been a major falling-out. Oh dear. Anyway, we chatted about having our Cropredy tickets, and seeing them at Cox’s Yard. “We’re playing there again on Thursday”, Chris said. We expressed interest, and then Simon said “Give us your names and you can be our guests. It’ll only cost you a pint … of tequila.” So guess where we’ll be on Thursday night?

Friday, July 29, 2005

Who's sorry now?

Whilst wandering around Banbury in a bit of a strop about the expected non-appearance of a certain sum of money, we watched enthralled as a delivery lorry reversed up a pedestrianised street to make a delivery to a pub ("Thursday night is Litten Kitten night"). The resounding 'booiiiinnnnggg!' as he backed into the tall ornamental castiron postbearing two substantial hanging baskets, leaving it at a very arsy-tarsy angle, attracted the attention of many other passers-by, and we waited to see the driver's expression when he examined his handiwork.

And we waited.

And we waited some more. Nothing. He didn't appear. We walked past the lorry and saw the driver leaning on a bell trying to make his delivery, and Ned asked him if he'd seen what he'd done. "Of course I have, I know what's happened, I'm not stupid." was the reply. We were a tad puzzled at that as he definitely hadn't bothered to look and clearly didn't give a toss.

So we took his number and reported him, and came home feeling a little better.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The time rolls on those minutes fly by

The electricity man’s note said he’d call back sometime this morning. Surely he won’t be much longer?

I’m getting really ratty, because I can’t find the program we used to have to let me tinker with artwork. Grrrrr!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Who shall have a fishy

Rather than spend a few happy hours in bananana-related activities (I have some nice ideas, but finding suitable artwork is proving troublesome), yesterday was mainly spent in the pond. I noticed a couple of days ago that the goldfish weren’t very interested in their food but thought no more of it. Then yesterday morning I reckoned that the ones who were on their sides at the surface didn’t look all that well. I picked on out and it gasped and flipped a bit so I put it back in while I went to prepare an intensive care ward (a bucket filed with very aerated rainwater from the butt). As I lifted them out the movement of the water released a vile stench – a full pond-cleaning job was called for. One of the worst tasks in the world. It means carefully baling out buckets and buckets of water and sieving it for wrigglers (mainly tadpoles in varying stages of development and efts) before pouring it down the drain. Some fish seemed okay, others were a bit rocky and a few threw off this mortal coil whilst in intensive care. The dogs were fascinated, and had to be restrained from rescuing the fishies from the water.

Anyway, as the water level got lower and lower the smell of the sludge at the bottom got worse and worse; and it was too deep to reach from the side. This is the stage I hate the most, when I have to get into the pond to pass the filled bucket up to Ned. The stinking mud gets right into your skin and no matter how much you wash afterwards you can still smell it. Now that it’s all refilled the surviving fishes seem much happier. What’s the betting the heron appreciates being able to see them better and scoffs the lot?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Makin up a mess of fun

Hooray! We've stuffed our first banananas!

One bananana ... Posted by Picasa

Two bananana ... Posted by Picasa