Friday, April 28, 2006

The world's a nicer place

Do you remember when we were discussing the possibility of getting the GPO Post Office to pay the customer when sending helium balloons in the post, because the postal charge is based on weight, and enough helium balloons would make the parcel lighter than air, so logically should incur a negative fee? Sadly it doesn’t work in practice, because Ned’s brother’s family sent him just such a parcel for his birthday yesterday, and they had to pay postage, even though the empty box is genuinely heavier than when it was full of balloon. Perhaps they didn’t send enough balloons.

They also sent him a strange toy chicken which squawks and dances when you press its wing. This served to drive the dogs into a frenzy - very entertaining for a while until Harry was brave enough to launch an assault, grab it by the beak and wrestle it to the floor. Time to stop the game. Unfortunately Beattie decided to extend the game a stage further this morning when one of our neighbours' new chickens stupidly decided to explore our garden. It didn't lose too many feathers before I managed to chuck it back over the fence.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

It's rabbit pie day

There I stood, Big Boss to one side, client in front, staring transfixed at the computer screen which was covered in meaningless codes. Think of a rabbit in a car's headlights.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The only way is up

The second shift was somewhat better than the first – with a friendly, helpful person at my shoulder I managed to input a couple of appointments and coped with some payments. Tomorrow I must answer the phone (I loathe phones at the best of times) whilst simultaneously finding client details on one screen and appointment times on another, and deal with people in the tiny waiting room all at the same time. Honestly, computerisation’s made things far more complicated than they need be. If you want to make an appointment, what’s wrong with a diary? If you want to find out how much something costs, what’s so wrong with a price ticket? It’s so much quicker than trying to find the right screen to find the code before you can look up the price – in fact, clients can do it themselves, while the staff do something more important!

The Practice Head's the duty vet for tomorrow's shift. Advantage: fear is a handy weight-loss tool.

Monday, April 24, 2006

I hear it calling but I’m too scared to move

My first morning in the new job – and I don’t know how I’m going to get on. To say I was nervous would be understating the situation – I’ve been anxious and not sleeping well since I heard I got it. So many things to remember, and all at the same time – computer codes for everything, making appointments, sales, clients; how to use the credit-card machine; the ways the different vets like things done (today’s vet seems quite nice – the Big Boss is, I think, a different kettle of fish – he disapproves of women wearing trousers, for starters. Well he’ll just have to wait till I can afford to buy a skirt and shoes – but it adds to the stress); ordering replacement stock; dealing with the security alarm … it just goes on and on. And all the time the phone rings and people come in and want things … I’m exhausted, and terrified of getting something wrong. I don’t know if it’s going to be right for me or not.

I’m glad I’m not a vet though. Today saw a woman make an emergency appointment for her boxer which had run into brambles and had a sore mark on its eyeball – turns out there’s a thorn embedded and it needs surgery to remove. The woman said that she brought the dog in because “you can’t be too careful with eyes”. “You’re right – it happened this morning, did it?” asked the vet. “No, last Thursday”. We all picked our jaws up off the floor – the vet was very diplomatic. Then there was the couple who didn’t know whether or not their dog was too fat (yes it was) and the man who thought he might have to have his new rescue dog put down because she barks at people who go past his van (yes, she’s guarding it. That’s what dogs do). And all the time I must stay schtum.

I was so pleased when it was time to come home. My brain feels as though it’s trickled out of my ears, and now I feel sick with fear at the thought of being there tomorrow afternoon. I hope it gets better soon – at the moment I don’t feel very happy about it; surely it can’t be that hard? I hadn’t realised what a battering my confidence has taken over the past few months; and of course I loved my last job so much I’d forgotten what people usually feel like about working. Of course I can stick it – Ned’s been doing a job he hates for years – I can’t possibly bottle out after a few hours.

*Repeats mantra: I am a minion. Keep it buttoned*

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Drip drip drop, little April shower

Note to sons of elderly mothers:

When you’re advised, during a long drive, that a stop at the next service station might be a good idea, take heed. Unless you actually want the seat of your new car flooded, of course.

I’m so glad it was nothing to do with Ned.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Another manic Monday

Woot! I start working at the vet's next week!

But because I'll most likely be working less than 16 hours a week I'll probably still have to be signing on every fortnight to get the NI and pension credit to avoid being too far below the breadline when it comes to retirement.

I predict I'm going to get horribly muddled about when I should be where.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Curses! Foiled again

So, over the weekend we made an assault on a particularly tricky cache, mainly to get our grubby little mitts on a certain Travel Bug, with the final part of co-ordinates to another cache, needed for yet another one … anyway, southwards we went to the start location. The first bit was straightforward then several minutes were spent searching for the second part. That was eventually found and all the details for the next options were duly noted so we set off to start scouring the countryside. To and fro we drove, criss-crossing the countryside trying to find suitable parking places within reasonable walking distance of our various destinations, all the time not knowing what size of object we were hunting – some of them were described as ‘unusual’, and we’d concur with that! However there was too much to complete in one day, so we came home.

Next day we returned to continue where we’d left off; however after about half an hour’s searching in likely and unlikely places we drew a blank with our first hunt. That was a bit of a blow, so we went to the next nearest option – and failed to find there, too. I thought I had it when I found a rotting stump with a squirrel’s skull (I think it was probably a squirrel anyway – certainly a large rodent) in a hole; but no. This was disastrous – if we failed on the final option we might as well go home – but hurrah! success within moments of arriving at the site, which gave us two further choices.

It was at this stage we came across hills. Very, very steep hills. So steep that it was almost easier to crawl up on hands and knees rather than walk – but it did at least allow me to appreciate the primroses in all their sweetly-scented beauty. However that turned out to be a dead-end trail; as did our final possibility. An email to the cache owner for confirmation of our co-ords was called for; time to get home (via another cache on an even bigger, steeper hill). It turned out I’d misheard part of the details and written 4 instead of F, which had thrown us out by about a quarter of a mile, and we looked forward to the coming weekend’s continuation – and hopefully completion – of the hunt.

This morning I read that somebody else found it on Monday and has taken the Bug. Damn damn damn! Where will it be placed next? And do we go bother to return to complete without the goal we wanted?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Saddle up your horses we've got a trail to blaze

“The sun’s shining; what shall we do today?” asked Jan as she leapt joyfully out of bed in the morning. “Gnnnrrrrrrrrruuuhhh” replied Ned through several layers of bedclothes and small primates. “Ooh goodie, I’ll get ready then” said Jan, and off to the bathroom she scampered, looking forward to the day’s activities. Several hours later the chores were completed and the two were ready to set off on their Adventure in southern parts.

The journey south was uneventful (for them anyway; the chap on the hard shoulder watching smoke and flames billowing from his car might not have agreed) and, with only minor queries and tetchy recalculations from Henrietta-the-Navigator the first destination was reached in good time. “Should we have the picnic now or later?” wondered Jan, her tummy rumbling at the thought of the yummy sandwiches, crisps and lashings of pop which were nestling on the back seat of the car. “Both!” laughed Ned, so they each took a sandwich leaving the rest for their return, and off they set on the search for the treasure.

They’d made a careful copy of the original map with the clues and they studied it intently – after coming all this way it wouldn’t do to get lost now! But all was well and they skipped merrily from one landmark to the next, taking particular care to note accurately any details that might prove essential in the hunt. Potential disaster was narrowly averted when they noticed strange reflections on the ground ahead of them, and directly in the route they needed to follow. “That’s water!” exclaimed Ned, and they made a detour to avoid getting trapped in the bog. At last they had all the clues needed, so after finding a secluded spot to make themselves comfortable, they settled down to solve the arithmetical problems. “It’s that way! Come on!” said Jan excitedly, and the pair eagerly sallied forth on the final stage of the quest.

Along the path they went, lizards scuttling out of their way, until they reached the dark forest with its shaggy-coated guardians. “Come on, we’re nearly there” encouraged Ned, and bravely they ventured under the trees. And there it was – the treasure! It had been carefully hidden from prying eyes and its location was undetectable to someone without the map. Ned and Jan cheered and examined the contents of the treasure chest, taking a beautiful pen as their reward, and leaving a book for a future seeker. They carefully hid the box again and returned to their car.

“I know; let’s visit a local inn for refreshments. We can save the picnic for an emergency” suggested Ned. “Good idea” agreed Jan, and Henrietta heaved a sigh of relief that, once more, the two were following her instructions, and led them a few miles further into the forest to a Tavern. “Two glasses of your finest ale please, Landlord” ordered Ned as they entered the bar. “The landlord’s not here, but you can have your drinks anyway” responded the young man, and served them with alacrity. They took their drinks to a quiet corner and enjoyed the rest from their long walk. As they left to start the long journey home they left a parting gift, captured on a recent trip to the barren wastelands of the Far North, for the absentee landlord on his return, their mission accomplished.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

When you say nothing at all

Copious quantities of starch have been applied in the vicinity of the philtrum, and normal service has been resumed.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Your old road is rapidly agin'

The Boy's announced that he's moving in with his pal Oliver, who's renting a ramshackle house in the middle of nowhere. I knew he wouldn't be with us forever - and perish the thought that he would, unless we magically had a vast house where he could have a wing to himself - but he's good company when he's around, and it'll be strange without him. I won't redecorate his room straight away (although I'll start planning colour-schemes) just in case.

This umbilical cord-cutting hurts.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Put your feet upon the water

The sun was shining and the birds were singing as the dogs and I strolled by the river that flows around King John’s Mound (the remains of a motte-and-bailey castle) on our morning walk. The violets were flowering under the trees and would have smelled delicious if there’d been more warmth in the sun. The peace and tranquillity soothed my soul after the hectic hours since dawn. Ned had woken later than he’d planned due to not having set his alarm properly (he still arrived in the Lake District at 10.30am after stopping at Blackburn Market for black puddings, Cumberland sausages and Lancashire Tasty (“Cheese, Gromit”) en route), and The Boy had arrived downstairs somewhat later bewailing the injustice of accidentally waking early when he didn’t have to. (Was I cruel to chuckle? Nah! Discover diurnality!) Anyway, all that was forgotten as I watched Harry, Piglet and Beattie hunting through the undergrowth ahead of me, working as a team, and Clover bumbled along behind me stopping here and there when she came across an interesting sniff.

So we strolled on, me keeping an eye on the boys to prevent them doing a sudden runner, when there was a quiet but definite ‘splosh’ behind me. I turned; there was no sign of Clover. Not good – dalmatians just don’t ‘do’ water. If they go in, it’s accidental. I sprinted back to the riverbank and saw her, six feet below me in the water, covered in mud all on one side, turning her head this way and that as her near-sightless eyes tried to make sense of where she should go. I think I went down that bank almost as fast as she had, the difference being that I stayed upright. The poor old girl was very relieved when I grabbed her collar and helped her back up to dry land again.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A healthy grown up busy busy bee

The sun's shining and I'm a busy little person, tidying and cleaning Genie Towers inside and out. I wonder how long it'll be before I burn myself out? If I can make it last all the time Ned's away the house will be transformed and gorgeous. Let's hope the weather holds, because when that fails, so will I.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tell me more, tell me more

I've been called by the vet's receptionist and asked to come for an interview with the vet on Friday, so that's good - at least I made the shortlist of 'people we can work with'!

A slight short-term problem could be (if I get offered the job in the first place) when they want me to start. At the first interview I said I can start any time, but my mother phoned and told me that she has a date for her cataract op; April 28th. That means I'll have to go down for a few days, at least till she's able to remove the bandage and use the eye because she's only got about 5% vision in the other eye and there's nothing they can do to improve that. I can't leave a frail lady in her eighties with rubbish balance to cope by herself virtually blind.

And it means I'll have to go down the day before the op. Ned'll have to celebrate his half-century alone. Poo.

Monday, April 03, 2006

One thing is certain, we'll never give in

Our top pond is full of knots of froggies making tapioca. :) It was March 16th they started last year. That'll be global warming then.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hello teacher, tell me whats my lesson

An article in today’s paper sent my blood pressure through the roof and plunged me into the deepest, blackest despair. We were given two exam questions:

“I am in the middle of my exams and am going to be taking ___ in June.”

Which word would best fit the space:
A. those
B. them
C. this
D. it

“On the map, the distance from the port to the destination is 27 centimetres. The scale is 2 centimetres to 5 kilometres. The actual distance is ?

A. 2.7km
B. 10.8km
C. 67.5km
D. 135km

I know there are some 8-year olds who’d have difficulty tackling those questions, but most 11-year-olds shouldn’t find them too taxing. So what the fuck* are they doing in GCSE papers?

*Sorry, I know that’s a very rude swear but I’m incandescent with rage. They expect us to believe that exams aren't being 'dumbed down' and that children are getting cleverer and educational standards are improving? I've never heard such a load of bollocks in my life. It was bad enough a decade ago when there was an exposé revealing that a 1970's maths O-level question had turned up in a 1980's A-level paper, but to have 11+-style questions in GCSE papers is just outrageous.