Thursday, August 31, 2006

Give them a low-down beat

Stu mentioned in passing in his blog that it’s conventional, when entering an apartment in Finland, to remove one’s shoes. I’m sure Finland is a lovely country with delightful people, but the shoe-thing crosses it off my list of places to visit. No offence intended to anyone, but you see, I simply can’t bear the habit of removing shoes in other people’s houses. When did it start? Perhaps it’s a generation thing, but when I was a child we were taught to wipe our feet on the doormat before we went into a house – the mat wasn’t just there for show! If you were going to curl up on the sofa to watch TV or read a book, then you took your shoes off, but put them on again to walk about the house. Perhaps it started when central heating became more common – the houses tended to be too darned cold to go without shoes! Elderly people especially find socks on hard floors slippery and dangerous, and those of us who have trouble with our feet often find walking without shoes is actually painful too, so apart from feeling compelled to be impolite (on a par with being invited to fart or pick one’s nose in public) there’s physical discomfort as well. And bare feet mean everyone spreads their athlete’s foot and verrucae. Eeeewwwww! Maybe I’m foot-phobic and it’s entirely my own problem, but I simply hate having to do it and it makes me miserable. So I won’t, unless not doing so would cause a scene, which would be even worse manners.

In my own home I certainly don’t want other people’s stinky socks all over my carpets, and I don’t want to risk doing the same to other people. I won’t tell you to put your shoes on again if you do take them off – the laws of hospitality forbid making guests feel uncomfortable. It’s highly unlikely that visitors have just washed and powdered their feet and put on clean socks before they come to the door, so visitors, please simply wipe your feet on the doormat to leave the dirt outside. If necessary I’ll hoover after you’ve gone!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

We can make it if we try

Helping The Boy move into his new place reminded me how shit rented accommodation, especially student rented accommodation, is. It’s a strange house; from the front it looks like a normal three-bedroomed semi-detached, but there’s been an odd extension on the rear (yes I know ours is weird too but this is odder) making the kitchen longer and putting another room (Boy’s bedroom) on beside it. However this has meant that what used to be the back room downstairs (now used as the communal sitting-room) is now sandwiched in the middle and has no natural light at all. The floorboards on the landing are decidedly dodgy, but the bathroom’s modern and lovely (redone this year, according to Boy). After taking the first carload over we rushed back for the rest and I also took over my vacuum and cleaning materials and gave it a bit of a sprucing. The carpets were still grimy and the kitchen was … sticky. And there were crumbs in the drawers.

Last night none of the others he’s sharing with had arrived so he went to his pals’ house for some company, but they’d gone to a party. So he watched their TV instead. My heart went out to him when he told me.

When they organised the rent for the house he was still planning on being at Warwick, and it would have made very good sense, because only first-years are allowed to live on campus and Leamington’s halfway between home and the University. But because he’s left there it’s now actually further away (and more expensive) from the college he’ll be at than if he was at home. When I chatted to him about it he told me that if he’d known he wouldn’t be at Warwick this year he wouldn’t have arranged to live there, but he did, so he’s there.

I know he’s a grown man now, and I understand that he needs to be independent, and thank God for it – there’s something not quite right with a person who doesn’t need to strike out on their own. Perhaps if he was in a job and able to support himself I’d feel happier. Perhaps if he had a better grasp of finances I’d feel happier. Perhaps if he wasn’t actually further from where he’ll need to be than Home is I’d feel happier.

I’ve never been good at Letting Go, and these apron strings are bloody hard to cut. But I'm a carer by nature and inclination, and the day I stop wanting to care is the day I should be shot. We need to win the lottery and buy a great big house with enough wings and floors for all our family and friends to have separate apartments and yet all be close together.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Just the two of us

Something always goes wrong when you’re moving house. When we moved to Genie Towers (it was only going to be temporary, but 17 years on we’re still here) we were at the back at 9am loading our van for the first time, ready to bring stuff here, empty it and return for the second load (it was only a small van) when the large van of the person buying our old house turned up at the front. We hurried and hastened and I took a car laden with plants, dogs, toddler and sundry other belongings to the estate agent’s office to get the keys to the new house only to be told the money wouldn’t be transferred till lunchtime and I couldn’t have the keys till then. This being in the days before mobile phones I then drove back to the old house to pass on the good tidings, having stopped at the new house where the men with our van were waiting patiently. We managed to get the keys when the office opened again after lunch and it all turned out all right in the end, but the experience was traumatic.

So I was right not to expect The Boy’s move to go swimmingly. We loaded his car and ours, and he set off to the estate agent to collect the keys, and we were to meet him at the house. His phonecall saying that one sharer’s first month’s rent and deposit hadn’t been paid and could he borrow £400 rather caught us on the blind side.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Another one bites the dust

Good intention, that is. The Boy's moving out tomorrow, so I planned a special meal for the special occasion, but was told when I'd started cooking it that something else entirely had been anticipated for days. Apart from not being able to justify the expense of a Chinese takeaway right now, perhaps if something had been said sooner it might have been arranged and we might not all be left feeling somewhat disappointed. And the gorgeous steak, although not entirely wasted, would have been properly appreciated.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The first cut is the deepest

We have a bit of a dilemma, and don't know what to do. Clover who, as you may or may not know, will be 14 in a couple of weeks so not in the first flush of youth, has several lumps and bumps in various places on her body, none big or bothering her. But she has one, less than a centimetre in diameter, on her neck which has decided that it won't heal. Harry and Piglet keep trying to clean it for her which of course knocks off the scab again and keeps it open. We've tried various ointments and unguents and powders and incantations at the full moon but nothing works. If we want to sort it out properly it'll have to come off, and one of the vets I work with is happy to do it with me assisting - because leaving her in a strange place with strangers would be very stressful for her and simply isn't an option. But that'll involve a GA which can be risky at the best of times, and although her heart and lung function are good I'm loath to put her through that unless it's absolutely necessary. We just don't know what to do for the best.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

You keep saying you've got something for me

Remember I thrilled you all with a picture of my poor worn-out old sandals? I searched the shops and the internet and couldn't find any the same, so I bit the bullet and ordered a pair of a different style, but which looked okay. I'm not keen on buying footwear on spec because I've got strange feet and not a lot of shoes fit anyway, and over the past few months my left 'had none' piggy has started randomly going into spasm in certain shoes, feeling as though it's been bent right back and is about to snap off. Then it gradually eases and I'll be able to walk again. So I was a bit dubious about buying without trying, but they were cheap ...

I placed the order on July 20th, and the confirmatory email said they would be released on 24th July, and that they always aim for delivery within 7 days. That was okay - they wouldn't take too long and I'd have some hopefully-comfy sandals for the summer. The days came and went and nothing turned up, and there was no reply to my email, so I phoned customer services, and spoke to a pleasant but brisk and slightly dense young man who told me there was a delay getting them in stock and they now wouldn't be despatched till August 18th. I told him this was very disappointing because it meant I'd have no sandals to go on holiday with (Cropredy being before then) so he took it upon himself to cancel my order. I told him I might as well carry on with the order, but apparently he was unable to reinstate the order and I had to go through the performance again. "We have an offer of either a free bag or a free pair of sandals with every order madam, which would you like?" and put me down for sandals, even though I thought an expandable bag might be useful, and flip-flop type sandals give me blisters. But by this stage I was losing the will to live and left it.

On August 7th I got an email telling me that the free sandals had been despatched and should be with me shortly. By today they hadn't arrived, and a delivery charge had been made to the credit card, so I phoned again to query, and spoke to Gary.

"Oh no, madam, we allow 10 working days for delivery."
"That's not what it says in your brochure or on your website."
"That's our policy."
"That's by-the-bye. Am I going to be charged a second postage fee for the main order?"
"Oh no madam, only the one fee per order."
"Phew, that's a relief. And the main order will be despatched tomorrow as I was told?"
"Hmmm, let me see ... no, there's been another delay and they won't be in stock until September20th."

That's when I told him to cancel the whole damned lot and refund me the postage charge for the bloody freebie I didn't even want. I'll be watching the next credit card statement with interest. And I won't be ordering from them ever ever again.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

It all comes round again

Hi kids, we're home! We went to Cropredy. It was fabuloso.

Steeleye Span was just brilliant. I’ve wanted to see them live for about a zillion years and I wasn’t disappointed. Happy 59th birthday for tomorrow, Maddy Prior; your voice is still as stunning as ever. I missed the music during Friday because I had to go to work, but got back to the site in time for supper then to go and see 10CC who were incredible. Hit after hit after hit, from Graham Gouldman’s 60s tracks recorded by the Hollies and The Yardbirds etc, to 10CC stuff, both before and after the split with Godley and Crème. Cracking.

It was on Friday night I learned I had more children than I’d realised, when someone called Benjamin called at the Blogring Manor (Mal and Maddy, Lorry and Kronky and Ned and I were all camped together, with a gazebo in the middle so it was very sociable) first asking if we had any ice for his sister then offered to sell us some jam, and sat down (“Is this your dad’s chair?”) when Ned had gone off to the loo; he then said perhaps he shouldn't talk about jam in front of 'your mum' – meaning me. Hmmm. I was known as Mum by all for the rest of the weekend. I’ve been called worse!

Saturday saw Dave Swarbrick’s return to the stage after his double lung transplant (he calls his band Lazarus) and the premature (in 1999!) publication in the Telegraph of his glowing obituary. (He was in hospital in Coventry when he read it. Apparently his reaction was “Ah well. It’s not the first time I’ve died in Coventry.”)

The weather was pretty rubbish on both Friday night and Saturday night, and Fairport’s Saturday set was more suited for a warm, mellow evening; the sunset had been so promising.
Great sounds but not jiggy enough to help people keep warm. But it was good, and I got a few hours of ‘travelling’ – getting into that mental state where you’re not quite awake, and not asleep, and your mind forgets all the issues that have been worrying you for so long. All without the use of any substances, either legal or illegal! There was an annoying group of yoofs very close by (William Anker, Tom Osser, Richard Head, Charlie Unt and Paul Ratt) who would be greatly improved if they were disembowelled. They either lurched off after an hour or so or shut up. They weren’t missed. And Lorry had made some lovely gloopy splotty stuff which was perfect for warming our frozed insides when we got back to the homestead at the end of the evening, and the rain started to chuck down.

It wasn’t as good as previous years – it was the first time we’ve preferred the earlier evenings’ music to the final evening. But I wouldn’t have missed it. Who’s coming along next year?

'King Mally appeared to fall off his chair before even bothering to unfold it this year.

Monday, August 07, 2006

We play the game, we pay the price

As you know, the Cropredy Festival is very much a 'must go' event. For the past few years it's been the second of our summer breaks, following an earlier week in Cornwall (preferably before the school holidays). This year circumstances have denied us our Cornish break so everything was being pinned on Cropredy.

My job, being shared with two other people (I'm summer cover for the usual third party) is normally very free and easy regarding who's on duty when. As long as someone's there the boss doesn't care who it is, and you only get paid for the hours you do, so nobody loses. I normally do the Friday morning session, and as Cropredy's Thursday, Friday and Saturday I hoped to swop my Friday for Wednesday so I could enjoy the festival atmosphere* with plenty of time to sober up.

Guess which week one of the other people's away (in Cornwall, just to rub it in), so I have to do one shift every day?

Ned'll have to set up the tent without me on Thursday morning (if he can arrange things with Mally and Lorry to all arrive at the same time we can camp together - can you co-ordinate, please?) while I'm at work, then I must rush into Leamington, then get home again, then he can come and collect me, then I must go home again on Friday morning to work Friday afternoon then gallop back again (hopefully I can arrange appointments so that the vet leaves on time!) to catch the later acts. I predict that's when I might relax spectacularly.

*Wadworth's 6X

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I've told you once and I've told you twice

If they don't want people to loiter, why do they make you read the information twice?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Who do you think you're fooling?

It beggars belief. And they try to convince us that educational standards aren't falling. Yeah, right.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Be careful with that axe, Eugene

Nearly done; but the chainsaw's jammed.
Be careful ...

*sighs and wonders if today's comments will be less **innuendous
**invents new word

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Let's stick together

Today's plan had been to make a final assault on the remaining timber from the felled tree and reduce it to logs for the winter, because it really doesn't make a very attractive addition to the patio, and makes relaxing on the bench very difficult.

Then Ned told me about the logs he'd ordered from Steve. "Logs? How many?" (suspiciously)> "Erm ... two loads" (guiltily). "Two loads? Why two?" (aghast). "Bogof!" (brightly).
Steve duly filled the drive with logs and Ned and I spent the day splitting and carrying them round to the stack. I'm sure it would have been easier with a conventional wheelbarrow (we have a beautiful wheelbarrow; it's just that the wheel doesn't turn. Bloody French workmanship) but we won't go into that. At 5 o'clock we stacked the last of them.

We still haven't started on ours. Maybe tomorrow, if our backs still work.