Monday, December 31, 2007

In the year 2525

I wonder what I was blogging about this time last year? Or the year before that? Let's see - oh yes, I was ranting about the inconsiderate bastards who let off fireworks and terrify animals. They started at 6.30 this evening. Why? Do they not realise that the new year starts at midnight? Their excuse is that "the children will be asleep then". Well, yes - so wake them up if you want them to see the new year celebrations - having them earlier is stupid and pointless, and only serves to extend the torture. I bet in the year 2525 someone will be having a similar rant. Plus ├ža change.

Happy 2008, everyone. Let's hope for an improvement, because 2007 was pants really.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

57 channels and nothing on

The digital box is all very well, but there's still nothing you want to watch when you want to watch something. And it's awfully annoying (not just this box - we've noticed it with other people's Sky) when it freezes for a second or so, or when you get a flash of pixillation across the screen. And, if there's a way to record something on the video whilst watching else on Freeview, we haven't found it yet. So all in all it's not a great advance - but the picture on BBC1's clearer (except when it freezes or pixillates ...)

In other news, my new debit card arrived in the post today! That's pretty good service.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Your mother told you there'd be days like these

So I set the alarm for earlier-than-usual, to make sure I had plenty of time for Job2 before getting instructions from a friend whose dogs I'm looking after this everning, before going to Job1 for the afternoon. When I arrive at Job2's carpark the barrier was down - the whole place must have closed for the duration. Luckily I got ahead of myself last week so all the invoices are paid up to date - I think...

Because I was nearly there anyway I decided to go to the supermarket for a few odds and sods. I found a nice parking place and went to the hole in the wall for some cash. That's when I realised my debit card was missing from its usual place in the wallet, and no matter how many times I searched the entire handbag, it just wasn't there. So I rang Ned to ask him to phone the shops I went to last (before Christmas) to find out if it'd been handed in, while I got in the car again and drove to the town centre to visit the bank. As I walked there Ned got back to me - no joy - so I queued to cancel the card. The nice woman explained that, if it was permanently cancelled, if I found it later it wouldn't work and I'd have to wait till a replacement arrived, which would be a couple of weeks at this time of year. But I thought it sensible to block it, so she phoned and organised it. Then, because I still needed cash, I wrote a cheque and queued again to cash it. When I reached the cashier's desk I handed over the cheque and pulled out my cheque card - and the debit card which had been sharing the pocket. Curses.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The camera never lies

The Boy was so fed up with the poor reception we get on our TV when there's high pressure over the country (only BBC is affected, curiously) that he gave Ned a Freeview box for Christmas. When we saw the display lit up we couldn't decide what it was passing judgement upon - our ancient TV, the quality of the programmes, or even us!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Do his fairies keep him sober for the day?

Yesterday was our only opportunity to deliver presents to the Sussex family contingent, so Ned walked the dogs early and off we set. Motorways in the fog make for tense driving, but it wasn't too bad, and the journey down only took about an extra quarter of an hour. We had a nice lunch with Ned's mum, then at a quarter to three we left for home. Although the fog was thicker we hoped the traffic on the clockwise M25 would have cleared a little, but the Traffic Totty informed us otherwise - nose-to-tail traffic from junction 9 till junction 17. We wanted to get on at 9 and off at 16, so decided to go our old route across country, that we used before the motorway was built.

Surprisingly we could remember the way, recognising landmarks where we needed to turn and only had to do one revolution of a new roundabout. Of course single carriageway roads through towns are much slower than motorways so we knew our journey time was going to be somewhat extended, but at least we were moving. Then it started getting dark. Dark and foggy. But we successfully bypassed the M25, dithered about whether to carry on on minor roads or to drop onto the M40 for the last bit ... and plumped for the motorway. We dropped on to it at junction 6, hoping for a clearish run till we come off at j12. We were in the outside lane when everyone started braking (I hate that bit, when you have to sling out the anchors and hit the hazard lights to warn the driver behind), and there we were, stationary. We crawled northwards and eventually saw blue flashing lights up ahead - on the southbound carriageway. Once past the vehicles that were pointing every which way on the road, illuminated by the headlights of several police cars and fire engines we could immediately get back up to normal speed again - no idea why there was the tailback on our side.

By the time we eventually got home we were starving, had tension headaches and our backs were cripplingly painful. A journey which should have taken 2 hours had taken just over 4. Today we have festive sore throats ...

Merry Christmas, one and all!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mother of mine

At last we have progress on the 'moving Mother' front. My brothers and I have all been gently chipping away at her determination to stay in her current house till she's carried out in a box and it's paying off. As some of you know Mother has vertigo and arthritis, which means she tends to fall over for no apparent reason unless she's holding on to something, and the arthritis means the grip in her hands is poor so she can't hold onto things very well. A couple of years ago she had a nasty fall when she was in town and ended up with bad concussion - luckily I wasn't working at the time so go down (150 miles away) and look after her during the week and a brother cover the weekends. The other day her wrist swelled and was extremely painful and the doctor's told her that her rheumatoid arthritis has flared and caused that, and she's decided that enough is enough - she's struggled on long enough and it's too expensive to live like she is and it's all beyond a joke.

She's even come to terms with the fact that she'll have to part with some of her 'things' - like the large Victorian furniture she and Dad inherited and she feels 'custodian' of for future generations. However without a lottery win or Ernie coming up trumps there's no way any of us can afford a house large enough to fit the stuff, and this has been a major stumbling block. Now at last she's deciding what she simply won't part with and what will sadly have to go. We've even started taking things away with us when we've been to stay - with her full knowledge and blessing, of course!

The thing is, where should she move to? It'll have to be a bungalow because stairs are very tricky for her, and a small-but-suitable one has come up for sale in the village. I've measured up and she could comfortably get her bed and (essential) chest of drawers and (essential) dressing table in the main bedroom, and the living room's a lovely size. I think it'd do her very nicely. However my brother Oop North has also found a couple of bungalows near him which would be suitable, but only after a lot of updating.

So we have to decide which to go for. The one here is the most reasonably-priced and is ready to move in to straight away, but means I'd be her 'sole carer'; that doesn't bother me because at least she has a full complement of marbles! The ones near my brother are more expensive (but not much bigger) and need some work done, and there'd be him and his wife, and my niece and her husband (and children) as frequent visitors, sharing the 'carer' role. Bearing in mind that there's no way she's going to come and view these properties herself and we'll have to do it all for her, where's the best place for her to go to?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Catch me if you can

Oh, you did. It seems I've been tagged by both Hutters and Mermy.

Rules: Link to the tagger and post these rules on your blog. Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird. Tag 5 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Okaaaaayyy ...

1. By the time I was 18 I'd had 12 home addresses (13 if you count boarding school). The best posting was to Winterbourne Gunner in Wiltshire in 67. I can still remember the phone number.

2. I hate driving in the dark.

3. When I was about 3 years old I was found washing my pet mouse Amelia with Vim. She was very tolerant and didn't bite me. Or die.

4. I had a very very bad stutter as a child and rarely spoke to anyone outside the family until I was about 14.

5. I'd love to have a small farm and grow all our own organic meat. Poultry, Southdown sheep, Longhorn cattle and Middle White pigs (although Ned wants Berkshires).

Okay, now for the retaliation:

Aoj
Dogga
Jane
Lorry
Maddison Star

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bend me, shape me



Wow!

It's a jolly holiday

Flipping typical. I had to take my final holiday entitlement before the end of the year so plumped for the last week in November as being as good as any. Ned's started a crappy (well it would be, wouldn't it?) temporary job so I could take over the running of the household again; I could some festive shopping, maybe even take the dogs and pop down and visit my mum.

So what happens? I get laid low by a very uncomfortable tummy bug and daren't stray too far from the facilities for most of the week. What a waste. Bah.

Friday, November 23, 2007

We must chat about a very important matter

The computer isn't very happy at all. I didn't know it was possible for an electronic clock to be quite so inaccurate - it's losing about half an hour a day. Anyone know what causes that?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Confusion

We're having horrible computer problems. Despite running anti-virus software and stuff like that, and not downloading any strange stuff or even visiting unusual websites, and never opening suspect emails, the past few days have been infuriating. It takes about half an hour and seven restarts, including a couple of system restores, to be able to get the damn thing going, and then it's liable to crash at any moment. It looks as though we'll have to get a new computer and have no idea what's the best deal for us, and how to reinstall the stuff we need, and all the absolutely vital work which is stuck on the external hard-drive and didn't want to transfer to the new hard drive after the last explodification, or the new info in the folders.

We tried to save the folders and pictures to disk, but hadn't installed the disk writing software. So Ned installed that, and was told to restart the computer. That meant all the start up problems started again, and we had to do a system restore, which means that the CD writing software needs to be installed again, which will mean a restart, which means a system restore .....

Do we dare risk doing another backup onto the external hard drive, or will that just transfer all the problems to a new computer when we eventually get one? A new computer will mean installing everything from scratch, and a new running system might not recognise the saved information anyway. And whether we can ever get back online again is anyone's guess. I feel a tad stressed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pounding away, pounding away

Friday was a very busy day. Ned and the Boy were Frogbound for the day so I walked the dogs before going to work to hold the hand of the trainee. I'm not sure that she's going to last. She's very nice and all that, but she's taking ages to get to grips with the job. When the person before me started she had five accompanied training shifts (15 hours) before having to go solo. I was luckier - I had eight (24 hours). The new girl had seven (21 hours), tried a solo shift and had to call me in to help, so was taken to the main branch for some intensive training. She had another 25 hours training during the week but still needed assistance on Friday morning. She's written the procedures in a notebook but doesn't refer to it, and stands staring at the computer screen waiting for it to tell her what to do while the waiting clients get fed up.

The trouble is that, although everything's quite straightforward, you do have to multi-task. A client will come into the reception area to buy something and immediately the phone will ring. The phone has to be answered (it might be an emergency) but the client who's there mustn't be ignored - you have to smile and apologise and if necessary take the phone client's number and offer to call them back in a few minutes. This is the PR side of the job and is very important. None of the things we have to do are difficult in themselves, but they do all tend to happen at once! Tomorrow she's supposed to be going solo for real - if she can't manage after all this training I don't think she ever will.

Anyway, I did the (very busy) afternoon shift (all appointments booked) on my own (apart from the vet for the second half of it) and felt a headache brewing. And it built and built. Nothing would shift it. It was still there yesterday, and when I woke this morning as well. Pound, pound, pound. Over the course of the day I tried ibuprofen, aspirin, feverfew and paracetamol, but nothing made any impression on it. The next step was going to have to involve sawing off the top of my skull to let the pain out.

Now it's just getting dark, and the pain is starting to ease up a bit. What a washout of a weekend this has been.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Girl, don't be scared to move

I'm going to have to warn a neighbour about livestock-worrying. After last night's few drops of rain the ground of the ploughed field where I often walk the dogs was claggy and sticky, so I thought that going into the pasture would make a nice change. It's a bit more awkward going in those fields than it used to be because although I was given a key to the gate-padlock a couple of years ago, the lock was changed during the summer and I haven't got a new key. So we have to walk further up the road and cut through the hedge, jumping a ditch as we go, to get to the top entrance. Here we have the use of three lovely secure pastures, totalling about 50 acres, where the dogs can run free as long as there's no livestock in them, of course. Well, in the top field were my neighbour's sheep and a few cattle, so I decided to walk the long way round them to get to the gate into the next field, with the dogs still on their leads.

Sheep are afraid of dogs, aren't they? Try telling these ones. They all came running up to us, bleating away, and I found myself with three very good dogs and about 100 sheep walking nicely at heel. Then the cattle saw us and decided to come and investigate. I'm not very good with cattle. I like to have a barrier between me and them so that I can admire them at ease. (Even better, I like them on a plate, surrounded by vegetables.) In their natural state they're a bit too big for comfort, and they have a tendency to want to 'play' with dogs. So not only did we have a flock of sheep following, we were being circled by nine galumphing and bucking cattle, rather in the manner of Red Indians circling the wagon train, which just didn't seem to understand what bugger off meant.

As I said, I shall have to complain about the livestock-worrying; they were worrying me!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The clinking, clanking sound

Every week the takings are counted and balanced against the till sheet. Sometimes it balances exactly. Sometimes it's a few pence up or down. This week the cheque takings balanced exactly, as did the credit card takings. The cash takings, however, were exactly £50 down.

Now, that's a huge sum to go astray. It's more than I spend on a week's food for three adults. It's nearly a week's income. There are several possibilities.

1) A client reached into the cashbox and took it.

Unlikely. There are very few times that the cashbox is unattended, and it would mean lifting the coin tray to reach the notes beneath, removing a minimum of three notes but leaving the rest and returning to one's seat without being noticed.

2) One of the staff took it.

I didn't. That I can say for sure. And I don't think any of the others did either. I'm the 'junior' and I've been there for 18 months and we've never had this problem. And I don't mistrust the trainee we've taken on this week either because I find it hard to step back and let someone learn the ropes and tend to hover annoyingly and help, so there was no opportunity for her to swipe it either.

3) It's an accounting error.

This is my last hope. Possibly someone's mistaken an 8 for a 3, or a 7 for a 2 - when scrawled hastily they're very similar, and there's a difference of 5 between them. The problem with that is that, in this particular week, we never took as much as £50 in a single cash transaction - unlike the following week when we took four times that amount in cash in a single day.

We've searched the till and the drawer it lives in and the safe and checked and double-checked and triple-checked the books. No sign. And it makes me feel sick.

Ned says I'm 'going down, and'll dance the hempen jig'.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hey rock'n'roll king is down

As an anniversary celebration we went to see Stardust. Fantastic! I loved every minute of it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We fade to grey

When Beattie was a young girl she had quite a spotty face and muzzle. When a dog's predominantly white you don't notice the gradual effects of age until ...



... you take another photograph and realise how many of the markings have vanished.


Where does the time go?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

May be the last time

Okay, so I was wrong. The previous last-blog-about-Cropredy-2007 has been superceded by this last-blog-about-Cropredy-2007. The Mike Harding show on Radio 2 tomorrow (Wednesday 10th) is featuring the live performance of Leige and Leif that a regathered as-nearly-original-line-up-as-possible Fairport Convention presented for their 40th birthday celebration. 7pm to 8pm. Be there - we were!

Monday, October 08, 2007

What's new, pussycat?

Today a woman brought her cat into work, saying that it had been in a fight with a car and had lost; she didn't know how to dispose of it, and could we 'get rid' of it for her? A little suspiciously, we took the bag she handed us - recoiled slightly and asked when the cat had died. "Last Thursday."

Anyone know of a really effective air freshener?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Coming for to carry me home

I guess Stu will be going to see Stardust.
I predict a riot.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Who's going to drive you home?

Tip to Ned: Try using the brakes rather than the garage door to stop the car.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I said "What?"

According to the experts it's time to harvest ones apples for storage before the wind blows the all off and spoils them. When the trees in our garden were planted (before our time) they were cleverly planted in a row and laid at an angle to limit their height and make a nice fruitful barrier. If they'd been properly pruned every year they'd still be nice and low but before we bought the house they'd been allowed to go feral and we've spent the last 18 years trying to get some control over them. This has mainly involved severe pruning which has the side-effect of removing all the flower buds, so they've never been very productive. Because they're a bit gnarled and split and past their prime we decided this year to grub them out and start again, so last year I didn't really bother with the pruning - only the lowest branches; with the result that this year they've cropped quite well, but all the fruit is about 18 feet up. The trees are the wrong shape for ladders to be either secure or helpful, so I wriggled and squeezed my way up the tangled branches to try to reach the apples. That's when Ned said it. "You're fifty years old and shouldn't be climbing trees."

I said "WHAT?????"

Friday, September 28, 2007

EIEIO

We're reliably informed (yes, I was watching QI) that methane gas is twenty times more dangerous to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide. As the producers of the greatest quantites of methane are herbivores, does this mean that vegetarians should be eliminated?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Walk this way

I turned up on time at the cardiology department, and was swiftly whisked into a small room for the ECG, which involved several people with very cold hands putting sticky patches on various parts of my anatomy ("top off please"), wiring me up to a machine that went 'ping' then before I knew it, whipping them off again ("top on again thank you"), then out into the corridor again. No sooner had I got my book out to calm down a little than I was called into another small room full of people and machines that go 'flub-dub', ("top off please"), had my chest covered in gloop and an echo-gram thing done and various measurements taken. It was at this point that the consultant came in and said hello. Nice. Then I was handed some scratchy paper to mop up the gloop ("top on again thank you") and sent back to the waiting room. Then the consultant reappeared and I was ushered into yet another room to discuss my symptoms. Which he didn't seem to believe any of, sent me into the side room ("top off please"), used his stethoscope and took my blood pressure ("That's quite high but I expect you're not very relaxed but your pulse is slow so that's good top on again thank you") and that was it. Apart from being positioned slightly lower than they expected - from a certain age everything's lower than it used to be - they couldn't find anything wrong with my heart, which is good, but I left feeling like a complete fraud and a twit and a waster-of-everyone's-time. I knew I should have cancelled.

And Ned's sulking because it usually takes a good meal and a nice bottle of wine to get my top off.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And the eyes in his head see the world spinning round

Whether it's reaction to the gallons of local anaesthetic I needed yesterday to get a filling replaced without having to be enticed down from the ceiling, or tiredness, or what, I don't know, but all today I've been alternating between feeling pissed and feeling hungover. Walking in a straight line was tricky, and I found I couldn't write properly when filling in the order book at work. Seeing that I haven't had anything stronger than tea since Sunday, and only 2 pints of water to drink yesterday evening, it's a bit odd. I hope an early night will sort it; I've got some driving to do tomorrow.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

She's filing her nails while they're dragging the lake

Although I seem to have spent most of today on the computer I don't think I've wasted my time. Ned and his pals went walking in the Peak District, so once I'd walked the dogs and spent far too much money shopping, I settled at the screen to keep up with the gossip.

As some of you might have guessed, I'm a bit of a dog person, and go on several sites with fora for passing on information and general chat. A few days ago someone on 'my' breed site asked a question about genetics, saying that someone on Site B had posted pictures of newborn black-spotted puppies from liver-spotted parents - was this possible? The short answer is 'No' - basically black pigmentation the dominant colour, and dals will only show liver coloration if they have no black gene. As both 'parents' were liver they therefore had no black genes to pass on, so the black puppies couldn't be sired by the liver dog. With me so far?

So I joined Site B so that I could be Mrs Interfering and suggest that the proud daddy had probably been cuckolded and that mummy dog had been playing away. This went down like a lead balloon and I let the usual newbie-flak bounce off as it's only to be expected.

Then I went to look at other posts on the site. This same person had proudly posted pictures of the four dobermanns she was rescuing. Curiously they all had cropped ears (ear cropping's been illegal in this country for over a century) so were obviously imported, and I was curious and asked about them. Apparently they'd been imported illegally and had their ears cropped on the dockside at 8 weeks old. Anyone who's done any research at all about the process knows that's an ipossible scenario - after the actual cropping there are months of taping and posting to get the ears to stand upright. So that didn't ring true either.

There's also a section for cat posts on this particular site, and this same person had posted pictures of all 7 of her pedigree cats, all different breeds and confirmed when asked that all were on the active register (you'd understand that Lorry). One of the cats was very attractive so I went onto Google Images and typed in the breed. Well, I nearly fell of my chair. There were the exact same photos - one on the Wikipedia page for the breed. I put in the name of another of 'her' breeds, and blow me down, there they were - this time the exact same pictures were of a stray cat found in California.

That's when I had my Miss Marple moment. I google-imaged all the breeds she'd posted pictures of, and there they all were - her elderly 'Belgian Turvuren (sic) cross' was actually a blue merle American champion rough collie that died 17 years ago. The puppy pictures were from a dalmatian site about mismarks. The picture of 'her and her husband and their four dobermanns' was lifted from an American breeder's site.

So, 'she' was obviously telling porkies. But why? A sad, lonely attention-seeker? Maybe - but it turns out (after I'd subtly ("Wow! Your cat's picture's on the Wikipedia page! How cool is that?" etc) posted that she'd been rumbled, other people found even more evidence of the fantasy.

Then came the rather scary bit. Over the past few weeks 'she' had been in contact with other site members by email & PM and, with some of the younger ones, had offered to send more puppy pictures in the post if they'd let 'her' have their addresses, and would they like a holiday job with her, to help look after her dogs and puppies and horses (oh yes, she's been posting on a horse forum as well - her Shire horse had to be shot last week. Much sympathy ensued).

Am I right to find this very alarming? I've heard of 'grooming' before but I think I might have exposed a groomer (stop sniggering Mal), who of course will now vanish for a while, to reappear somewhere else. I've suggested to the Admin of the site that, while it could all be the work of an attention-seeker or a bored youngster, it could equally be something more serious and perhaps making a note of the IP might be a good idea.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

This could be the last time ...

... this year at any rate, that I post a blog about Cropredy. But at last! Someone's put up this year's version of Matty Groves, and the follow-on choon. Remember that this is very near the end of a four-hour set, with only the finale to follow.

Ahh, magic! That's why we go to Cropredy each year.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

It makes the world go round

Wahay! I've had a payrise!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Its a bit old but its mine

The lovely ArAySee Boy - I'm not sure he's old enough to have left school - brought along a chum and they looked under the Pug's bonnet. I turned the ignition key and there was just an impotent click. I explained what used to fix it (first wiggling that bluey-green wire, and then when that stopped sorting it, putting it in gear and rocking it back and forth (in my case looking helpless until some kind strong Young Man took pity on me and did the rocking)), but that now nothing was working. They ummed and thought the starter motor was probably dead, and took out a Birmingham Screwdriver and whacked it a bit. No joy. Then they checked the strength of the battery and that was fine. Then just as an experiment they bypassed the connection between the battery and the starter motor. Brrrrrrmmmmmm!!! Hurrah! But it still wouldn't start on its own and I began to wonder if I was going to have to adopt the lad and keep him as a pet mechanic. A little more discussion led to them replacing the bluey-green wire and Bingo! The car now starts happily all by itself! We now have a car again and not a fully-comprehensively-insured driveway ornament.

He's a Nice Man. He's a very very Nice Man. Oh no, that's the Other Lot. But he's very good anyway, and we like him.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

I'm a tiger

A few weeks ago I cut some comfrey from the garden (caution - wear gloves and long sleeves because the hairy leaves and stems can cause a nasty rash), chopped it up a bit and put it in a lidded bucket with some rainwater to steep and make a good rich organic plant feed. Today I bravely opened the bucket and put a little of the liquor into the watering can to dilute and feed the plants. Poo-ee, what a stink! I hope the plants appreciate it because it's truly disgusting.

In other news Beattie's nose has pretty much recovered from the nip it received last week. At first,as you recall, it was a bit scraped and bloodybut then it scabbed over and was scratchy. Now the scabs have come off and it's all healed nicely, except that the scars aren't yet pigmented properly so she has a very fetching stripy nose.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Smoke gets in your eyes

Typical. As soon as we get some lovely weather - and it has been glorious today - some twunt fires up a barbecue and fills the garden with smoke and stink, driving us indoors again with the doors and windows closed. I wouldn't mind on a campsite but I know for a fact that all the houses around here have kitchens. By all means eat outside, but at least cook indoors and keep the smells to yourself.

Today's other rant; I hate cars when they won't start.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Don't stand so close to me

It came as a shock to Beattie to learn that not all dogs are as placid as she is.

Poor girl. That's gotta smart.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Now the feeling's gone

It's always the same. Scenario 1: Your car develops an annoying, expensive sounding rattle so you take it to the garage and they can't find anything wrong and you can't make the rattle happen - until you drive away having paid your bill.

Scenario 2: Your dog starts limping so you make an appointment with the vet, only to have him walk into the surgery (thus qualifying for a consultation charge) as sound as a bell.

Scenario 3: A tooth starts jumping every time you bite something hardish, so you make a dentist's appointment, but when you get there you can't remember which tooth it was and they all need prodding to find out and then they all hurt. Another bill.

The latest is Scenario 4. For months and months I was having the occasional funny wibbly turn when my blood pressure would drop through the floor, my chest felt as though my heart wanted to burst out of it and I'd feel faint for a couple of minutes till it all got back to normal. Gradually it started happening more and more frequently until it was several times a day. So I made a doctor's appointment and was referred to a cardiologist. Since the hospital appointment came through I've felt fine.

There's the dilemma. If I keep the appointment then I'll feel like a fraud and a time-waster. If I cancel it the wibbliness might come back and I'd have to be referred again. Decisions, decisions.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

He'll never let you down

Once in a while I get called upon to help out Dalmatian Welfare. Sometimes I get asked to visit and assess dogs that people want to give up for rehoming, sometimes to help transport them from their old home to their new one (old owners and adopters are never allowed to meet or have direct contact with one another), and sometimes do a home-check on potential adopters. Today was a home-check day, so to make sure they knew what they might be letting themselves in for I loaded Harry (as being big and bouncy) into the car and set off to meet the family. I 'd been told they already have a labrador (just out of season - phew! That could have been tricky!) so at least I knew they were used to dogs of that size.

They were a lovely family. We went in and the lab said hello to Harry, showed him her favourite toy then went outside. I chatted to the parents and the children (polite, friendly, not nervous of a strange dog) and waited for Harry to do his worst; better to put them off at the outset.

Always expect the unexpected. He said hello to them then stood quietly at my side, for all the world as if he never chased anything or knocked anything over or made a nuisance of himself. He didn't make any movement to suggest he might cock his leg on anything. Even his hair stayed firmly attached when I tried to demonstrate how much they shed.

Next time I'll take Piglet as well. That should do the trick.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On Wednesdays he goes shopping

As you may or may not know, The Boy's halfway through his Arboriculture course, with plans to be a tree surgeon after qualifying. He's being taught how to handle a chainsaw properly, with minimal risk of careless self-mutilation, and is learning a lot about the different species of trees and their ideal environments. His holiday placement has involved a lot of clearance with felling and logging, so when he had to fell a particular tree that had grown in a certain shape, he decided to keep part of it as a curiosity. He turned the section upside down and carefully trimmed it so it balanced. A friend (so he assures me) whittled the final detail, and now this charming sculpture graces our patio.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Like little sugars and spice

Another highlight from the weekend was the wonderful conversation we, as a group, had with two delightful little girls who were with the family group sitting in front of us. They must have been about nine and seven years old, and had been extremely well brought up. They were confident but not cocky, and extremely good conversationalists. The elder approached us first, and asked us in a very polite adult manner whether we were having a good time, and whether it was our first festival. We chatted with them about this and that, and they showed us the strange alien-in-an-egg toys they were playing with. At some point, and I'm not sure how it happened, the matter of Omally's identity arose, and somehow the words 'King of Sweden' were uttered. The younger girl's eyes opened very wide, and she sidled over to Ned and asked him if this was true. When it was confirmed (we'd have looked silly to have denied it!) she asked how Ned knew that. Manfully resisting the opportunity of using the obvious Monty Python quote as being unsuitable, Ned said that he knew this because he was his cook, and received a very hard stare. She went over to Mallers and asked him, if he was a King, why wasn't he wearing his crown? The temptation to say it was at the dry-cleaners was almost irresistible, but the reply was that he was in disguise because he was on his holidays. There followed a very earnest conversation about how differently things are done "in our country" as we all struggled to keep straight faces.

I wonder if that little girl will go through life thinking she met the King of Sweden at Cropredy Festival.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It all comes round again

This year's Cropredy Festival was just the most brilliant few days I've had in a long time. Wall-to-wall sunshine (apart from at night, of course. That would be silly). The whole thing was just fantastic. The weather, the company, the food, the beer and of course, the music.
Waiting for the kick-off.

An imitation of that well-known Belgian statue, the Mally'king Pis.
Stu did some very impressive juggling with various artefacts of different sizes and weights, but for some reason declined my offer to throw an axe at him to incorporate into the flow. No idea why - he was wearing his boots after all. Be careful with that axe, Eugene mallet, Stu.

After a busy session of signing CDs, Richard Digence seemed rather pleased to be able to use bigger writing on an LP sleeve.
Some of the line-up I've heard before - some I liked and wanted to see again, and some who kindly gave me an opportunity to catch up on sleep! Then there were some that were new to me; Mad Agnes stood out as having a wide range of styles and seemed more than competent. Hummingbird were well worth listening to (Maris, Edwina announced she was trying to keep her voice deep because last time she was told she sounded like Minnie Mouse!). Jools Holland was great and Lulu can still do 'Shout'.

After being voted the Most Influential Folk Album Ever by Mike Harding's Radio 2 audience, the surviving Fairports of that line-up reformed and performed the album live, with Chris While standing in for Sandy Denny - a real treat. The final day was opened, as usual, by Richard Digance who never fails to get the crowd 'warmed-up'.

The high point of the whole festival (incidentally all tickets were sold out a fortnight ago - the first time that's ever happened) was of course Fairport Convention's own closing slot. They came on stage shortly after 8pm and kept up the most amazing energetic enormously professional performance for four hours. This year was the first time they've had a back-screen showing the performers themselves, which meant that everyone got close-up views of just how stunning the musicianship was. They also had the lyric for their famous (!) hit "Si tu dois partir" so that everyone could sing along;

and the film produced for the enhancement of "Matty Groves" was a sheer delight! The weekend was brought to a close by the traditional finale of "Meet on the Ledge".

Other memories: much Thinging was done on Friday night, with several new Favourite Things thought of but forgotten by the morning; the burger-stall's music system, which thankfully couldn't take the pace and died on Saturday morning; Cropredy Virgins' amazement at the standard of the 'facilities'; watching what must have been the space shuttle (a bright orange light that traversed the sky from horizon to horizon every 20 minutes or so) with Mallers; Beattie being an absolute star - I'm not sure she really enjoyed it (she had to stay up well past her usual bedtime) but it was better than not being with us, and there were loads of trodden-on chips to hoover up when we relaxed our guard; Stu's paddling pool that he kindly shared; Mally's super-soaker that he not-so-kindly shared (!) ... it just goes on.

It was the best time!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Whatever happened to the heroes?

Well, one of them lives at Genie Towers. A bit of background; several years ago we noticed that the paint on the fascia of the gable at the front of the house was starting to flake and, because it's very high and we don't like going very high we started contacting decorators and asking them for quotes to do the job. How many do you think responded? That's right, none at all. Year after year we searched for a tradesman wanting work but obviously they've all won the lottery and don't need customers. It's not even as if it was a very big job - just very high. No way on this earth would you get either Ned or me up a ladder that high even though the painting would be a POP.

So the job was left and left, with the paint getting shabbier and shabbier, until a friend bought a scaffolding tower which he offered to lend us. We borrowed it, hoping to do the work over the May bank holiday, but it rained, and whenever we were free to do it the weather wasn't co-operative. But this week the sun shone, so we got the elements of the tower out of the garage and started.

If there was a flat, solid surface in front of the house the job would have been much quicker, but there's lawn and flowerbeds, so first we had to find bits of timber and blocks for the legs to stand on securely. A second problem was that the platform was too narrow to do the whole lot at once, and, when fully constructed, the tower was too heavy to move. So each complete coat meant the tower had to be constucted, the work done on as much as could be reached, deconstructed, moved a couple of feet, reconstructed and the work done, deconstructed, moved again, reconstructed, the last bit of work done, then deconstructed for the last time that day because the paint had to dry before the next coat could be applied.

Occasionally we had the base fractionally too close to the house when we built the tower, only to find we couldn't put the topmost sections on because of the eaves and had to take it down and start again. Those were not happy times.

But at last it's finished! Those of you who went GoAping with us know exactly how pathetic I am with heights, but few realised that Ned's only marginally better. So for him to go that high, even with a reasonably steady platform to stand on, took a huge amount of courage. He's my hero.


Of course, the problem is that now the guttering looks shabby, and could really benefit from being taken down, sand-blasted and repainted before being replaced. I'd better not mention that yet.

Friday, August 03, 2007

If you leaf me now

Oh dear.

In all my years of gardening (I started dabbling when very small, with a little patch of the garden of my own) I've never been stricken with blight on either my potatoes or tomatoes. This year the weather conditions have been ideal for it and we've had both. The spuds had to come out a couple of weeks age, with some of the crop salvageable; yesterday I noticed the tomato plants - even the ones in the greenhouse - were looking decidedly dodgy and this morning there was no getting away from it. They were infected too and have had to come out and be destroyed. It's a rotten shame because the crop was looking promising. Of course it also means that the soil in the greenhouse is infected so we won't be able to grow toms straight into it next year, and we'll probably have to take a couple of years out from growing spuds at all. Damn damn damn. All that work and nothing to show for it.

Apparently it's the same all over the country, so watch out for huge price rises for home-grown veg this winter.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Today is only yesterday's tomorrow

The good news is that the swelling from the bites is subsiding. AA neighbourhood doctor recommended antihistamine tablets (okay, can manage that) as well as sitting with my legs raised and holding cold compresses on them. That would be quite a challenge at work, so had to go by the board. Although the information about the tablets said that they don't cause drowsiness, they certainly make me woolly-headed; so much so that yesterday I quite forgot I was meant to be doing both shifts, and it was only a slightly petulant phonecall from the vet asking if I was on my way yet that got me there at all. With Ned's co-operation at giving me a lift into the village I managed to get changed and into work within 4 minutes of the phonecall, but it meant I hardly knew which way was up, and by the time the afternoon shift was over I was totally wiped out. I'm not sure which is worse - the discomfort from the bites or the muddle-headedness.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A(-), you're Adorable

I never even saw the vicious, beastly, bloodsucking insects that on Saturday decided that a hefty serving of blood group A Neg was exactly what they needed to get themselves through the day. And why they chose the backs of my knees (delightful though they are, as I'm sure you'll agree) for their feast I don't know, but I now have swellings about the size of my fist at the back of both legs, which makes walking or sitting down very uncomfortable. They both itch and hurt, which is a curious sensation.

Oh, and one had a chomp at my foot as well.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Stay away from my back door too

I don't know if you've heard about the Ashtead Nimbys. These are the residents of an area close by the Headley Court rehabilitation centre where, for decades, injured servicemen have been sent after Selly Oak has stitched them back together to continue their recovery. They include amputees, burns sufferers, brain injuries, loss of sight or hearing, and psychological damage. Some stay for mere months, while others have to stay for years. This is the only specialist centre in the country, and because servicemen come from all over the country their families often have to travel long distances to visit them - and the visits play an important role in the healing process.

Because of the importance of family visits and the difficulties the families face, the charity SSAFA (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association) have bought a house nearby to the facility (which incidentally recently opened a new 30-bed annexe to cope with the increasing numbers of patients), with the intention of converting it into a home-from-home for the visiting families. It's in a good state of repair; a wheelchair ramp at the front door will be needed but not much else structurally. It's anticipated that about eight people would stay there, with an upper limit of 12. So SSAFA applied to the local council for planning permission for a wheelchair ramp, and change of use.

Guess what. The local council received 83 letters of objection from the local residents, claiming that the "increased traffic noise" and "additional pollution" from a 'short-term, multiple-occupancy hostel' would lower the value of their houses, and make them a "soft touch" for "those awful terrorists". If it were a halfway house for sex offenders or junkies or similar they might have more of a point (not in respect of noise or pollution, obviously, but regarding the desirability of possibly unsafe neighbours), but here we're talking not about criminals, whether or not they've served their time, but about ordinary families whose lives have been torn apart and will never be the same again. They could be you or me - anyone who has a husband or son old enough to be called up.

Shame on them. It seems nothing's changed since Kipling wrote 'Tommy' all those years ago, condemning the hypocrisy of so many civilians regarding those who're prepared to risk their lives. I don't know anyone who agrees with the wars our troops are fighting, but the people to take it out on are the politicians, not the troops themselves.

"For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country," when the guns begin to shoot;"

No Heroes In Our Backyard, eh?

However someone's got up a petition to protest at this disgusting behaviour, and it's doing quite well. Please feel free to sign it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking

You just know you're not going to get away on time when, with only a quarter of an hour of surgery time left, the boss suggests that a client should 'pop back' and get their other animal for examination, and the client lives twenty minutes away ...

If only overtime was paid at a higher rate.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Water music

With only two and a half weeks to go till Cropredy we thought we'd take a look to see if they've started the preparations yet. The short answer is 'no'. The residents of the festival field itself are still there, doing their best to get the grass short enough.
As far as the camping fields go, the good news is that there won't be a lot of effort needed to push in tent pegs. Sewn-in groundsheets will probably be a good idea, and wellies are definitely recommended.
More good news is that the waterlevel's fallen a lot and is still draining. Nobody had told a fish that we saw trying to make its way into the field!

It looks as though the emergency camping fields will be used again, as they were in 04 when the conditions were similar. They're higher and drier, but not as peaceful; they adjoin the railway line. At least at midnight on Saturday the trains go onto Sunday service.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Like a bridge over troubled water

It took Ned nearly four hours to get home from Stow last night - a journey which normally takes about half an hour. He had to go via the back lanes of several counties but eventually won through. Lots of people didn't, judging by the number of cars littering the verges. Boy's car still won't start though.

Apparently we had three times July's usual rainfall just yesterday, so having made sure the roads were mainly passable again (with care) we went to have a look at the result. On a normal summer's day you could expect to see the weir on the river Leam in the middle of Leamington looking like this:

We went to stand on the far side of the bridge in the top picture to record the spectacle:

I think the caches we'd placed nearby might need replacing ...

We didn't even attempt to get to Stratford to see how they're faring. Rumour has it Wellesbourne (next village on the Stratford road) is cut off, and TV reports show that the Avon has burst its banks and the centre of Stratford is under about seven feet of water. Of course all this water is heading downriver, so the towns downstream, already inundated, have got more to come.

Ain't climate change great?

Friday, July 20, 2007

In July the sun is hot. Is it shining? No it's not

It's been a tad on the damp side today, giving rise to memories of Easter a few years ago.
Luckily this isn't our driveway; that's meant to be a stream going under a bridge, not a stream going over a bridge.
You can get a hint of the speed of the flow from the fields and ditch to the left on the drainage on the right of the road.
In fact it was so damp that instead of the really busy afternoon I'd been expecting it was deathly quiet, because the vet couldn't get to the village for aftrnoon surgery and I had to ring and cancel all the appointments - the ones that hadn't already rung me and cancelled because they couldn't get to the village either ...

Oddly, however, there was a lot more traffic than usual in the village, and I got my entertainment watching juggernauts and buses causing gridlock in the narrow main street. Apparently there were landslips onto the M40, so that was closed, and all the long-distance traffic was having to use the lanes again. Boy tried to get to a friend's house about eight miles away and only managed to get four miles away before his car died and a pal towed him home. Then they went out again in a 4x4, no doubt hoping to make a few quid by towing people out of puddles. At least they're together and shouldn't come to too much harm, surely?

Now, as soon as Ned gets back from Cheltenham (he set off at about 1.30 and it's now ... ooh let me see ... 7 o'clock) I'll be able to relax.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tell me something I don't know

Frankly, I'd complain if they didn't.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

On the road again

We drove and we drove and we drove.We drove to Coventry to collect a dalmatian for rehoming (not as emotional as I'd feared) and we drove down the M40 to hand her over to her adopters. She came away with us in the car quite confidently, although as time went by I could see she was starting to get a bit bewildered and missing her 'mum'. But as we waited for her adopters to arrive she tucked her head under my arm for a cuddle, and then kissed Ned's ear for some attention from him. She was a sweetie who, although by no means ill-treated previously, I think will have a better life in future, with more time and attention being given to her.

Once all the paperwork was completed and she was handed over we drove across country to MMM's place, via several very interestingly narrow obscure winding lanes thanks to Henrietta, to help rid her of surplus possessions in preparation for her international flit. (Omally, we have stuff for you too.)

Then home. By this time the combined effects of an early rise, emotional stress of the dog-move and the unexpected heat of the day (anyone would think it was summer) caused me to lapse into a semi-coma and it took the application of several restorative cups of tea at home before I felt almost human again. I think an early night is called for.

*looks at time*

Oops.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Auf Wiedersehen, adieu

Phew! The locum quickly proved to be totally unsuitable and was given the order of the boot before being due to come to the village surgery for 'my' shift (and after I'd been brushing up my Greek - Ouzo, retsina, "exo skilio" - too). So normal chaos is resumed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ocean of motion

Things seem to be lurching from bad to worse at the vets' since the practice changed hands. in the Old Days there were three vets; the practice owner and two others who shared the workload and all knew what they were doing. Now pissups and breweries spring to mind. First the new owners (both vets) were unaware that they needed to renew certain licences so no Pet Passports or farm work can be done, thus hacking off all the farm clients. Then they said that because they live miles away and don't want to disrupt their children's schooling they can't do all the hours that the boss used to do, so the others must cover. (Very popular as you can imagine.) I hear that one employee burst into the local where a chillingly polite meeting was going on (public place for safety) shrieking that she couldn't cope any more! Now they've employed a locum who not only doesn't speak English but also can't work the computer, so we untrained receptionists are going to have input everything that this vet does so that invoices are correct. This will have to be done in the consulting room at the same time as we're in the reception dealing with the clients out there. As there's only one of us on duty at a time this could be interesting.

*Goes to study the Sits Vac.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday

Today
How to shed weight and years in a single day.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A strange glow in the sky


What's this I see in the sky this morning? Is it a UFO? Are we being invaded by aliens? No, hang on, it's coming back to me ...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wait a minute, Mr Postman

My significant birthday's nearly over and the Parcelforce van still hasn't delivered either Mark Harmon
or Sharpe.

*starts getting anxious*

Monday, July 02, 2007

Floating in limbo

A thorough (well, as thorough as I dare) search of the external hard drive tells me that we did no backups between September 05 and April 07 - which isn't beyond the realms of possibility. But the latest backup doesn't show files and documents that I know were saved between those dates; that old diary, my CV, my list of the hours I work so I know how much to invoice my employer (eek!), squillions of photos etc.

But I think I've worked out a possible explanation. Between the last two backups, when all that work was done, we had an explodification and a tame geek managed to extract all that useful stuff and replace it when he'd scrubbed the hard drive. But when he loaded it all again he put on an earlier version of Windows (let's call it version A) from what we'd had previously but everything was hunky dory. Not so good in general but had features that we didn't have before so was okay. It was this version that was running when we did the April backup.

Then came the last explodification. This time we've reinstalled the later version (version B) which works much better but won't recognise the data that had been added when we did the backup with the earlier version.

I reckon if we were to find a computer that was running version A we could recover the data, put it onto a disk and then copy it onto this computer we could then do a backup (I'd also print it out onto hard copy so it's real!) and I wouldn't be fainting at the thought of redoing all those months of work.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bang bang, that awful sound

Did I tell you we’ve had another computer explodification? No, I didn’t think so. It manifested itself by playing Ring-a-ring-roses when it was meant to turn on – it’d get partway there then restart. So I called our local computer-mender who kindly came out in the hour between packing and leaving for Heathrow for 3 weeks in Oz and Fiji. He fitted a shiny new hard drive, plugged our external drive into it and hastily copied saved stuff over. Except that it doesn’t seem to have copied everything over. Lots of documents are floating in limbo, including several months’ work of transcribing a diary from 1862 and the contents being inserted chronologically into previously-copied letters and other documents for future publication. Buggerbuggerbuggerbugger. I know we did a backup recently so where the sodding hell’s it all gone?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I still don't know what I was waiting for

I've jumped on the apparent bandwagon of work-related upheaval that seems to have recently affected so many people. For several months my vet-boss has been trying to sell the practice, and after many hold-ups and set-backs and tears and tantrums (and that was only the solicitor) the sale was finally completed and yesterday lunchtime I ceased to be employed by XYZ Veterinary Surgeons and became an integral part of ABC Veterinary Practice Ltd.

Now the fun starts. Because nobody knew when – or even if - the sale would happen we’ve been pottering along, business as usual, and we weren't allowed to mention the possibility of the sale to the clients. But now when clients ring up to book an appointment with the Old Boss we have to explain that he no longer works in the practice; unfortunately because it’s (apparently) so sudden they think he’s been struck off or something, so we go into the spiel about the sale and how the practice is merely under new ownership.

Some clients will no doubt leave because they liked Old Boss (there’s one with an appointment on what would have been Old Boss’s rostered day this week, who’s going to be stunned) and others who didn’t like him (he’s best described as an ‘acquired taste!’) might well return. The wife of the new owner, who’ll be doing the actual vet stuff, has yet to make an appearance!

The computer system seems not to have been changed overnight, although the credit-card machine has (New Boss explained to m’colleague that “it’s like the ones restaurants use.” To which she replied in a bewildered tone “I have a father and a husband. I don’t pay in restaurants.”), and we have to remember to answer the phone differently. That could take a while to get into the swing of, and I confidently predict that I’ll use my home number in answer before I remember the new name.

And we’ll need new uniforms, and all the printers will need the letterheads and label details changed, and new business cards, and all the notices will need redoing, and … and … and …

Chaos and confusion will be the order of the day for some while yet!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Goodbye, piccalilli

There is only one variety of piccalilli that we like, but it’s not easy to obtain. At first we could get it from farm shops locally, but one by one they stopped selling it until it seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth. Every time we visited a different area of the country we’d stop at local delis and see if they had any, but although they all stocked other products from the same company, they never had piccalilli. We searched from Cornwall to Kent to the Lake District, and many points in between. Then a shop in Banbury thrillingly managed to get some and we carried home the jars in triumph, and ate them.

Then the shop couldn’t get any more.

After several more months had passed the company lowered its minimum order price from £200 to £20, so we ordered some for ourselves, and we’re eagerly awaiting our delivery. This morning a parcel was delivered – from a new deli in Battle (no, not New Delhi in India) containing six jars of this prize. My mother hadn’t realised we’ve ordered some and kindly arranged a surprise for us.

Piccalilli sandwich, anyone?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dem bones, dem bones

Hurrah for Ned! This week's weigh-in confirmed that he's reached his target weight; a loss of 42lb since Christmas! I'm very proud of him and will now allow him a scraping of butter on his cardboard.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Where the sun shines brightly?

Well, we're back, and rather sooner than planned. The journey down was as expected and we got the tent put up in fine weather, which was lovely. So we took a little evening stroll down to the beach local to the campsite so Beattie could stretch her legs. The beaches down there are wonderfully dog-friendly, which makes a pleasant change.

Next day we got a couple of caches under our belt to break ourselves in for what we planned would be a mighty effort. The first required a fair amount of pushing and shoving and squeezing to retrieve ... but only minimal DNA was left behind on the thorns, so that was all right.

The Cornish have a different idea of what 'hedge' means - an awful lot of stone is involved.
Then it was back to the tent for a rest. Honestly, you'd have thought that for two people and a dog that two chairs, a double airbed and a dogbed would be fine, wouldn't you? Well that's wrong. You need spaces for three, because obviously Beattie isn't a dog, but she kindly allowed me to sit on her chair sometimes
and was willing to let me share the bed. Ned and I both fell off several times each night when she turned over or stretched.
Next day was fine and not too blowy, so we went caching in Boscastle. Guess where the cache is in this picture?
Some of the houses there are obviously only suitable for thin people with flat-pack furniture. This doorway is regular-sized, but the doors most definitely aren't!
Boscastle is still having reconstruction work done after the flood of 2004 but it's very much a thriving village again, which is good to see. We first went there in 2003 and I fell in love with this 14th-century building
which was totally washed away in the disaster. In the picture you can see the end of the building behind. The owner managed to salvage much of the stone when they cleared the harbour of cars, trees and assorted rubble and has rebuilt it. Sadly it's lost a lot of its charm.
A short drive down the narrowest lanes imaginable, where the car was scraping the undergrowth on both sides at once, and the grass growing in the middle of the road needed mowing, got us another couple of caches. Then the weather closed in.

And stayed closed in. The gales blew, the rain lashed down across, the tent rocked madly in the powerful gusts. And the forecast was for more to come. After a wakeful night waiting for the sound of ripping fabric as the tent was buffetted from side to side and groaned like a ship foundering on the rocks we decided discretion was the better part of valour and disappointedly packed up and came home. It was a shame because we'd been so looking forward to the break but we'd have been too afraid to leave the tent to visit anywhere in case the tent left as well!

Maybe we'll go back to finish the holiday in September - hopefully not coinciding with the equinoctial gales!

PS. It appears from the TV news that Boscastle has today been hit by a similar, though thankfully smaller, inundation. Perhaps we'd better not go back there ever ever again.

Friday, June 15, 2007

No more working for a week or two

We're off on wallaby in the morning. Be good while I'm away.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

And it will be my last

Watching 'House' alerted us to a fab band. We hadn't heard of zero 7 before. Off to the record shop!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dipping in the pocket of her raincoat

An eventful day at work. The morning shift included a woman who turned up randomly with her dog to see the vet a full 20 minutes after the vet should have left, but luckily we'd been having a cuppa and a gossip so there wasn't a problem. Within 10 minutes the dog had been referred to the nearest eye specialist (an hour's drive away) with the owner in utter shock. Two days ago the young (3½ years) terrier cross was fine - today it's blind in one eye and the other is affected. Tomorrow it has to have the blind eye removed and is on medication to try to save the other. Primary Lens Luxation is hereditary - don't believe those who tell you that crossbreeds don't suffer from hereditary conditions. That's total tosh.

In the afternoon another woman burst into the waiting room in a panic, asking for a vet to come out to a dog she'd run over in xxxxx Road. I live in xxxxx Road - my automatic response was "What sort of dog?" - not the question she was expecting. On being told "A spaniel" I could cope (phew, not mine!) and all went smoothly from there. (Not a great prognosis, apparently.)

I'm emotionally drained.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Fools rush in

In the field this afternoon Harry and Piglet were systematically hunting along the hedge as usual where all the rabbit holes are when they both suddenly stopped and concentrated; stepped back in puzzlement then went in again. The next thing was that Piglet tore along to the end of the hedge, through the gap and sprinted back along the other side to where Harry was still engrossed. Assuming one had flushed a bunny and the other was going after it I was surprised when a buzzard slowly flapped up from the other side of the hedge from Harry. I blew the whistle and was very pleased to see Piglet reappear unscathed - but was slightly taken aback to see that he was carrying a freshly-dead woodpigeon. It seems he'd mugged the buzzard for its kill and won! Even more pleasing was his triumphant return to give me the trophy.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye

It seems that you don't hang around long after you die in America. My dear aunt died on Friday and it's her funeral today. Is that short time usual Over There? It doesn't give much time for more distant relatives to attend.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Art for art's sake

What to do on a wet weekend? We'd planned to paint the fascia around the extension, but the weather put paid to that. So I took this photo, tinkered on the computer then got out my oil paints ...

... and turned it into this.

It still needs some work, but it's not too bad.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Don't leave me hanging on the telephone

Why is it impossible, with a landline phone, to hang up and get a clear line when someone's called you with a mobile? Boy didn't believe me, but I showed him that, if the caller with the mobile doesn't cancel the call, the landline phone can't get a clear line again, no matter how many times you hang up the receiver. It's infuriating when it happens to your home phone (when your Beloved has the mobile in his pocket and all you can hear is the sound of his rhythmic stride), but it happened at work and I had to spend a full 20 minutes shouting and whistling and desperately trying to attract the attention of the mobile owner. Silly twit had accidentally speed-dialled the vet's number without realising. I hope nobody wanted to contact the vet urgently.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

He's got the key of the door

Twenty-one candles on a cake generate a lot of heat ...

... and need a lot of breath to blow out!

Happy birthday, Boy! Where did all the years go?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Some sunny day

We had a lovely time at the Jane mini-meet. Newcastle-under-Lyme is a long long way from the coast, so we were certain that only a TOG would have named their terraced house there 'Sea View'. Lots of things happened, like Marshy getting a fit of the giggles at some innocent throw-away line and nearly pebble-dashing the table with Space Dust; The Monster (who was A Star: grown-ups sitting chatting for hours are incredibly boring and she didn't once kick up a fuss) managed to spill glitter onto the carpet in her corner which will no doubt be there for ever and ever (I even found a bit on my eyelid this morning); several people played pass-the-parcel with MMLS, who was almost as much of a star as her Big Sister; a couple of
local caches just happened to be nabbed, and then it was time to go home.

Watching NCIS that night we heard the most joyously well-written exchange between two of the cast. "What did Ducky look like when he was young?" asked the young woman. There was a pause, then "Ilya Kuryakin" came the reply. Magic!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

You put your right leg in

Just as we left the house to go shopping I noticed a scrumpled-up piece of paper on the hall floor, and rather than sensibly picking it up at the time I left it where it was to deal with it on our return. As the return involved carrying in armfuls of shopping I walked past the piece of paper and opened the kitchen door to put said shopping on the table.

"Don't let the dogs out, mum, there's a fiver on the hall floor" says Boy.

Not any more there wasn't. In the time it took Boy to say that short sentence the scrumpled piece of paper had vanished. Harry had a toy in his mouth so is probably innocent. All we can think of is that Piglet or Beattie's next poos will be expensive.

*kicks Ned for carelessness (dropping it)
*kicks self for untidiness (not picking it up when I first saw it)
*kicks Boy for stupidity (leaving it there, knowing what it was)
*kicks dogs for purposes of equality.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I don't have no time for no monkey business

When I got home from work at lunchtime there was a small cardboard box* by the front door. It was wriggling slightly and a muffled sobbing seemed to be coming from it**. I carefully carried it indoors, cut the tape that had been securing it and released a young primate, who seemed to be very relieved to breathe the fresh air. He was taken upstairs and carefully introduced to the rest of the group. He seems a little nervous.

I hope they don't fight.

* Thanks Stu! :D
** May have been my imagination

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

To Sir, with love

I had a letter published in the Daily Telegraph yesterday! I write to them several times a year (musings always pithy, witty and to the point of course!) but have only once before had one published. Yesterday’s offering read:

Sir - As J. P. Floru (Letters, May 5) believes that state funding through taxation for public transport is a bad idea because it means that those who choose not to use the rail system are still paying for it, I assume he believes that state funding for the National Health Service through taxation is a bad idea for the same reason. The fact is that the NHS relies on everyone's contributions, whether we use it or not, to enable it to be available when we need it. Likewise the rail system.

It’s a shame they edited out my last sentence, which basically was my whole point:

In fact if the rail network was subsidised by all of us through taxes the fares might be lowered enough for those not as wealthy as some to be able to afford to use it, thus getting more cars off the roads, reducing traffic congestion and cutting pollution.

Later that evening I had a phonecall from a bloke in the village who’d had his letter to the paper published on Friday! We shall have to start up the Kineton Telegraph Letter-writers Club.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The oak and the ash and the bonny ivy tree

If you're a straw-chewing rustic you'll be well aware of ye olde country weather prediction:

"Oak before the ash, we're in for a splash,
Ash before the oak, we're in for a soak".

After the overnight drizzle cleared we went caching and came across this splendid example of the state of the two species, one to one side of us, one on the other.

Oak

Ash

It looks as though it's going to be a dry year.

Oh, and one of the caches was in the traditional ivy-covered tree.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A case of do or die

In order to write a sensible shopping list and not buy stuff we already had, and forget things we needed, I was checking through the cupboards. Lasagne - needed. Dried apricots - needed. Cereal - okay for. Rice; basmati, plenty; long grain, should be okay ... ooh what's this? A don't remember buying a box of Uncle Ben's Florentine rice, I wonder how long it's been there. Ooh look, it's got a price ticket from the shop near the old house, and we've not been there for ages. Being TOGs and proud of it we take not a jot of notice of trivia such as sell-by dates and associated nannying, but a lot of squinting located the best before date, which caused a dilemma.

The BBD was The Boy's birthday. The original one. Do we have the rice to celebrate their joint 21st anniversary on May 20th or shall we keep the packet as an heirloom?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

As I was a-walking one morning in May

Most years it's been a struggle to find some hawthorn (aka 'May') in bloom for decoration on May 1st. This year there's no problem - it's been in flower for at least a fortnight.

So now that the May's out we can cast our clouts willy-nilly.

Sumer is icumen in

The May Queen by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

YOU must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear;
To-morrow ’ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
Of all the glad New-year, mother, the maddest merriest day,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

There’s many a black, black eye, they say, but none so bright as mine;
There’s Margaret and Mary, there’s Kate and Caroline;
But none so fair as little Alice in all the land they say,
So I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

I sleep so sound all night, mother, that I shall never wake,
If you do not call me loud when the day begins to break;
But I must gather knots of flowers, and buds and garlands gay,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

As I came up the valley whom think ye should I see
But Robin leaning on the bridge beneath the hazel-tree?
He thought of that sharp look, mother, I gave him yesterday,
But I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

He thought I was a ghost, mother, for I was all in white,
And I ran by him without speaking, like a flash of light.
They call me cruel-hearted, but I care not what they say,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

They say he’s dying all for love, but that can never be;
They say his heart is breaking, mother—what is that to me?
There’s many a bolder lad ’ill woo me any summer day,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

Little Effie shall go with me to-morrow to the green,
And you’ll be there, too, mother, to see me made the Queen;
For the shepherd lads on every side ’ill come from far away,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

The honeysuckle round the porch has woven its wavy bowers,
And by the meadow-trenches blow the faint sweet cuckoo-flowers;
And the wild marsh-marigold shines like fire in swamps and hollows gray,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

The night-winds come and go, mother, upon the meadow-grass,
And the happy stars above them seem to brighten as they pass;
There will not be a drop of rain the whole of the livelong day,
And I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

All the valley, mother, ’ill be fresh and green and still,
And the cowslip and the crowfoot are over all the hill,
And the rivulet in the flowery dale ’ill merrily glance and play,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

So you must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear,
To-morrow ’ill be the happiest time of all the glad New-year;
To-morrow ’ill be of all the year the maddest merriest day,
For I’m to be Queen o’ the May, mother, I’m to be Queen o’ the May.

...................................................................................

The Boy just can't believe that we had to memorise poems like that at Junior School. They don't seem to have to learn anything by heart any more. It's a shame.

Happy May Day everyone!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

They laugh a lot behind the green door.

It sounded like a good idea. The greenhouse needed a bit of tidying and cleaning, so why not move it two feet nearer the house while we were at it? That'd give us more room behind it to relocate the toolshed, then we could have a more attractive one by the patio to store the garden furniture and plant a magnolia alongside near where we felled the enormous Leylandii and it'd be lovely.

Part 1 of the plan was successful. 74 panes of glass have been removed and washed, and the superstructure unbolted from the base and shuffled sideways so that we could then unpeg that and move it two feet to the left. The ground was dug over and levelled, the frame shuffled back and the sparkly panes reinstalled. A barrowload of well-rotted muck was transported from our neighbour's heap (please take more!) and dug in, and everything that had previously been in the greenhouse (apart from the rodents' nests, slugs, snails, bindweed etc) was rehoused.

I don't think there's a part of either of us that doesn't hurt. Even the very tippy-ends of our toes hurt. But we accomplished what we set out to do, so we not only laugh behind the green door, but behind the entire green house. Plus, not a single pane of glass was broken, and neither of us have needed to visit the Casualty deparment for stitches or anything else. A win, I think.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Don’t ask me what I want it for

My tax return arrived today. I haven't had to fill in (fill out?) one of these for years. I predict much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Such a digital lifetime

I tried to use the credit card in Asda today, because they don't accept cheques any more. I tentatively put the card into their machine, and the screen told me I had one more try left to get the PIN right. I checked the number, carefully moved towards the buttons ... when Ned leaned over my shoulder and put in the wrong number before I could stop him! So the PIN was blocked and the card useless. Ned then promptly forgot the PIN for his other card, and the lengthening queue behind us started getting restive, so we decided to hand over cash instead and beat a hasty retreat.

On my return home I phoned the credit card company to ask them to unblock the PIN. The woman at the other end was a little surprised at this request because it wasn't showing up as being blocked in the first place. Neither had they any record of declined transactions - not today, and not from the shop in Coventry on the 3rd. She went the formality of unblocking it for me anyeway, and I have to go to a hole-in-the-wall and unblock it myself as well. If it still doesn't work I'm going to get very very cross indeed.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

You know I need someone

“Mother, help me!” she called, but there was no response. Where was Mother, now, when she was needed so desperately? Maggie suddenly remembered that Mother had gone away a long time ago and wouldn’t be coming back. It had been very hard at the time, but as the years passed she had become independent and the terrible loss eased to a dull ache, until she was so used to it she rarely noticed it.

She’d managed very well, she thought. She’d found herself a lovely man, and their marriage had been long and very successful, with children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. At the time it had been a wrench to leave all she knew and come here with him, but there had been letters and visits, and Hank had done so well, working his way up the company until he'd bought it, that she’d always known that she only had to pick up the phone and she could get a flight whenever she wanted.

The trouble had started gradually. At first the pain was merely niggling, soothed by gentle exercise, but it steadily got stronger, and the painkillers needed to keep it at bay did likewise. Eventually she agreed that all the insurance money they’d paid should be put to good use and she signed the consent forms for the surgery that should fix the problem for good. What a shame it didn’t work but actually made things worse. The painkillers got even stronger, and the operations (because they could do them, not because they should, she thought) more frequent and more involved. She'd felt rather like a guineapig at the time, but they assured her it'd all be worth it in the end. Now she realised they meant it'd be worth it for them because of all the money they'd make, not worth it for her. She still needed the drugs, more and more, and the weakness extended. The diapers were just another humiliation, and she realised what she'd lost and could never regain.

This was when the fear started. She was no longer the master of the drugs, and had become their servant, and she couldn’t do without them. And now she was unable to just pick up the phone to arrange a flight to the past because no airline would take her. She badly wanted to go ‘home’ just once more, to hear the old familiar accents and smell the air, and see the small houses and the cars on the left, but she couldn’t even leave the hospital to go to the home where she’d raised her family. She was trapped here forever, and she panicked. But they don’t like you to lose control, and they shut you away.

“Help me Mother, please help me!” she screamed, as they locked the door.