Spontaneous – but no combustion

dining out

Apologies for the absence of blogging yesterday.

Our well-planned day took a delightfully unexpected turn which kept me from my desk and the opportunity to blog off.

We were supposed to be doing some food shopping, collecting my bag of drugs from the pharmacy and an air bottle from Gap Boy’s friend’s house, taking Scooby out for a nice long walk and then coming home to whip up some lasagne for dinner.

Hub was due to desert me for the paintball fields and forests the next day, so post-dinner occupation would be a case of Hub packing his HUGE paintball bag in readiness for an early start, Scoob watching him balefully – he knows what that bag means  – No Daddy ALL day:-( and me trying to find something else to watch on the TV because we are digiboxing all the good stuff so we can watch it together.

I was just putting my face on prior to the shopping trip  – sorry but this is a face that needs a little assistance before it greets the outside world – when Hub came up the stairs in an unusually tentative fashion.

“Ummm, you know my friend from paintball that plays saxophone?”

I nodded and smiled encouragingly.

“Well, he’s got a gig in Liverpool tonight. How do you feel about going?”

Even if I hadn’t wanted to go, the look on his face would have persuaded me. The tentativeness was due to the fact that the pub was just up the road from the university building where I had taken so many Open University exams and the scene of the fateful exam where I was so ill I fell asleep and failed as a consequence of the accident that blighted our lives for over eighteen months. He didn’t want us to go if it would bring back bad memories for me.

All that is behind me now.

We decided that the lasagne could wait till tomorrow when I had a day to myself and Hub could come home from paintball, grubby and battle-scarred to the welcoming smell of freshly cooked food.

Face on.  We did the shopping, picked up the drugs (nothing Class A, B or C), collected the air bottle that was an essential part of Hub’s paintball kit and got home for a late lunch and a rollicking row with GB.

Apparently we should have known that he meant us to collect his bag, top and hat from his friend’s house at the same time.

Did we know this? Nope.

Did GB at any time tell us that he wanted us to collect anything other than the air bottle? Nope.

Is it GB’s fault for not telling us? Nope (well yes but he wouldn’t admit it).

We employed the time old method of dealing with a stroppy teen.

  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Say nothing.
  • Carry on doing what you were doing before the onslaught started.

It worked. GB stomped off upstairs muttering insults and imprecations.

We stayed in the kitchen with Scoob and had lunch. Peace.

After lunch, like two conspirators, Hub and I tried to get Scooby’s rucksack of walkies needs  put together without him noticing.

Fat chance. That dog has eyes in his paws as well as his tail.

Scooby gets very excited at the mention of the word ‘walkies’ but the phrase ‘going in the car’ causes him to squeal and run up and down the room in ecstasy.

Trying to get your shoes on in a room with a happily rampaging hound is not easy.

GB had calmed down by now (like me – his explosions are short-lived but even more rapidly erased from his memory).

He was outside revving up the engine of his beloved motorbike. Luckily Scoob has undergone motorbike de-sensitisation training (carried out by GB of course) so he was more concerned with getting into his car seat and being strapped in than the roaring metal beast on the drive – and the motorbike..

I like Spike Island.

When the boys were younger we used to take them to the Catalyst Museum at the top of the road.  They could spend hours playing with the experiments, riding up and down in the glass lift (think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and badgering us for everything on sale in the Museum shop.

My Lovely Mum and Ronnie used to drive down to the canalside at Spike Island; Mum would sit in the car and watch whilst Ronnie fed stale crusts to the mass of swans, geese, ducks and seagulls that gather there every day.

Stale crusts must have been short on supply when we visited with Scoobs; the wildfowl had  settled on the grass, which made me slightly worried because although Scoobs is on a lead, the sight of so many white and grey fluttery things was liable to set him off on a massive wuff fest.

Scooby was on a lead but the very excited lurcher that ran through the birds scattering them up into the air wasn’t.

His owner, completely oblivious to the havoc his dog was causing, was striding off in the opposite direction to us, and having made three passes and sent all the birds up in the air, the bouncing brown lurcher followed.

It was a surprising peaceful stroll (me and my stick) and run (Hub and Scooby) round the island.


They are starting to build the new bridge from both sides and there are plenty of vantage points on Spike Island where you can keep an eye on the progress.


It was a lovely day for dog walking – and people walking too. Scooby was particularly happy because it was dinner time for him by the time we got home. The car! Walkies! The car again! Dinner!

As a consequence of the late hour, Hub and I decided to dine out especially as his friend had informed him that the food at the pub was awesome.

I booked us a table. I mentioned that we were coming to watch a friend play.

Even at our advanced age, there’s something more than a little exciting about driving into a big city in the dark and facing an unknown quantity.

We found the pub – at the opposite end of the street to the university building so not even the tiniest of bad memories.  We were greeted like royalty by the staff and told that they would save some seats for us down near the performance area for when we had finished our dinner.

Oh, what a dinner! Hub says that the pork was the best he had ever eaten. I had lamb – lamb that was a world away from the fatty, stringy thin slices I remembered from roast dinners of the past. This was pink and luscious, and the sort of meal where you put your knife and fork down in order to taste every mouthful.

Too stuffed for pudding, we moved down to the other end of the bar where ‘Reserved’ notices had been placed on the table near the band.

I say band – it was our friend the saxophonist and another lovely man on keyboards who had the most incredible voice. Think mellow. Think blues. Think sitting back and letting the glorious sax wash over you whilst you sip on a Baileys over ice.

I love being an adult 🙂

GB texted us a couple of times towards the end of the evening – ‘When are you coming home?’, ‘Do I have to take the dog out?’, ‘I feel bleurgh’, ‘Can you get me five cheeseburgers from MacDonalds?’.

It was way after midnight by the time we got home  but yes – we bought him the cheeseburgers.


It is a wonderful thing and an aspect of life that I think, keeps us young.

I remember the excitement of my Dad waking us up in the night to watch a spectacular storm. I’ve never been frightened of thunder and lightning as a consequence.

The school day on which I called in for my friend, only for her mother (a school governor) to decide that we both looked peaky and needed a day at the seaside instead.

Getting on a bus to go to a nightclub that opened at a time when I would previously have been thinking about going to bed.

Needing little persuasion to go out for a late night curry with my drama school mates – despite the fact that I was far more overdrawn than I should have been able to be on a £10 per day student cashcard.

Cheers Barclays. It took me a good six months of working full-time to pay off that overdraft.

Hub is a master of spontaneity.

He is okay with routines and rules but one of things I love about him is that he has always had a very flexible outlook on life.

When Uni Boy was a baby and got very colicky at night, we used to put him the car, pick up some Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut from the all night garage, and drive down to Portsdown Hill to look at the lights below.

When we moved North and became a part of our much beloved coffee morning group, spontaneity sent us off on last minute picnics, pub lunches or a trip to the chippy for those of us who were enjoying each other’s company so much that we didn’t want it to stop just yet.

Full-time work and school put the mockers on being flexible although we still managed to squeeze in a surprise trip to London for GB’s fourth birthday.  He thought that we were just going for a visit to Daddy’s airport and squealed with delight when we climbed on a Luton-bound Easyjet, then a train into that London place, the Underground and – joy of joys – the Science Museum! Uni Boy was slightly more restrained about the surprise – but only slightly.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always told Hub that I don’t want any surprise parties – especially if there is a stripogram. That kind of surprise would be difficult for me to reconcile – especially as the one male stripogram I saw kept his socks on – eurgh! And they were black nylon socks.

Now that I work at home for myself I am free to say ‘Yes!’ when a friend invites me out for lunch, or when another friend texts to say that they are in the area and in need of coffee – especially now that I have my wonderful Pingu-like coffee maker.

Two years ago that wouldn’t have been the case.

Two years ago I was hobbling painfully, too scared to go out alone, stressed  from head to toe, worried that I was grumbling about the pain too much, or that in an effort not to being boring, I was underplaying just how horrible everything was.

At my worst moments Hub was always there to guide me out of my doldrums and into the car; taking me off to Crosby for half an hour with Anthony Gormley’s standing men and an ice cream, or down to Spike Island to watch the swans, just like my Mum.

Through all the bad times my Lovely Friend gave me gorgeous nails that took my mind off my mangled toe and  gave us time to talk and put the world to rights.  She is definitely a lady to lunch with.

My Dear Friend accompanied me to horrible meetings, made me smile through the tears and knew just when I needed a large glass of red to sort me out. Afternoons spent in the company of DF, and her adorable family leave Hub and I with a happy contentment that lasts all the way home and beyond.

Then I found my Bezzie Mate again and he gave me the motivation to get out of the house, go on a bus – and a train – in order to reclaim my life and freedom. BM and Hub have become friends too and I love listening to the pair of them rattle on about airplanes and motorbikes.

Uni Boy is away most of the time now but I love his checking-up-on-me calls and the texts telling me exactly what time his train is due in and what he has to accomplish in the short time he is home.

Scooby and Gap Boy are my constant companions when Hub is at work.  Whilst GB and I fight like cat and dog, he gives the best hugs and is still my baby even though he is six feet two and wants to go in the army.

Scooby Doo – where are you? Inevitably sat beside me curled up on the sofa, snoring or moaning happily.  Lying on the kitchen floor as I cook, one eye open in case I drop some food on the floor.

Hub and I are so lucky with our families and friends. Old and new friends.

Thank you all for giving us those moments of inspiration that lead to days that you never forget.


GB needs his shirt ironing because he is hitting the town tonight.

Scoob and I need to clear up the kitchen – my lovely kitchen that has changed life for the better – so that we can make lasagne for dinner.

No combustion.

GB tried to teach me how a combustion engine works once.

Epic Fail.

‘Sally Forth’

Her husband held her particularly close that morning as he left for work. She waved him goodbye and checked her watch.  Six fifteen. Shower first or breakfast?

The dog’s soft whine and imploring eyes were a momentary distraction from her purpose. She stuffed her feet into a pair of old suede boots, pulled on her duffel coat and opened the patio doors.  He ran out into the garden with a joyous abandon that made her smile initially, then feel slightly envious. Picking up his lead and some doggy treats, she gingerly stepped out in the courtyard to join him.

There were few cars and even fewer people around at that time of the morning.  The dog performed a ten-second wee, then dragged her back towards the house.  His momentary distraction by a low-flying wood-pigeon nearly pulled her off-balance and she felt the racing pulse of fear begin. The dog seemed to sense that something was wrong however, He stopped pulling and waited patiently for her to open the gate that would let them back into the safety of the courtyard.

Back inside the house, she sat down briefly in order to calm herself.  The doggy brown eyes worked their charm again; he was soon settled with his breakfast and she was free to continue with her own preparations. She checked the clock. Twenty to seven.

Breakfast first and she took the easy way out with cereal and fruit juice.  Knocking back the parade of pills lined up on the counter top, she wondered if she would ever get back to a time when she was pill-free? Pain-free? Panic-free?

The dog joined her on the sofa as she crunched her way through the cereal.  The BBC news provided a slight distraction but the dog’s warmth on her leg, the touch of his silky ears and the occasional grateful lick, all these provided her with the reassurance she needed for now.

She washed up her bowl and glass, leaving them on the drainer to put away when she returned.  If she returned.  How silly! Of course she would return.

Giving the dog a brief hug, she went off for a shower, hoping that the hot water would wash the muzziness away and help her to think more clearly.

The stimulus lasted long enough to help her choose her clothes for the day. Nothing sloppy but nothing too restrictive or uncomfortable.  She needed to be comfortable.  The last thing she wanted to worry about was her appearance but she took extra time drying her hair, applying her brave face and finally, getting dressed. She checked her watch. Had a whole hour and a half gone past?

There was still no need to rush though.  They had arranged to meet at ten o’clock. It took five minutes to walk to the bus stop (ten to allow for her reduced speed of walking).  She had checked the bus timetables on-line and the journey took twenty-five minutes provided the bus arrived on time.  She had a back up  bus going from the other side of the road in case the first bus failed to turn up.  She dared not think any further than that because the panic rally would set in and she’d never leave the house.

Standing in the kitchen, fully dressed now, she checked that everything was there. Keys, purse, phone and rucksack so that she could carry her worldly goods and still have her hands free.  The Midas card that she and her husband had purchased two days earlier so that she didn’t have to get anxious about having the correct money for the bus.  The walking stick.  Her constant companion for the past nine months, only ever replaced by the support and comfort of her husband’s arm.

She went back in and gave the dog another hug, knowing that she was procrastinating.  It was time to go. Her heart pounded as she pulled on her coat, filled the pockets with the items she needed immediately and pushed her arms through the straps of the rucksack.

Locking the door was achievable, so was walking down the garden path to the point where the dog regularly watered the shrubs by the front door. Opening the gate was harder.  She took a deep breath and hurried through, pulling it closed behind with a clang.  The stick!  She forgot the walking stick! Retracing her steps with a speed that had been alien to her for so many months, she unlocked the door, grabbed the hated stick, locked up again and was back onto the pavement before she realised it.

She checked her watch. Only seven minutes to get to the bus stop! Concentrate. Walk fast but don’t fall.  The stick will help you.  She could see people waiting at the bus stop.  Would they ask the driver to wait for her if they saw her hobbling down the road? Would she fall? Would she lie there like a stranded fish; unable to get up, embarrassed by the concern and kindness of other people again?

She put on an exceptionally brave spurt of speed and got to the bus stop with time to spare, joining the queue of elderly people and their walking sticks.  She looked down at hers, feeling less resentful and more grateful for the support it had provided.

The bus arrived. There were plenty of seats. The Midas card worked and as she picked up her ticket and sat down, she could feel some of the anxieties ebbing away; each one a hurdle that she had overcome.

She checked her watch again. On time and only one more obstacle along the way.

As the bus neared town, she felt herself grow cold. As she approached the scene of the accident she grew hot again. For nine months they had driven the other way, had avoided the place where the careless driver had hit her as she crossed the road, throwing her into the air and against a wall, where she lay, winded, confused and in such pain. Nine months ago.

Nine months of struggling to walk again.  Nine months of being too afraid to go out alone in case she fell. Nine months of falling in the house, of not being strong enough to take the dog out for a walk, of needing her husband’s arm to support her.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying desperately hard not to panic. She had to do this.

The bus stopped and opening her eyes, she realised that the danger had passed.  They were at the bus station.  She was safe again.  She got to her feet to join the other passengers and as she and the stick got off the bus she heard a sound that made her smile and banished all the fear. She turned and saw her friend, grinning like a loon and hurrying towards her.

“Sally! You did it! I’m so proud of you! ”