But now I know the things I know And do the things I do, And if you do not like me so, To hell, my love, with you.” Dorothy Parker

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I am fast approaching my Heinz beanz birthday and I can’t help wondering – how old do I have to get before people stop telling me who and what I should like?

I am embarking upon another ranty blog –  so look away quickly if you are easily offended.

No one and nothing on earth will ever make me vote for a political party that targets the poor, the sick and the elderly in order to put money in their own  pockets and those of their already well-off mates. I was brought up as a socialist (thanks to Lovely Mum) and have yet to see anything that will make me change my mind. I will post and share what I like on FaceAche and if you don’t like it – ignore it. No amount of unfriending, blocking or emotional blackmail is going to turn this woman.

Toxic people have no place in my life. If the only way you can be happy is to make others unhappy then I don’t want to know you.

I finally unfriended someone who has irritated the hell out of me over the years with whines, complaints, envy and spite. I helped this person out some years ago when the police were threatening  prosecution over something done in this person’s name. A policeman turned up at my place of work to take a character reference in support of the person. I never even got an acknowledgement from them,  just some snide FaceAche comments accusing me of making a fuss about nothing after I had an accident at work.

This rant was sparked by Biker Boy and I having another of our stimulating conversations about W-O-R-K. He cannot understand how ANYBODY can spend all day in an office in front of a computer. Some of us had no choice.  Before you read this next bit, please let me point out that as per my blog disclaimer ‘All characters in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, live or dead, is purely coincidental.

So ner.

There have been people who I thoroughly enjoyed sharing an office with. I’m still in touch with most of them – so you know who you are and you have my undying admiration for having survived sharing an office with me. There were others possessed of such tunnel vision that they had no awareness of how their behaviour impacted upon others – and probably would have burst into crocodile tears if anyone ever dared challenge them.

  • Miss Trivia – our Boss gave this female a week of undeclared leave when her pet dog died whereas I was told that I had to take annual leave to look after my children when Hub was in hospital with kidney stones. I didn’t bat my baby blue eyes and simper enough obviously. Miss Trivia also became so obsessed with buying a house with her long-suffering boyfriend that every day the office was bombarded with updates on what kind of kitchen scouring pads she had bought, the colour of her washing up bowl and what excellent taste she had. She made such extravagant plans for their impending nuptials that said boyfriend broke off the engagement and moved out until she could be persuaded to scale things down
  • The ‘Not-in-my-Day’ tyrants – older women who would kick up a fuss if anyone in the office with children was allowed time off to deal with a domestic crisis. ‘I was never allowed time off with MY children – it wouldn’t have happened in MY day’. Strangely enough they made no complaint about Miss Trivia’s leave …
  • Smokers – as an extremely ex-smoker myself, I have every sympathy with those who cannot give up the evil weed, but all understanding went out of the window when they hung their smoke-ridden coats on top of mine – leaving me to travel home stinking of stale tobacco
  • Football fans – having a ‘discussion’ with a colleague who doesn’t support the same team as you so loudly that no one else in the office can hear the person they are trying to have a conversation with on the phone. I tried asking them to keep it down once and was told off for being rude
  • Those with ‘ungrateful’ grown up children – who, when they weren’t being berated on the phone during working hours, were the burning topic of endless office diatribes
  • Infinite beverage makers and washers up – one of the most effective ways of avoiding work is to make endless cups of tea and coffee for your colleagues, and ensure that you also do the washing up afterwards. People will think that you are kind and helpful without realising that they are doing all the work while you are swanning off to the kitchen area in your Marigolds
  • Fridge pilferers – they creep into your office in the gap between staff leaving at the end of the day and the cleaners coming in – sometimes they are so brazen that they carry out their dirty doings while the cleaners are there. Tins of biscuits that were half full are  empty the next day. Cans of fizzy drink left in the fridge mysteriously disappear – even foodstuff stored away in your own drawer isn’t safe unless you lock it away. One pilferer was so determined that he had a method of unlocking drawers with a penknife. I left him a very rude note and a piece of ripe Camembert once. The drawer was a bit smelly for a while but it did seem to put him off 🙂

Of course, at the root of all office-based conflict is the manager. I have worked under good managers and bad. I had thought that laissez-faire management was the worst but I had to invent a new category for one manager – flaccid-faire. If the man couldn’t shout you down when you asked him to do a bit of managing, he would shrug his shoulders, put on a wimpish face and bleat ‘Give me a break’.

Senior managers are often a bad joke. They are merely for show, get paid an extortionate amount of money and are classic examples of people who are so adept at avoiding dismissal that they just keep getting promoted up the ladder into jobs with titles that no one really understands. There is usually a very loyal and intelligent administrator lurking in the shadow of such senior managers. This person has to make their dental, doctor and hair appointments, rewrite their badly written reports and lie about their whereabouts to family and colleagues – as in ‘No, he’s not back at his desk yet. I think he had to see someone else on the way back from his meeting.’ Said manager can usually be seen outside the building in smoker’s corner. Lesser mortals have to clock out and back in again when they need a cigarette but not managers.

I made the decision to become self-employed in July 2013. I was somewhat forced into the decision but I only have regrets about it at Christmas time when I don’t get an outing to Wetherspoons for a cheap roast dinner or a Secret Santa present that only goes to show that Santa couldn’t really give a monkey’s about what I might have liked as a present. No one ever bought me a cattle prod or a taser. Even comedy ear muffs might have eased my office-based burden.

There are no arguments over beverage making in my home office. I don’t drink tea and only drink coffee made by the penguin coffee maker that was a present from Hub (Scoob and the boys) on Mother’s Day. Hub and I take it in turns to wash up depending on whether he is at work or not.

No need for smart, sensible office clothes. I am typing this wearing my nightshirt and it has gone midday! Such decadence. Scoob is sitting next to me and providing moral support. My chair is my own and so is my computer. No one from IT moans at me because I mouse left-handed and I don’t have to answer the house phone within three rings because it is usually some dork trying to sell me a boiler, new windows or wanting to run a health check on my pc.

Nob off!

Important calls and texts come in on my mobile, which rarely leaves my side.

The downside is that I haven’t actually earned any money yet, and my intolerance of other people has increased now that I don’t actually have to suffer fools any more.

BB is just as intolerant and even less forgiving than me but he will find his way in life I have no doubt – I managed to get this far without actually killing anyone (in reality anyway).

But hey, haven’t I had enough of being dictated to now? Am I old enough to meet someone – online or off – and decide that I don’t want them in my life? Am I old enough to have my own political and social opinions yet? Am I old enough to wear purple and a red hat that doesn’t go? (Thank you Jenny Joseph.)

You bet I am.

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This is the beginning of anything you want…

 

Flying Eagle

Well, I’m back on the blog again.

New beginnings.

I have new lenses in my eyes – replacements for the old ones cluttered with cataracts – and can see like an eagle (can cause issues in the supermarket especially in the raw meat section).

The podiatrists sorted out the right big toe – it looks much prettier than the left big toe but then it hasn’t had a crate dropped on it. Happier toes have had a positive effect on my achy breaky legs and back so that I can walk further (with my Nordik walking poles), sit at the computer, and study with much less pain. Oh, and colouring. Now that it is an acknowledged adult pursuit I no longer need to colour in secret.

I completed NaNoWriMo again this year – my eighth win – and now it is time I finished editing it all that work and found an agent.

Gap Boy – now known as Biker Boy – has finally had his tonsils removed and is better company as a consequence. His ability to mend and remake BB guns has now extended itself into the realms of motorbikes.  Ah well, they cleared out the garage enough to fit their bikes in. Biker Boy now wants to turn the garage into a man cave…any sorcerers need an apprentice?

Uni Boy is now a Young Master of the Chemical Universe, and remains at York University doing a PhD that has something to do with antibiotics and amino acids. Don’t ask me – it still goes way over my head.

Apart from scoffing a potentially lethal amount of chocolate (wrappers included), biscuits and a Lindt bear when we had the temerity to go out for a meal, Scooby remains our faithful hound and my constant source of solace when Hub is at work. The vet bills were pretty horrendous though.

BB’s bad influence caused Hub to find his way back to motorbikes too. He was a biker when I met him and he does look very good in leathers.

A new year and time to put the unpleasant past behind me for good. I stopped blogging last year for a couple of reasons.

  • I knew that some ex-colleagues were watching the page and waiting for me to say something negative so that they could run and tell tales. Sorry to disappoint them but I really can’t be bothered any more
  • I also discovered some that people who I thought were friends had used and abused that friendship for their own ends. Blocked, un-friended for ever and banished
  • There was so much negativity after this that I didn’t particularly want to share it – especially with those people who were mad enough to say that they actually enjoyed my ramblings

I don’t know how often I’ll blog but I’ve forked out for another year so I may as well inflict my money’s worth on anyone who wants to read this. It’s good practice as far as touch typing is concerned – the last three years of enforced lassitude have eroded my administrational skills.

It’s been a quiet Christmas for us – from choice – but we still managed to spend time with many of our nearest and dearest. BB actually ate duck for his Christmas dinner – instead of his usual smelly bacon noodles liberally laced with Tabasco sauce. I cooked roast parsnips (yuck) for Hub and the YM, and had a success with recreating Mutti’s red cabbage – who knew juniper berries would be so hard to source – should have gone to Waitrose I suppose but Sandbach, Northwich or Southport are a bit too far to go just for a berry or six. The Scoob was not offered another enormous knuckle bone this year – the after effects were too horrendous to discuss. I found him some less smelly Christmas chews that kept him reasonably occupied while we were eating.

We had some wonderful Christmas presents – from those who know and love us well. A huge thank you to all those people who make my life happy; my family, my old and new friends. Some of you will have got Christmas cards. Some will have seen Scooby’s card on FaceAche. We were finishing writing them and going out to make deliveries when Scooby stuffed himself, and it threw us out of kilter.

The YM was returned to a very wet York on Boxing Day – the Tang Hall brook was bubbling up through the manhole covers but YM lives on higher ground fortunately and is very nimble on his feet. He smiled and shook his head when I offered to buy him wellies or flip-flops.

Our New Year’s Eve was blissfully quiet too; just me, Hub and the Scoob – once we had finished ferrying the boys to their respective parties. We went to bed around two am.  BB rumbled home and stomped up the stairs at around four am, and YM around six am – my Scooby intruder alarm was triggered but only a few mild wuffs were uttered. YM had warned me that he might not go to bed if he was still wide awake (inebriated) from his celebrations but would pack up quietly and get the train back to York.

There was a message on my mobile when I emerged at ten am – at eight am YM was in Manch and on his way Yorkwards. At least while he was here I fed him and lent him my phone charger and iron (my ironing does not meet his standards any more – oh dear).

Hub has gone back to work today after a happy eight days off together. We saw Star Wars VII – in 3D – on our own. I want to go and see it again, and I want another Star Wars cup.

A word of warning before I sign off. There are some unscrupulous people who make a tidy little sum from selling email addresses to companies who then inundate your inbox with badly spelled beggings for their crap products – at the least – or try to trick you into responding so they can access your account. The person I gave my address to said she wanted it so that she could keep in touch, but she never used it – she then passed it onto one of her simple satellites so I got spammed twice.

My junk mail box is usually quite full these. I don’t need to open or read them before sending them into the black hole where they belong. The spelling and grammar in the subject matter and first line alone is enough to make me giggle.

I’m studying proofreading and copy-editing now that my eyes are mended. Another string to my bow and a fascinating skill to acquire.

BB has just emerged from his upper man cave and  disappeared laden with red pepperoni sticks and shortbread – an interesting mix.

Hub phoned to make sure I was missing him – I was and he knew I would be but in a good way – but he will be back by nine-thirty pm.

Finally, a sad farewell to Terry Pratchett and Lemmy Kilmister – your legacies live on in your words and music long after the rubbish novels and tone-deaf singers have faded into obscurity.

Let’s get on now and make 2016 a good place to be. XXX

Ophthalmology – a game of snakes and ladders

Call-plan

 Doctor – my eyes!

I have cataracts. A big one in my right eye and the beginnings of one in my left eye.

It wasn’t a complete surprise; the ophthalmologist told me that they were developing a year ago and things have been getting increasingly fuzzy ever since.

Shopping in brightly lit supermarkets has become challenging. I get dazzled and dizzy halfway through the shopping trip. Hub has taken to running around the aisles like an updated supermarket sweep contestant – where is Dale Winton when you need him? Hub does this in an effort to get the shopping in the trolley before I have to lurch to the safety of the wooden benches placed for that purpose by the tills.

Our shopping bills have decreased remarkably – and Hub is keeping very trim – good exercise for all the paintballing.

This year’s eye screening confirmed the worst and the charming (and very young) ophthalmologist softened the blow of my eye referral with his dulcet Irish tones.

He reassured me that the whole thing would be done under a local anaesthetic in day surgery at the hospital.

I went public about my cataracts on FaceAche and was reassured by the number of people who had survived the operation and surfaced with better eyesight. The survivors included my own very brave Big Sis who knows more about hospitals than I’ve had Chinese takeaways.

The hospital appointment came through just after the New Year. The letter wasn’t very informative – just the vague warning that the appointment could last anywhere between 30 minutes to three hours. The letterhead confirmed that the Ophthalmology department was in the hospital but didn’t give a clue as to where.

Hub and I turned up early – as is my habit – my Dad always maintained that if you were anything less than 15 minutes early for an appointment – you were late. On this occasion it was just as well as the smiling volunteer from the Friends of the Hospital sent us in completely the wrong direction and we ended up in Endoscopy.

Redirected to the correct department, we were still on time for our 0830 hours appointment. I joined a queue of twelve people; some of us grasping our hospital letters, others looking bewildered. The receptionist was not a happy lady; I think she had forgotten any lessons learned on the customer care course and her worst growl was reserved for those who forgot to bring their letters.

As I stood in the queue, two nurses passed me and one of them said,”They’d better not wind me up today, I’m in the mood to tear someone’s head off.”

Well that’s not in the customer care manual either.

When it was my turn at the window, I smiled brightly and said ‘Good Morning’ as I passed my letter  under the narrow window gap. The phone rang at that moment and any retort she may have made was eaten up by her grumpy reply ‘Yes’ and a monosyllabic conversation with the poor unfortunate on the other end.

She found my file and told me to wait in the waiting room next door.

It was a large waiting room with a very nice flat screen TV. The sound was turned down however and the subtitles turned off. As there were notices advertising hearing aids as well as aids for the visually impaired, I’m not sure for whose benefit the TV was turned on.

It was a busy waiting room with staff trotting around in all directions, looking important and carrying clipboards.  When my name was called I followed the nurse and left Hub in charge of bags, coats and his Sudoku book. The nurse asked me to sit on a chair behind a pillar about three yards away from where Hub was sitting.

I sat and waited.

Ten minutes later she ushered me into a room with ‘Visual Acuity’ on the door. It also had a sliding sign that said ‘Free/Engaged’ on it.

I went through the usual eyesight tests and did my best not to guess at the letters. My concentration was interrupted five times by other staff opening the door and popping their heads in to see if the room was engaged or not.

I think they must have had some visual acuity issues themselves where the sign on the door was concerned. Either that or they didn’t do guessing.

When I had finished reading the letters, the nurse told me that I would need to do some field tests and that I could go and sit back behind the pillar. I asked if my husband could come too and she went off to fetch him.

We sat behind the pillar, Hub and I, with all our necessities and stared at the door marked ‘Field Tests’. It also had a ‘Free/Engaged’ sign on the door. A young blonde lady in a very tight-fitting black dress and stompy heels came in and out of the room several times, clutching her clipboard and looking stressed.  She passed us each  time but didn’t make eye contact.

After ten minutes of this (the optimum waiting time) she stomped out to the main waiting room and called my name. I got to my feet and responded. “Here”. She looked at me as if I was deliberately in the wrong place and checked my date of birth.

We went into the ‘Field Test’ room and she sat me down in front of one of those machines where you rest your chin and press a button when you see a light. she took my specs away and made a big thing of cleaning them before she checked the prescription.

The young lady – blessed with an unfortunately nasal Liverpool whine – gave me the instructions as if I was a half wit and set the machine going. My clicking was disturbed by people coming in and out of the room and banging the door loudly. By the time we got onto testing my left eye, I had sussed out the pattern of lights (random – oh yeah!) and did my best to ignore the unwelcome visitors.

I was tetchy by now and decided that enough was enough. I asked the young lady why there were so many interruptions and that as the patient I found it rather rude and disrespectful to have people banging about in the room whilst I was doing a test.

Nobody knocked on the door either.

To her credit, she went off in search of the complaints book and wrote down my objections. She then pointed out that the complaints book wouldn’t be seen by anyone else in the department as they didn’t look in it.

I sighed.

She took me outside to my Hub.

Then she sighed and stomped back into the room, banging the door extra loudly.

We waited another ten minutes and I heard my name being called in the main waiting room again. I responded and was met with a very grumpy lady who appeared to be deeply offended to find me where I had been left instead of in front of the silent TV.

I followed her down the dingy corridor and she motioned toward the only vacant chair. I had no idea why I was there but reasoned that the words ‘Consultant’ and ‘Free/Engaged’ might be a clue. The wait was fifteen minutes this time – Hub was still up by the pillar at the other end of the corridor whilst my fellow patients and I tried not to listen to the very audible consultation being carried out on the other side of the door.

The consultant was okay. I liked him and it wasn’t his fault that the walls and doors were so thin. He had a good old look at my eyes and confirmed all that my charming Irish ophthalmologist had diagnosed. He also told me that he needed some up to date retinal pictures and that I would go there next and come back to him when the pictures had been taken.

I sat outside and after a while, I heard my name called in the main waiting room again. Hub heard and sent the lady wot does the photos down the corridor,; she seemed surprised to see me there.

We went on a route march to the other side of the department. My walking stick and I were not fast enough for the photo lady, who deposited me in a very chilly conservatory. Hub had my coat and was now sitting outside the consultant’s room having a conversation with a nice student bloke who was also waiting.

I was in that conservatory for half an hour. I thought about making the journey back to Hub, collecting him and my coat but reasoned that Sod’s Law meant my name would be called as soon as I sallied forth down the dingy corridor.

I met a nice lady who had been referred to our hospital rather than her own, and as a consequence her notes had not been sent over.  she had to sit and wait until the next regular courier arrived.  She was desperate for a cup of decent coffee but her husband could only find lukewarm tea because he didn’t know the way back to the Costa shop at the entrance.

He also needed a fag and somewhere to smoke it.

My photos were taken eventually and I was returned to Hub and my coat. The photo lady was called Claire and apart from the consultant, she was the only person who actually looked me in the eyes and gave me their name.

My consultant grumbled about the slowness  of the hospital software but eventually loaded my photos.  He gave me some good news about eye pressure and complete lack of glaucoma. He also said that my cataracts were a sign of old age and had nothing to do with mean old diabetes. Good news for the diabetes nurse – not good news for me with another birthday looming.

I was given the choice of hanging on for half an hour and doing my pre-operative assessment or coming back another day and doing it. Hub was due in work that afternoon but what the hell, we’d been there three and a half hours so far – what was another half an hour?

He got permission to come in late and we were taken round to the cave where the pre-operative nurses live.

The assessment took another hour and a half.

It was extremely comprehensive and it made my blood pressure shoot up – white coat syndrome or over-exposure to hospitals – who knows.

So there is an eighteen week waiting list and once they’ve done the old right eye, the old left eye will go back on the waiting list.

Hub and I were both starving when we finally escaped. The game of snakes and ladders was over and we dashed off to Maccy D’s for sustenance. A strawberry milkshake can soothe most of my ills.

In the meantime, my achy breaky legs limit my computer time and my fluffy cataract eyes insist on BIG letters when I type – which also gives me a headache.

Filling in my online tax return will be fun – if they get around to sending me my unique tax reference number – otherwise it’s a £100 fine and I haven’t even earned any money yet due to the legs and the eyes.

By comparison, the MRI scan I had a week later was easy peasy lemon squeezy. I did lying still  in a small box for 40 minutes and worked my way through Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ album in my head while the machine whizzed and clicked around me.

Medical explorations – fun, fun, fun.

‘No Yo Ho Ho! – Not For Another Month at Least, Please?’

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We all love Christmas.

Well, most of us love Christmas.

Erm; a decreasing number of us love Christmas.

I loved Christmas as a child.

I still love it.

I cherish the story that I wrote at infant school about how I got a scooter from Father Christmas – with pictures too.  I can remember the bright blue paint, clean and unsullied. I rode that scooter round the streets until it eventually fell apart and was beyond repair.

I think that may have been the Christmas that I got a Teeny Tiny Tears too – considerably smaller than Tiny Tears but she still had the capacity to cry and wee once you had filled up the water reservoir in the middle of her back.

This could have caused me to grow up with some very strange notions about how babies took on and expelled water but luckily I had baby cousins who dispelled those notions the first time I watched my aunt changing a nappy.

There were rules about Christmas in our house.

We didn’t start it too early – usually around the weekend nearest the tenth of December – the Chinese lanterns and crepe paper streamers were unearthed and strung around the room.

Christmas wasn’t a real Christmas without the tree lights malfunctioning.  A vivid Yuletide memory is of my Dad swearing quietly under his breath as he tried to track down the wayward bulb. We knew instinctively to keep out of the way until  the tree lit up, at which point we would all appear and make noises of glee and approval.

Christmas Eve was special.

We used to go to the house of one of my aunts; it started off in a quiet way with sandwiches and nibbles.  Giggling with our cousins at our great-aunt when she took her false teeth out and flicked fag ash into the peanuts (given a very wide berth by us knowing children but we didn’t tell the adults – cue more giggling).

Over the years, as their family expanded and they moved to a bigger house, my aunt and uncle’s pre-Christmas celebrations grew as well.  My uncle was Polish and introduced much of his heritage to the rest of the family at their parties.

Polish sausage, pickled herring, Bigos (ham and sauerkraut stew) and (shudder) brawn.

The sight of the pig’s head boiling away in the kitchen to make the brawn left me reluctant to even sample a tiny bit.

The peanuts were safe from fag ash now, the great-aunt had smoked her way into another place.

I miss those Christmas Eves; the joy of meeting up with the family and putting presents under the tree, buffet browsing Anglo-Polish style and pinching the odd glass of sherry when no one was looking.

Blessed as I am with a bevy of beautiful and talented cousins, I think that the reason we are so close – despite geographical distances – is because of those Christmas Eve parties.

It was usually Christmas Day by the time we left, tired and giddy and clutching carrier bags of presents that we weren’t allowed to open till the morning with the other presents that Father Christmas would be bringing.

Of all the Christmas Days I enjoyed as a child, the one that sticks in my memory is the Christmas When Every Thing Went Wrong.

The day began with the sprouts (eurgh) melted the plastic colander.

Then it was discovered that my Lovely Mum had forgotten to take the giblets out of the turkey before she cooked it. They were in a plastic bag. Mum invented an early form of shrink wrap.

Dad put too much alcohol on the Christmas pudding and rather than burning with a bright blue flame, it incinerated to a black shrivelled lump.

Needless to say, tempers were frayed.

My Dad shouted.

My Lovely Mum hit him with a rolled up newspaper.

We howled.

The dog, unsure if this was domestic violence or just a playfight, decided that it needed to be stopped.

So he bit Lovely Mum on the arm.

Things went very quiet after that.  The dog went out in the garden very quickly and Mum’s arm went under the tap – bruised but not bloodied.

There was also a strict rule about when the decorations came down.

I know a lot of people take them down as soon as they can – after New Year’s Day usually  – but as Lovely Mum’s birthday was on the 4th January, we left them up for her and had a mad dash to get them down and put away before Twelfth Night. Although Lovely Mum has left us, I still leave my decorations up till after her birthday.

I do like Christmas really.

Christmas carols make me cry; in my semi-religious phase I couldn’t get through Midnight Communion without blubbing – ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ gets me every time and ‘Silent Night’ – I’m welling up just thinking about it..

Little school choirs singing in shopping malls turn me to a gibbering wreck .

I never managed to stay dry-eyed during either of my children’s nativity plays and had to make sure that I always wore a large scarf to absorb my tears and hide my quivering lip.

“Oh Mother – you are SO embarrassing!”

So why the grumpy title?

It’s only the 28th October!

Just under two months till Christmas.

So why are the shops full of Christmas stuff?  Poor old Halloween is being shuffled into a side aisle.So unfair to think of skulls, witches and ghouls being ousted by snow-persons, fat robins and Father Christmas.

Shops are beginning to play ‘Now That’s What I Call Christmas’ on an endless loop that drives the salespeople bonkers and does not encourage a festive spirit because we’ve all heard the tunes SO many times before.  Even the starving poor across the world will know that it is Christmas because of that flipping song!

Now this is the bit where I show myself to be a hypocrite. Having moaned about the early incursion of Christmas into the shopping arena – I cashed in on it.

Two years ago we got rid of our huge holly berried and fir-coned false Christmas tree and bought a nice fibre optic 1 metre high tree that needed very little in the way of decoration and took less than ten minutes to put up.

I loved that little tree.

We had to get the decorations down a bit sharpish as, for the first time ever, we were flying off on holiday for the New Year and couldn’t face the idea of unpacking, washing and undecking the halls.

I don’t know what happened to my little tree.

We hunted high and low in the run up to last Christmas but it was nowhere to be found so we went off to the garden centre to get a replacement.

All the nice trees were gone and a real tree was out of the question, as Scooby had come to live with us and we weren’t quite sure if he could differentiate between an outside tree and an inside one.

We continued our search but by this time it was mid-December and they were beginning to set out the Easter egg displays.

We settled for a slightly larger tree that appeared to be fibre optic and looked as if it could stand the vigors of tail lashing and large-male bashing.

It was a hideous monster tree and what I thought were fibre optic lights turned out to be translucent globs on the ends of the branches.

Every branch had to be fluffed out and attached  to one of the three stems that made up the body of the tree. The fake fir was rough on the fingers and I broke two nails trying to insert the branches. When we finally got it upright it was HUGE and very drab, so we had to go out and buy MORE decorations for it.  Of course, by this time there were hardly any decorations left, just a mish mash of broken or ugly coloured baubles. We could have used Easter eggs I suppose.

Bezzie Mate and  went for lunch at my favourite garden centre a couple of weeks ago  and I noticed that they had the mock-Christmas trees on display.  Against my better judgement but fuelled by a decent lunch, we had a rummage in the festive section but they didn’t have the tree I wanted.

Undaunted we drove down the road to the bigger  garden centre (more choice but the cafe is more like a transport cafe and always seems to be full of screaming kids).

My heart leapt; we had barely got in the door when I spied my long-lost tree shimmering amongst its larger (and uglier) fir-y brethren.

BM toddled off for a browse amongst some boots and I combed the centre desperately seeking an assistant.  I found one but he was having an intense conversation about bulbs with a very demanding woman who kept grabbing his forearm.  He didn’t seem to mind though.

I waited.

And waited.

I got bored then and had a competition with myself to find the most tacky Christmas decoration in the store. It was a toss-up between some very ugly opaque white rigid plastic trees of about 6 inches and an array of ‘fibre-optic Christmas tapestries’. Closer inspection revealed them to be printed material pictures with lights in funny places. They were the winners but they were all hideous I couldn’t choose the worst.

My assistant was free!

I took him to my tree and asked if he could find me one that was boxed up.  He took the tag and disappeared.

I went in search of BM who was in the process of falling for some stout walking boots that were half-price.

My assistant returned toting a long white box. He turned it round to look at the picture and check that he had the right one.

He had the wrong one and disappeared again into the bowels of the garden centre.

We carried on browsing but feared the worst when he returned with a furrowed brow.

“I can’t find it.”

“But you have one on display. You can’t have sold out of them yet? “

“No, they’ve only just come in but it wasn’t where it should have been. If you want to reserve one, we could call you when we find it?”

I’ve been caught like this before. I reserved something then turned up to find that another member of staff had sold it because they thought it was a returned item.

“Can I pay for one now? Then I can come in and collect it when you find one.”

“Oh – erm – okay.”

So I bought it and filled in all number of forms with my name, address and telephone number.

By this time, BM and I were exhausted and had to test out a range of conservatory furniture before toddling home for homemade curry.

I got a phone call a couple of days later to say that they had found my tree. Hub and I went to collect it and found that with his (not-very-constant) gardener card, they could knock off a further eight pounds! We also bought BM’s boots and sent them off to him because they weren’t on sale online. They rub one of his ankles.

Bargain.

I admire people who get all their Christmas presents in the January sales – almost as much as I admire those who dash around the store on Christmas Eve snapping up ‘bargains’.

Hub is notoriously hard to buy for. He only really wants paintball bits – although now he and Gap Boy are sharing a motorbike there might be some mileage there. GB has already started demanding his Christmas presents. Uni Boy is home this weekend but I doubt that he will come up with anything helpful.

Ah, but I am blessed with good friends who like silly things, and an adorable bunch of small children and babies who can revitalise my Christmas spirit.

Mine’s a very large sherry please.

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.

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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.

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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.

Spontaneity.

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.

Right.

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.

Bless my Kith and Bless my Kindle – Part 2

back to front

Yes.  It is backward 🙂

Okay, Hub has gone to work and Gap Boy is horribly awake having slept all day – he did a 30k bicycle ride this morning (it was actually 27k but he has managed to increase his stats whilst asleep – exaggerate? GB? Never!).

I spent a good hour and a half being woken intermittently by his thundering feet as he stomped up and down the (wooden) stairs this morning. At one point I was convinced that he had invited several friends in to tap dance in his (laminate) floor.Or perhaps they were rehearsing for ‘Strictly’. Hub and I laid that flooring so I suppose it is our fault really – who am I kidding EVERYTHING is our fault!

Neighbours from across the road woke me up at 0150 hours – why do they feel the need to stand out in the street and yell at each other? To be fair, the couple that were arguing were young and probably the offspring rather than the house owners.  I’ve a feeling that the male was out there a couple of weeks ago, wandering around the cul-de-sac in a drunken haze yelling ‘Dead! Dead! Dead!’ at the top of his voice.

I checked the local news for a couple of days after that but there was no sign of any gory murders in the locality.

Anyway, thanks to them – they had a poor little shivering dog with them too – some people are REALLy thoughtless – and GB, I got about five hours sleep last night.

When I staggered to the bathroom at 0730, GB passed me on the landing in his cycle attire – he has inherited my latent desire to be dressed appropriately for the occasion.

This is something of a handicap as he is reluctant to organise any more motorbike lessons at the moment because he doesn’t possess the right gear for wet weather.

When I pointed out that having lessons in inclement conditions would be very useful with regard to handling his motorbike whatever the weather, he gave me one of those horrible superior looks that both my boys are SO good at, and told me that I knew nothing about motorbikes and it was none of my business.

Once he had ridden off into the red sky yonder (I was praying that the shepherd’s warning wouldn’t start just yet), Scoob and I did have at least one quiet hour before he came roaring back again.

Whilst out on his mammoth cycle ride this morning, GB managed to collide with a stray bramble branch and perforate the side of his ear.

Much blood!

Fortunately it had dried off by the time he got home but  the sight of a blood soaked youth seemed to have put the frighteners on the mad mothers driving past to school as he rode up our road.

Like all good mothers, I cleaned him up with an antiseptic wipe (I knew I had one somewhere and the bleeding had stopped by the time I found it).

As is his habit, GB texted me a shopping list but said that he would like us all to go shopping once Hub had finished his breakfast.

Hub was rushing his scrambled eggs on toast in order to take me to my appointment with the osteopath, after which we were going to town to do some banking, sort out Hub’s motorbike helmet visor and maybe take in a spot of lunch somewhere.

We did not want to go food shopping, especially for a loud, sweaty, bloody and demanding GB.

There was a frank exchange of opinions and as a result, we went to the osteopath and GB went to bed – grumpily.

Result! Oh Go us!

After the initial ache had worn off from the pummeling delivered by the Phizard (my osteo is a wizard with physio) I felt spry enough to accompany Hub to the motorbike shop -a huge place with a Biker’s Bistro on the top floor. The smell of fresh cappuccino alone was sufficient for me to agree to a return trip when Hub gets paid next week.

Thence to town and a pleasant lunch at Caffe Nero watching the wage slaves rush back from their lunch hours.

Tee Hee.

This afternoon I flopped on the sofa with Scoob and got my daily Jezza fix; some very bad hairdos  and missing teeth today!

Eventually we shopped for us – and the deeply ungrateful GB – who emerged from his mancave just as we were watching ‘Only Connect’ and didn’t take kindly to being shushed.

Victoria Coren Mitchell or GB? No competition.

So here I am burning the midnight oil up in my back bedroom office, tappity tapping and eventually getting around to writing about me and my Kindles.

I have five Kindles – yes that probably is rather extreme but then I have always been something of a gadget girl and don’t like to think that technology is leaving me too far behind.

I always had a Walkman; moving through audio tape to CD player to MP3.  I even have a special MP3 player that lives in the bathroom and has its own peacock-blue speaker so that I can listen and sing along whilst in the shower.

Uni Boy and Gap Boy are very scathing about my gadget prowess. They both feel that their abilities and knowledge are hugely superior compared to mine. I feel that UB has the edge because he did actually build his own water-cooled computer with his birthday money last summer, whereas GB seems hell-bent on breaking his computer judging by the number of replacement bits he orders on his dad’s Overclockers account.

I would never admit this to either of them.

You will note that Hub does not even enter the running in the gadget knowledge stakes. He knows what he needs to know about his computer and his mobile, what he doesn’t know, he asks me and if I don’t know, I’ll check the Internet and only ask one of my frightfully knowledgeable children if there is no other option.

This is one of the reasons why Hub won’t have his own FaceAche page but piggybacks onto mine. As a consequence we have a curious but hugely entertaining pool of friends between us. There are times when Hub’s paintball friends want to tag him in pictures or invite him to games, and have to tag me instead.

No, I don’t play paintball and I’m not an air traffic controller but I know a very lovely man who is.

Back to the Kindles.

Hub and the boys bought me my first Kindle for a birthday present. It is a first generation Kindle without a touch screen. I eagerly filled it with free e-books, cheap Kindle books and audio books. Being a prototype, Kindle no 1 has some features that the later models don’t have, particularly the text to speech feature.

It means that I can put my scribblings into a PDF, load it onto Kindle no 1 via a USB and then have the excitement of hearing my own words spoken back to me (rather haltingly) by a male or female American voice.

Having filled up Kindle no 1, I bought a Kindle Touch and transferred all the books onto it, leaving Kindle no 1 purely for audio books and my own stuff.

I was quite happy with my two monochrome Kindles; one audio, one visual.

Then Amazon brought out the Kindle Fire.

A dinky little full colour sweetheart that I could use as a tablet; I could even watch TV programmes and films on it, and play games.

I should have been content.

I would have been content.

Then Amazon brought out a big brother for my little Fire; full tablet size, HD and even more goodies on board. Christmas was coming and Santa brought me a big Fire for being SO good.

Then came the Paperwhite Kindle.

I had to have it. It makes reading remarkably easy on the eyes.

On a train journey to visit Best Mate a couple of months ago, the train operator put on two carriages with no lighting.  They very kindly supplied us with guards at either end of the carriage wielding torches in case anyone should decide to panic when we went through a tunnel.

Cue a very smug me, continuing to read my Paperwhite when the dark engulfed my fellow travellers.

 I look after my toys. All my Kindles have covers; no 1 has a nice black and white flowery padded pouch, the Touch has a more utilitarian leather book cover and so do the two Fires. The Paperwhite has a beautiful 50’s lady cover that attracts attention in the strangest places.

The Big Fire and the Paperwhite went to Amsterdam with us and came under particular scrutiny at security in case I had concealed explosive devices inside them – or so I thought.

Security at Liverpool seemed particularly interested and I started to panic a little when I was beckoned over.

The security guard wanted to know where I bought the cover because it was ‘gorgeous like’.

During the period of enforced immobility caused by a large object falling from some height onto my toe, my Kindles saved my sanity. So wonderful to be able to search through the works of Shakespeare (free), the collected novels of H P Lovecraft (also free), wallow in Robert Frost and Wilfred Owen, and renew my acquaintance with the authors of my youth; Austen, Bronte and yes, even good old Zola – all for free.

The Kindle library at Amazon is expanding daily.  I’ve managed to acquire some much-loved (and lost in a house move) books that are now out of print and would cost a fortune if I tried to track them down in hard copy.

In a fit of nostalgia I downloaded all the Enid Blyton school stories that Lizzy and I revelled in at primary school. They were not only very cheap but had been put into collections covering the various terms.

Bliss!

Whatever my mood, if I have my Kindles nearby I can read books, poetry, listen to my own words and those of others, check out FaceAche, look at my photos, watch TV and films and yes play games of endless patience.

Packing to go away is much easier too; courtesy of Amazon’s Cloud, all my book purchases and audio books are nestling nicely in metaphorical fluffy cotton wool stuff and I can download whatever I want to read before I go. Hub is enjoying not having to take a separate bag because of of my holiday reading matter.

My Kindles don’t stop me buying books however.

There are some authors – especially my much-loved cousin Ali Sparkes – whose books will always need to be a tangible presence on my bookshelves.

So now that

‘Angels of Amsterdam – part 1’

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My lovely Hub was presented with some vouchers to be used towards travel from his airport – a nice tribute for having been there for more than twenty years. We ummed and erred and decided on a short break in Amsterdam because Hub had visited Schipol Airport for work purposes and wanted to see more, and because it was somewhere I’d always wanted to go.

He bought the flights and I booked the hotel – we got good deals because we booked so far in advance.

This had its disadvantages too.

Ever since the attack of the kidney stones, my back has been causing me grief.  Lack of exercise has also made the arthritis in my knee swell up and become very tender.

I am hopping and limping with my stick in addition to seeing my wonderful osteopath, but the pain stops me from getting more than two hours sleep at a time, I should take out shares in Ibuprofen and my motivation is sadly sapped by the sleep deprivation.

Our romantic break in Whitby was severely hampered by the pore ole leg (POL), and as the trip to Amsterdam came closer, I wondered if I would be able to manage.

Hub booked seats on the plane with extra leg room for me – we were side by side on the way out and he sat behind me and held my hand over the top of the seat on the way back.  He also requested special assistance as the POL makes me go very slowly and it gets tired if I make it walk too far.

At my last physio treatment before Amsterdam, my osteopath expressed concerns about the lack of progress in freeing up my back and easing the pain in my POL.  He suggested going to see a doctor – they don’t normally do that .

I called the surgery on the way home and was amazed to find that there was a cancellation at twenty to eight that night – with the GP that I have been boycotting for the past eighteen and a half years because he was mean to me once.

Pain and panic forced my hand.  Hub came with me and promised to referee or hand me tissues depending on the GP’s attitude.

Perhaps both of us have mellowed over the years.  He was actually very kind.  Impressed by the fact that I can touch my toes (I shouldn’t be able to), stick my POL up in the air whilst lying on my back (I shouldn’t be able to) and do Tai Chi every morning (I shouldn’t be able to do that either).

He told me not to worry too much about my raised blood pressure – that could be due to the Ibuprofen,  to get as much exercise as possible, to go to Amsterdam and have a lovely time, and to come back afterwards and have a cortisone injection in my knee. Hmmmmm.

He also prescribed some amitryptiline  and explained that although it was an anti-depressant, it was used in small doses to overcome nerve pain.

I used to work for a neurologist before Uni Boy was born and I can vaguely remember this being one of his treatments too.  So Hub and I took my prescription off to the very nice pharmacist in Tesco – who was sympathetic about the POL because he had one too, and advised that one tablet would be enough and to make sure that I took it around seven pm or I’d turn into a zombie – better than a gremlin anyway.

The standard dose for adults is 75mg per day and I was on 10mg per day so I didn’t think the side effects would be too bad. Hmmmmmm. I took two tablets the first night and the second. Not a good idea.

Sleep deprivation has enhanced my dormouse-like abilities to nod off whenever the action stops – if only for a few moments. The addition of the amitriptyline turned me into the walking dead – no more playing ‘Bejewelled Blitz’ on my laptop in the early hours – my eyes wouldn’t stay open. I also got impressive dizzy spells – which go under the heading of ‘acceptable side effects’. (Acceptable to who?)

Bezzie Mate came to stay for the weekend before we went away.  I managed to limp around Tesco with him without falling over, and once Hub had woken from his post night shift slumbers, we went off to what was left of an air day at a local airfield.

How can people leave when the planes are still in the air and performing so courageously?

Love the sound of them, love the sight of them wheeling and crossing trails in the sky, even love the smell – from a distance though because close to makes me wheezy. Hub and BM had a wonderful time taking pictures and talking about planes.  I sat in my director’s chair and lapped up the sights, sounds and the evident enjoyment of my two favourite plane spotters.

BM went back Home that night and the next day was spent packing and getting ready for our seven pm flight.

We just had cabin luggage; I had been awfully efficient and researched what we were allowed to take with us.  Finding the right size resealable plastic bags was a trial – being summertime the shops were sold out and the OCD in me did not want to wait till we got to the airport to get them.  I had to leave my face cream at home because the economy size pot was too big.

My Kindles, the electric toothbrush and our cameras were put at the top of the cases but in fact Security were only interested in the Kindles.  The guard wanted to know where I got the case for my Paperwhite from.

To backtrack slightly; we called at the special assistance desk when we arrived at the airport, and I very foolishly turned down the offer of a helper and a wheelchair. We were told to go through the wheelchair section of security anyway.  It was much quicker but very painful when the guard patted down my POL and I nearly shot through the roof.

We sat at the gate and waited for assistance to arrive as promised.  Our seats were in the front row of the plane and we thought that meant we would be boarded first and exit last – so as not to hold anyone else up.

Our special assistance helper turned out to be a very small girl in an over large high vis jacket. I was glad that I hadn’t said yes to the wheelchair – so embarrassing if it had been too heavy to push.

She was very sweet and led us down to the apron via the lift.

The other passengers were already boarding and I had visions of having to wait for them all before I could make my slow and stately progress up the stairs.

Not so; this tiny girl marched forward and stopped the passengers with great authority.  She followed us up the stairs and waited until the hosties took over.  I was impressed.

I love flying.  I love the moment when the plane leaves the ground and never fail to marvel at the fact that this great lump of steel is flying gracefully through the air. With Hub beside me and room to stretch out the POL, my stress levels subsided.

Only an hour in the air and we arrived at the same time we left – technically.

If I felt well looked after at Liverpool, then Schipol assistance staff made me feel like royalty.  Declining the wheelchair again (oh foolish pride!) we were escorted to a minibus and driven (for miles it seemed) into the airport.  They handed us over to the most charming of young men who, though slightly disappointed in my wheelchair refusal, lashed said chair to a buggy and whizzed us through to passport control.

On finding that we were getting the train into Amsterdam, he then escorted us to the ticket office, told us what tickets to get and then took us down to the correct platform.  His English was impeccable and his courteous manner even better. We were sad to see him go. We had no idea however that he was only the first of our Amsterdam Angels. Curious coincidence 1 – his sister lives in London and works for King – the company responsible for Bejewelled Blitz.

The train was a revelation – it was a double-decker! We sat on the emergency seats on the mezzanine so that I didn’t have to do stairs.  It was still light and Hub, a lover of trains as well as planes, was happy as a pig in muck as he gazed out of the windows.

We knew that our hotel was near to the station so we decided to walk.  Hub had the two cases on wheels; I had me, the POL and a stick.  We stopped on a bridge over the canal and took the picture at the top of this blog. I felt relieved that we were nearly there.

I am not good at crossing big roads.

When I was ten years old I was knocked over by a green station wagon whilst crossing the road in the middle of town.  I came off quite well – a cut to my ankle and a grazed knee. Unfortunately they banged my head on the roof of the ambulance when putting me in and I had to stay in hospital overnight because of the concussion.

It left me with a fear of big roads though.

I managed to control the fear over the years until the day when, after dropping the boys off at school I tripped over crossing the big road that stood between me and the bus stop for work. Falling into the path of the fast lane, I managed to throw myself forward and land closer to the kerb.

I got up.

I didn’t cry.

I caught the bus to work although my knees ached, my hands were grazed and I wanted someone to pick me up and take me somewhere safe (preferably not bumping my head on the roof at the same time).

At my last but one workplace, there was a big road to cross in order to get to the bus stop.  I got palpitations every time I crossed it. A friend in the next office found out about my fear and made a point of calling in as he was leaving to see if I wanted to cross the road with him.

Of course I did.

Hub is aware of my fear – as is BM – and they are both very solicitous about getting me across the big roads. They both have very reassuring arms.

We had been warned about the bicycles  and scooters in Amsterdam.  I knew there were trams – and cars – and even at ten thirty at night – lots of people and noise.

The green man crossings were a welcome and familiar sight but the combination of POL, big road panic, lack of Hub’s ever protective arm, a dizzy spell, tiredness and a protruding tram line and I was down.

Like a sack of spuds.

Hub left the cases and was by my side – I was still on the tram line with a big white and blue monster bearing down on me.

From nowhere it seemed, an angel in long dark pigtails who spoke beautiful English was there at my other side.

“We must get your wife off the tram line.  It is very dangerous here. I will help you.”

And she did.  The kind words, her firm but safe hands, Hub’s arm and the good old stick got me up off the floor and to the safety of the island.

The temptation to blub and shake was very strong but it vanished as the angel admired my newly polished purple glittering nails (thank you Sarah) and then imparted the following information:

  • Think bicycle/scooter first – then tram – and always use the crossings with the green man because the trams won’t move until you are clear and the red man lights up
  • Be careful in the very touristy areas because pickpockets are rife
  • Don’t buy a one hour tram ticket – you can’t get anywhere in that time and a twenty-four hour ticket is much better value
  • Visit Smits Koffiehuis by the station. the food is good, they speak English and it is next door to the Tourist Information Bureau – the VVV.

She showed us the way to our hotel. shook hands, wished us luck and was gone – back into the night.

Our hotel was just around the corner. The receptionist was very sympathetic about my fall, also spoke excellent English, and within a few moments we were in the lift and in our peaceful air con room courtesy of another angel.

POL was sore.  Other leg took the brunt of the fall and has some very impressive bruises.

But we had arrived.  We were safe.

And Amsterdam was proving to be a place of kind angels.

In the presence of presents

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When Gap Boy and Uni Boy were younger, buying presents for Christmas and birthdays was simple.  I could let my imagination run riot in the toy shop – avoiding the pink aisle and the weapons of mass destruction.  We worked through Lego and K’nex whilst Tilly, Tom and Tiny watched from the toy box – we had Rosie and Jim too – as well as a plethora of other character spin offs from whatever children’s programme the Red House book club was flogging that week.

As the boys got older and diversified, all my good intentions about not allowing guns or electronic toys went out of the window; Uni Boy became a Gameboy fanatic (subsequently progressing through a vast range of must-have Nintendo products) and Gap Boy’s latent killer instinct would not be suppressed. The boy would shoot anyone with anything given the opportunity – including his mother  (on Mothering Sunday) with a BB gun.

I thought that Hub was easier to buy for; I bought him things that I was sure he’d like but it took several years of him gratefully accepting my weird purchases before the penny dropped and I noticed that most of his presents were still in a brightly patterned gift bag a year later (he would never give or throw them away for fear of hurting my feelings).

I inherited the tendency to overbuy from my Lovely Mum.  Neither of us ever felt we had given enough and as a consequence we would shower each other (and other people) with shedloads of goodies.  I do miss Mum’s hastily wrapped bags of delight.

Increasing age and a modicum of maturity opened my eyes to the perils of inappropriate present giving and I decided to let Hub have more of a say in what I bought – as in ‘you order the bits you need for paintball and I’ll wrap them up‘. Birthdays and Christmas are less imaginative now but mutually happier and there are fewer festive filled carrier bags hanging around.  UB and GB now request filthy lucre instead of presents, or as in GB’s case, get us to drive to the motorbike shop and pay for his protective gear.

Hub had a big birthday.

Big birthdays call for extreme measures.

A brand spanking new marker for paintball – his first ever because he’s been good and only had second-hand stuff before.

UB announced that he couldn’t get home for his dad’s birthday due to Uni commitments but suggested  that we meet up in Manch for an evening meal.  He then came up with the even brighter idea that we should go to Manch on the train.

Hub loves trains.

As I don’t drive, he spends a lot of time ferrying me about in the car.  He loved my birthday weekend in York because we went on the train and he got to look at the scenery and relax.

We decided to invite Bezzie Mate up for the birthday celebrations as we love his company, he loves trains too and he has become an integral part of our family.  We did ask GB if he wanted to come but the joint perils of using public transport and spending the evening with his older brother proved far too repellent. He said that he would stay home and look after Scooby – who’s minding who?

UB booked the restaurant and as the family train expert, gave me a potted version of the timetable and texyed me a list of his own  commitments. I booked train tickets (not with the cheapest online source according to UB but what the hell) and baby we were ready to go!

BM arrived on Hub’s birthday with a beautifully wrapped box containing marzipan and a Spiderman helicopter  both of which brought a huge grin to Hub’s face.  His marker had arrived in time for me to wrap it and he’d completely forgotten about the melon vodka that UB and I had bought him.

The builders were still busy in the kitchen when BM arrived but he was able to see the glory that was the sparkly granite worktop being fitted before the three of us left to – catch a bus to town!

Hub made a beeline for the back seat; memories of schooldays obviously flooding back.  I prefer the front seats especially if there is a bell to ring nearby and a pole to grab hold of.  BM and I followed Hub but after a few moments of hideous bumping and the full blast of the sun, we all relocated to more comfortable and less sun-drenched seats.

We were travelling to Manch in the rush hour, so needless to say, the train was packed and it was standing room only.  Nearly everyone sitting down on the train had a laptop or tablet of some description on display.  Hub and I managed to get seats at the next stop but BM was so wrapped up in looking at HIS tablet that he preferred to stand.

Manchester Piccadilly station brought back memories of my misspent youth; my Lovely Mum worked for what was then British Rail, and as a consequence I got four free rail tickets per year and quarter-fare the rest of the time. This came in very useful for a homesick eighteen year old who had relocated from the seaside South to a land-locked Birmingham and the delights of drama school. Ticket inspectors often failed to clip my ticket, giving me the opportunity to make more journeys home (and back), usually on the through train but sometimes via Euston and Waterloo.

Large train stations and the Underground held no fear for me in those days as I lugged my hefty sailbag southwards and to home – or reluctantly back to the cold and endlessly damp Midlands and my tiny bedsit.

Thirty-odd years later, laden only with a ladylike Primark rucksack and accompanied by two of my favourite men, Manchester Piccadilly was a delight, even if one of the travelators wasn’t travelling – until nature called.

Thirty pee to pee!

To add insult to injury the toilets stank of other people’s stale pee – and worse.

It took a sit down and a takeaway coffee to restore my equilibrium.  Hub and BM found my ire most amusing. They frequently gang up on me like a pair of naughty schoolboys but I forgive them – usually.

UB phoned as we were drinking coffee and teasing each other on FaceAche.  His meeting had overrun and his train had been cancelled so he would be going straight to the restaurant and could we please stop messing around and get there first in case they let the table go to someone else. Suitably chastised for our levity and wondering how the al-seeing eye of UB knew we were messing about, we packe dup and drank up.

I would have gone for the taxi option, but Hub and BM were excited by trams (and the ticket machine) so we took the Metrolink. As we passed the Manchester Eye I had to kick Hub to shut him up because he started talking about the chap who had occupied the Eye in protest against being recalled to jail for breaking his parole.  You never know who might be listening on a tram, and to my wary eye there were several fellow passengers taking an unhealthy interest in what Hub was saying. He was oblivious to it all. He loves trams.

We got off the tram before the heavies did. Hub had to use his mobile satnav to find the way to the restaurant, which was under the shade of the Beetham Tower and alongside the canal.  Our progress was slow but enjoyable; BM was happy-snapping the surroundings, Hub and I were just happy looking and lapping up the atmosphere of a balmy Manchester evening.

We were on time. Our table was inside rather than out on the crowded terrace.  We ordered cocktails, including one for UB who had texted to say he was on the Metrolink and would like something sweet, fruity and very alcoholic please.

It was a wonderful evening.  The food was great and the cocktails even better. When he found out that it was Hub’s birthday, our lovely waiter Guillaume bought over a surprise brownie pudding complete with candles and a glass of champagne – on the house.  More cocktails with dessert, UB and I were torn between two drinks so we ordered both and took turns slurping through separate straws – that’s my boy.

Despite having return tram tickets, I persuaded my men that a taxi to the station would be a better option given our varying levels of inebriation.  Many cocktails made all three of them very amenable.  UB’s train left shortly after ours so he packed his parents and his funny uncle safely aboard  and waved us off with that curiously old-fashioned look on his face.  He’s always been much older and wiser than us.

The journey home was only marred by a yoof with very cheap earphones broadcasting his boom-boom repetitive dance music to the whole carriage.

Hub rested his eyes.

BM was engrossed in his tablet.

I smiled the happy smile of the slightly intoxicated and tried to work out where the hell we were.

Disembarking was an experience.  The clothing of our female companions was – skimpy – to say the least – and although it was a Thursday, there must have been something exciting going on in the town centre (or cultural quarter as the PR merchants have christened it) as most of the yoof were headed in that direction.

Another taxi and home to a shiny, shiny kitchen, a very happy Scooby, a slightly disapproving GB (aren’t you all a bit old for this?) and much needed sleep.

Just in case you were worried that GB was left out, Hub, BM, GB and I went off to our favourite curry house for dinner the next night.  UB hates curry.

Hub says it was his best birthday ever.  He had more cards, more messages on FaceAche, presents he really wanted and a good meal enjoyed with some of his favourite people, not to mention the bus, trains and tram.

I’ll think he’ll cope with the nifty fifties now.

 

‘The End of the Pier’

 

 

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Thirty days of blogging.

Stories, memories and a very small poem that crept into my head in the night.

Dominated somewhat by the saga of the Krappy Kitchen and the process of acquiring the food preparation and dining area of our dreams.

Over the past day and a half we have watched the last vestiges of the Krappy Kitchen disappear.  I let out a small cheer as the lump hammers hit breeze blocks that have dominated the middle of the room for the past fifteen years.

The electrician was the last of our visitors to leave today, having drilled out the holes for my brushed chrome spotlights (I had a choice between white, shiny or brushed chrome).  My mind scurried back into virgin kitchen mode when asked to make that choice.  Then I asserted myself and after opting for brushed, was strangely proud to be told that I had made the right choice.

Hub and I wandered around after our visitors had left today. Our kitchen is an echoing shell now, with dangling wires and the huge double RSJs lurking in the ceiling.

We have found out a few things about our house.

It’s a miracle that Gap Boy hasn’t fallen through the floor when stropping in his bedroom because the existing RSJ only went across half the ceiling – the bit where he sleeps, not the bit where he regularly shouts, guffaws and giggles on his computer.

It’s another miracle that we haven’t all been killed in our beds due to the shoddy wiring put in by the first owner – who was (surprisingly enough) a qualified electrician.  Perhaps he trained st the same establishment where the subsequent owner did her artexing course. There will be no more skin scraping artex in our kitchen either .

The builders have sorted out the dodgy building bits and an inspector is coming to check it all  out tomorrow. Another stranger at the door.

The nice electrician is going to have a look at the rest of the wiring when he’s finished in  the kitchen.  He very gently told me that progress will slow down a bit now because the plasterer is coming in and it will take a couple of days for the walls and ceiling to dry out.

I smile that silly smile and remind him that after waiting fifteen years to be able to afford this kitchen a couple more days won’t worry me.

Talking of compromises, the work top won’t be quite as sexy as planned.  With the wisdom of Solomon I had to make the choice between waiting another three weeks for the Star Galaxy worktop or cancelling the order and getting the slightly more down-market black granite with just silvery bits in it which can be delivered when the builders need it because it has been sourced locally.

It is still a sexy worktop and with any luck, my kitchen will be done much quicker (and a bit cheaper too!)

Washing up in the downstairs bathroom is a bit challenging but having the temporary kitchen on the dining room table is easier on the legs.

After rebelling about the use of plastic cutlery and paper plates, we bought GB a set of his own cutlery and unearthed some plates.

More compromise.

I was in a bit of a quandary about the old gas cooker yesterday.

It had to sit outside all night until the big lorry came to collect the rubbish. I really should have given it a bit of clean before the builders came but it is being junked anyway and we ran out of time.

Trouble is, it sat in the garden in full view of the manic mothers on their school run (they slowed down to have a look – not quite to 20 miles an hour but not bad).  Now they all know what a dirty  cooker I had.

GB has been quite sweet today but that goes hand in hand with his lecturing and hectoring about every single subject under the sun.

My idea of snoozing gently with Scoob whilst Martin and Lucy wax lyrical about three-bed semis in Clapham has been shattered  due to the fact that GB cannot sleep upstairs whilst all that banging is going on. So he talks and talks and talks.

Mind you, he told me about the hose incident last night.

Apparently one of our elderly neighbours was watering his garden yesterday evening when someone drove up the road at speeds in excess of 60 miles an hour (I doubt it) , so my neighbour remonstrated with him.  The neighbour remonstrated back and my neighbour hosed him.  More naughty talk and another shot of hose.  I expected to hear the our neighbour had been bopped but apparently the drive chose to zoom off instead.

Perhaps it was the sight of my neighbour’s hairy, brown and extremely pregnant-looking belly that saw him off.

I know it’s been warm over the last couple of days but that belly would certainly frighten the horses. Put it on!

Poor Scoob had just got used to the chaps who chipped of the seventies brown and white tiles  yesterday when there was a change of personnel and he had to come to terms with three more of them.  Luckily the poor young boy in the hoodie who got so badly wuffed at yesterday was off on another job today.

They are a smashing bunch though.  I can hear their conversations through the wall and the range of topics is impressive and very informative.  GB asked me if I minded all the swearing. I hadn’t actually noticed it.

The kitchen singing is even better than the banter though.  The lads brought along their old, dusty, paint-spattered ghetto blaster and they sing along to Radio One. – although they may have wandered into Radio Two yesterday afternoon when I heard one of them singing falsetto to ‘Too shy, shy’.

My attitude to our builders is very positive therefore.  They don’t seem to mind the awfulness of the tea I make them (being allergic to tea makes this a very hands-off process and the fumes make me retch a bit). The biscuits I sent Hub out to buy have been a great success, and the fact that I really don’t mind them using the downstairs toilet also went down well.

“I don’t mean to be cheeky but can I use your loo/have a cup of tea/ smoke in your garden/ eat these lovely biscuits?”

They are such polite boys.

I have a feeling that today’s blog won’t really be the end of the pier as planned thirty -one days ago.

Making the effort to write something every day is a discipline I learned when participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which is held every November. http://nanowrimo.org/

It may not be easy to stop now although I’m not sure if I’ll continue to blog every day.

I have a kitchen to dress in the next week or so (that’s what they say on DIY SOS isn’t it?)

 

 

 

‘The welcome arrival of the Chilly Twins’

Thanks to the help and support of our Dear Friend and her lovely Hub, we broke the back of the Krappy Kitchen clearing yesterday.

Boxes were packed, bread, cheese and Danish parties were eaten and there was a steady flow of good conversation.

Hub and I did some more packing up last night and out main aim for Monday Monday was to empty the fridge freezers and get them outside to defrost so that our beautiful Chilly Twins (Frosty and Freezy) could be temporarily installed in the room that Uni Boy used to live in before he fled to York, and which provides accommodation for Bezzie Mate when he stays.

There were a few other jobs that needed doing but hey – the kitchen wasn’t coming till Wednesday and the builders did n;t start till Thursday – no worries.

I woke up this morning just after six am and lurched out onto the landing to come face to face with Gap Boy, fully dressed and coming up the stairs with a mug of coffee.

“Bet you thought I was a burglar.” he grinned.

Do burglars often stroll up the stairs with a mug of coffee in their hands?

Of all the thoughts that passed through my mind ‘oh look, a burglar!’ wasn’t one of them.

GB was champing at the bit. He desperately wanted to go to the supermarket for munchies but was under the impression that nothing would be open till 0700.

Being a good mummy, I checked on the web and advised him that although Tesco shut at 1600 on a Sunday, it reopened just after midnight  – so there was no need to hang around teasing me after all.

Off he flew on his trusty steed.

Scoob greeted me with much enthusiasm. GB soon returned with his rucksack stuffed with goodies and I was just about to give Scoob his breakfast when he went into big scarey wuff mode.

“There’s two blokes with a van outside.” quoth my darling boy as he wrestled with the growling beast.

I pulled up the kitchen blind and was confronted by the grinning face of my builder and his mate.

A vision in my old blue flannel nightshirt, naked morning face and scruffy plaits, I opened the door to them.

“Morning Boss.”

“Umm, good morning.  I thought you were starting on Thursday.  The kitchen doesn’t arrive till Wednesday.”

“Yeah, but we’ve got to gut your kitchen first.”

Outwardly I remained calm and negotiated a twenty-four hour reprieve. I waved them bye-bye with a smiley face that turned rapidly into Munch’s ‘The Scream’.

I decided to have breakfast. After all, it wasn’t eight o’clock yet.

After breakfast I broke the news to Hub. He does outward calm so much better than I do.

The imminent arrival of the builders made the fitting of the door that would separate the hallway from Scoobyland was more urgent now.  GB took Scoob for a walk, Hub had his breakfast and set about the door with such renewed vigour that he killed the drill bit.

Cue GB “What’s that burning smell?”

Hub was just about to embark on a journey to B&Q to get a new drill bit and more boxes, when the phone rang and it was the KNOWHOW boys, who wanted to deliver the Chilly Twins between 1100 and 1200 instead of between 1300 to 1700.

Hub said  “Yeah, that’s fine.”

I said “AAAAAAAAAARGH.”

He went off to B&Q.

I began packing frozen food into frozen food bags and packed them into the downstairs bath. Then I packed the fridge stuff into freezer drawers ad put them in the bath too and shut the door.

The Chuckle Brothers had nothing on Hub and me as we dragged both fridge freezers out into the courtyard so that the men could take them away to the great fridge freezer heaven in the sky.

I Dysoned – yeah, I know I don’t do it often but these were desperate times.

I dog sat whilst Hub organised the undressing and placement of the Chilly Twins. Scooby s desperately wanted to help – well he might have wanted to nibble at the delivery men.

My Twins are beautiful; all shiny and white inside with shelves and compartments for EVERYTHING. Their outsides are Manhattan Silver and they  have blue lights on them.

I sorted out the fridge side and Hub did the freezer and it all fitted in. Yay!

Bezzie Mate and I had been texting so he knew of our predicament.  He offered his support and  drove the hundred miles to come and help us; he made us both laugh, mucked in and packed boxes and bags, and even took the Scoob out for walkies so that Hub and I could safely put all the junk into the garage.

The sound of Hub and BM laughing as they blithely wrecked the Krappy Kitchen was music to my ears.

I sent Hub to bed; early shift beckons so I will be dealing with the builders on my own in the morning.

Can’t count GB. He slept all day (after winding me up atrociously and causing me to make the ultimate empty threat of “if you don’t help out you won’t be allowed in the kitchen”). Yeah right!

BM has embarked on his long drive back home.

I am off to bed.

Scoob will be wuffing and I need to be dressed and with my face on before the builders arrive tomorrow.

Thanks to brilliant friends, things have not been too bad, but as another friend has pointed out – they can only get better.

GB says that we are rubbish. His particular gripe is that despite setting up a temporary kitchen on the dining room table, I have failed to leave out any cutlery for him.

I bought plastic cutlery and paper plates in case the water went off.

The Chilly Twins are packed full to bursting.

Ah well, tomorrow really is another day.