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

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‘Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)’

 

 

soda

It was only ever meant to be a holiday job: a stopgap to earn some money to support her meagre student grant.

In those days it was £80.00 per term which barely covered food: the rent on her tiny bed sit was scraped together by her parents.

Working at a local pub had seemed the ideal solution.  No early starts, plenty of late nights, a social life and more free drinks than she could ever consume.

The downside was the walk up the hill but giggling her way back down again at the end of the night  in a semi-inebriated fashion seemed to take no time at all.

The pub had three bars: the Cocktail bar, the Lounge and the Public.

The Cocktail bar was where the landlord and his cronies hung out.  It was a large room overlooking the pub garden with a very small bar in the corner, dominated by a huge bottle of Bell’s whisky hanging upside-down from a giant optic. The decor was ‘posh’ in the very worst sense. A preponderance of gilt, flock wallpaper and the landlady’s questionable taste in china ornaments.

The Lounge was the domain of the football club members, and the wives who got trotted out on Friday and Saturday nights.  It was a place of huge and complicated drinks rounds, far more cocktail preparation than in the bar next door and the scene of mild disagreements over tactics when the footballers returned from their match at Sunday lunchtime.  There were less frills in this bar and the added disadvantage of access to the toilets meant that however many of those little white blocks you put in the urinal, there was still a pervasive odour of man-wee.

The Public bar housed the pool table and the jukebox.  It was always busy on Friday and Saturday nights, and the scene of regular brawls, dodgy dealings and, as most of the male customers couldn’t be bothered to walk all the way round to the Gents in the Lounge bar, the patch of garden outside the back entrance was pungent, withered and brown from frequent after dark waterings – and worse.

She started work in the Lounge on a Monday night.  Quiet enough to learn the ropes and not disgrace the landlady nor bankrupt the landlord. The other bar staff were initially curious about why this young, well-spoken girl was slumming it behind their bar but the need for money was a common denominator.  It didn’t take long before her usually enumerate mind could add up the prices of the drinks, learn to pour a pint of Guinness proficiently, know when the beer was off (and not when someone was angling for a free pint) and understand the hierarchy of the customers.

She got on well with the landlord and his adult son.  She didn’t tell tales when she saw them topping up the big Bell’s bottle with cheap whisky from the cash and carry; it just made her smile more when one of the imperious old chaps in the cocktail bar ordered ” a G & T for the wife and a Bells for me girly, nothing but the best I say”.

There was always a stream of staff wanting to work the Lounge; the tips were good and it was easy to clean up at the end of the night – apart from the toilets.

Three stalwarts staked their claim over the Cocktail bar so she only ever worked in there if one of them was off sick or on holiday. She hated the pretension and the landlady’s phony friends who bitched behind her back whilst she was ordering their free drinks from the bar.

Few people would have chosen to frequent the Public bar; it was very long and the pillar in the middle of it made it possible for someone with long enough arms to reach over and help themselves to lager. She loved the Public bar though.  Loved the jokes and the bad taste, the cheeky complaints about her choice of music on the jukebox and the fact that here, there was no pretension, just a bunch of  blokes who worked hard at whatever it was made them money and spent it freely at the pub

Going back to a college miles away from home was hard.  Separation from the sea, from her family and from a regular source of money eventually outweighed the company of her fellow students and the enjoyment of learning.  At the end of the second year she decided that she wasn’t going back and the landlord was pleased to take her on permanently.

A month after she should have started back at college, she turned up at the pub for a Saturday morning shift to find a note on the door saying that the landlord was in hospital.  The pub was still open and the most senior of the bar staff was in charge.  Everyone was subdued.

The massive heart attack he suffered killed the landlord that night and the pub shut for the rest of the weekend out of respect.

Things changed.

Regulars who had liked the landlord for his easy-going manner were put off by the snobbish landlady and her delusions of grandeur.  She sat in the Cocktail bar with a couple of hard-core friends who were prepared to put up with her manner if it meant free booze and the odd lunch.

The Lounge and the Public continued to mourn the landlord in their own ways, and by the time Christmas came around, there wasn’t much Yuletide cheer. The landlady refused to fork out for new decorations and as always, the Public bar was left with the tatty, broken and discoloured bits and pieces that weren’t good enough for the other two bars.

New Year’s Eve came and went without the promised extension and it was a sad and sorry crowd that leaned on old, damp bar towels of the deeply depressed Public bar the following night.

A group of men who worked on the oil rigs were home on their holidays: they drank extensively, argued over the pool table and were known for their lack of patience when being served.

She was on her own in the Public bar that night, and although she did her best, people were having to wait for their drinks.

One of the oil rig men couldn’t and wouldn’t wait.  He picked up his neighbour’s half-empty glass and threw the beer down her back whilst she was stood at the till getting change.

She shut the till and gave the change to her customer.

The oil rig man and his mates were laughing.  They were drunk enough to find the whole thing hilarious.

She did not laugh with them.

Instead, she picked up a soda syphon from under the bar and emptied it in the faces of the mocking oil men.

It felt good.

In fact, it felt so good that she picked up another soda syphon and did it again, widening her range a little this time.

There was a stunned silence and she took advantage of the shock factor, ran into the kitchen, picked up her bag and fled.

Past the smelly patch of garden, across the busy road, down the hill and up the stairs to her parent’s flat.

She did not stop until the door was safely closed behind her and her mother was helping her out of  her beer stained shirt.

Her mother spoke to the landlord’s son the next morning and said that she wouldn’t be coming back.  He apologised for leaving her alone in the bar but agreed that returning would not be advisable.  He made up her wages – including a bonus for all her hard work – and dropped it off later that day.

A couple of months later, when she was in gainful employment and doing a job that she was more suited to, she bumped into the landlady at the local shops,

She said ‘hello’ courteously and was rewarded with a slap around the face that rattled her teeth and made her cheek sting.

No hard feelings then.

 

Volcan-Toe meets the Volcano – we’ve been to Lanzarote for New Year and now we are back – the DeVere Grand harbour first though

The Volcan-Toe or V-Toe as it is now known – since it has very kindly stopped erupting – has graciously allowed me to take over the reins of this blog page for a while on the strict instructions that I write about our holiday in Lanzarote and that I MUST write fact – not fiction.  I’ll do my best but there hasn’t been much motivation for fact for the last three months – unless you count OU essays – which I don’t because they are largely regurgitated references to obscure publications by groups of people with unpronounceable names that send your spell checker running for the hills.

I know that the V-Toe has already written about this but my viewpoint is somewhat more elevated.

It may take me a few go’s before I finally get to the Lanzarote bit as I have to do the Christmas bit first.

Back in the summer, Lovely Hub hit on the idea of going away for New Year – going somewhere hot and totally different that we hadn’t been to before.  Christmas without my Dad – and the smelly cat – was daunting enough but New Year’s Eve presented fresh challenges and an impending feeling of fed-upness (not depression – I won’t do depression because it is like sulking – you can’t do anything else at the same time and it gets boring).

My experience of sunnier climes has hitherto been limited to Mallorca but Hub said it wouldn’t be warm enough.  Bowing to his superior knowledge of weather and al things abroad I let him choose our destination.  Lanzarote seemed to fit the bill and many hours were spent trying to find accommodation that would suit me, Hub, Uni Boy, College Boy and two of his friends.  One of the friends had to drop out courtesy of a clashing skiing trip but I found the ideal villa at last with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and a heated swimming pool (UB and CB won’t share rooms any more – CB didn’t want to share with anyone – sharing does not come naturally to him – sometimes it doesn’t come at all).

Hub took the reins after this and did all the arrangements giving us something to focus on – and to look forward to.  In the interim we decided to head South just before Christmas and visit the folks to deliver presents and cards – which would have been a great idea if I hadn’t left a pile of cards on the floor at home.

We collected UB from Uni – with most of his worldly goods and came home to prepare for two nights in our favourite posh hotel and intense exposure to some of the family – couldn’t fit everyone in unfortunately.

Looking back, driving 250 miles the weekend before Christmas and driving back on Christmas Eve may not have been the wisest of decisions but we were feeling slightly reckless and ready to break with all previous traditions.

Talking of which, for some years we have ordered the Christmas food from M&S; braving the onslaught of gold handbags and matching shoes wielded by grey-haired old ladies who descend like a plague whenever you need to buy something in a hurry.   Every year it gets worse as you queue to pick up your boneless turkey (with stuffing and bacon lattice), an alternative to Christmas Pudding and the red cabbage (not as good as Oma’s).  One year we opted for an eight am collection that resulted in the boys being late for school, me being late for work and Hub grinding his teeth in frustration.  We went for the evening collection after that – the queues were just as bad but at least you got a thimble-full of mulled wine (or two – or even three on one occasion) for your pains.

This year we were down-sizing as there were only three of us; CB won’t eat Christmas dinner at the table, he prefers to swoop in and grab a few spuds, a bit of meat and fly back up to his room – or make his own delightful concoction of smoky-bacon flavoured super noodles, hot pepperoni and lashings of Tabasco sauce – both my boys are hot stuff.

Whilst sampling the delights of the new Sainsburys that opened just up the road on the new ‘urban development’ (lots of houses in a very small space) we discovered that they too did Christmas food ordering, with very similar items at a considerably lower price.  We booked with glee and paid with cold hard cash, arranging to pick up the goodies first thing Saturday morning before we made our journey Southwards, so that the food would be waiting for us to cook it when we returned on Christmas Eve.

So eight am-ish on Saturday saw Hub and I arriving and expecting hoards of other Christmas shoppers to be in attendance too.  Nah!  Just us and another lady.  In and out in ten minutes AND I whizzed round and picked up a couple of other essential items as well.

So, food stowed n the fridge and freezer, bags packed, boys in the car and plugged into earphones so that they wouldn’t have to talk to each other – or us, presents loaded and accessible, cards left lying on the floor and we were off to meet up with family at a riverside pub that we remembered from years ago.  Only ten miles from our eventual destination and a good place to bring us all together and swap presents.

I’d been having trouble connecting with Christmas; V-toe had made anything but very brief shopping sojourns almost impossible – especially if it was wet – so on-line present-buying featured heavily.  Yes, it is convenient but it doesn’t have the tangible enjoyment of picking something up and realising it is just right for so-and-so.  Our decorations had been scaled down too; in fact most of the decorations from Christmas Past stayed in the cupboard and garage whilst we went off to the garden centre and bought a three-foot fibre-optic tree with balls on (it takes five minutes to put up and doesn’t require tinsel).  We may decorate a bit in Christmas Yet To Come but – who knows what the fates will allow.

The pub was almost as I remembered it – except that last time we went there it was a blazing hot day in May and  I was heavily pregnant with UB.  Dressed in its Christmas best, with the River Test swollen by the recent heavy rains, The Mayfly took on a whole different aspect.  It was packed with pre-Christmas revellers and we were sandwiched  between a group of very imperious old-money Hampshire folk and a loud, tattooed, perma-tanned bunch of Test Valley nouveau riche (they annoyed CB especially as one of their number – mega loud and wearing a huge bunch of keys dangling from his belt –  kept squeezing past CB to get to the bar – and had the temerity to touch his shoulder – TWICE).

It was a lovely lunch though; full of talk and laughter and good food.  It made me feel like there was a Christmas Present after all.

Gifts and cards were exchanged with hugs and kisses in the muddy car park, and we were on our way to The DeVere Grand Harbour.

When we were young and living in the South, Hub and I watched this hotel being built on the waterfront.  The huge pyramid-shaped glass atrium at the front of the building made it stand out even then and the idea of ever being able to afford to stay there was just a pipe dream.

Hey – here we are living the dream!

We stayed at the hotel when the boys were small enough to still tolerate sleeping on the same sofa bed in the same room as us.  In the intervening years since our last visit this has become impossible and very unwise – getting them to stay civil in the same car is hard enough.  So we had three separate rooms and I dispensed stern instructions about only ordering room service if they checked it out with us first and under no circumstances were they to access the playstation or the adult TV channels.  UB looked at me with disdain because he is a Nintendo man.  CB just looked at me with disdain and thinly veiled disappointment that I had second-guessed him.

Tired and still stuffed from lunch, UB retired to bed.  We had planned to visit the vegetarian nightmare of a steakhouse that we discovered last time we were down but CB was tired and grouchy so Lovely Hub was sent off on a pilgrimage to get kebabs from Zorbas – yes, yes, we ate kebabs in a four-star hotel (used to be five-star but they lost a star when they gave up the valet parking).

Zorbas is a legend.  We have been eating kebabs from there since 1989 and their chilli sauce is one of the reasons our boys are hot stuff – they were weaned on it.  Good to be back home again – again.

That’ll do for today.  We have a new bed being delivered this afternoon and need to dismantle the old one and discover the things that have been lurking under it for many years. Bring on the Dyson and stout (ish) foot wear.  I must protect the V-toe (and myself) from any eight-legged marauders.

Toodle-pip.

By the way – it is my birthday tomorrow 🙂