‘There is always something there to remind me’

Scary photo alert!!!!!

 passport2 passport1IMG_00000607_edit

Time to renew the passports and oh boy have they tightened up on the rules and regulations.

Picture 1 is me circa 2004 – short dark hair, tinted Deirdre specs and just the hint of a smile – too far away from the camera, this photo would not make it through the awfully nice Passport checking lady at the Post Office (worth paying the extra fifteen squids to get her to check it).

Picture 2 is me circa 2014 – back to my reasonably natural blonde status, sans specs, sans smile – my sad face fits in the red oval of the photo-me booth.

Hub and I visited our local supermarket last night to get our passport photos done, and we were both deeply traumatised by the results.  It took me three goes to get photo 2 – the first two versions had me looking decidedly cross-eyed as I tried to peer at the instructions on the screen.  Yes, I know that the nice lady tells you what to do but I don’t hear so well without my goggles on. BTW it took Hub two goes before he pressed the final green button, so ner.

I have worn spectacles since I was eight years old; going from the anaemic pale blue plastic NHS horrors, to the more severe black plastic ‘these are supposed to be for boys not girls‘ to the gold-rimmed, blue-tinted lens John Lennon lookie-likies of my teens. I have had even larger Deirdre bottle-ends and smaller metal framed versions. I even dallied with red metal frames but the red coating wore off and brought me out in a rash, leaving me with the choice between more mega-plastic nasties or expensive titanium. As I earned more money I ventured into designer specs – Versace, Dolce and Gabbana –  but they didn’t actually make me see any better especially when I had to give into varifocals.

This year however, the local supermarket came up trumps and I now have a pair of stylish titanium frames with brown transition varifocal lens AND a pair of slightly purple metal frames, as above but with grey transitions. They cost me £500 squids less than that the place that we should have gone to. Hmmmm.

All this optical rambling is tenuously linked to my discomfort at having to be photographed with a glasses-less face after years of being so used to looking at my features through a range of (rose) tinted lenses.

My dearest Hub is mourning the loss of his locks. Still abundant at the back of his nicely shaped head, his cranium is getting more and more exposed as the years fly past; visits to the hairdresser are a thing of the past as electric clippers wielded by my own fair hands can now do the job to his – well – not satisfaction exactly because he’d far rather have enough hair to have a professional do the job.

Comparing my 2004 face with my 2014 face – yes, time has worn away at me and etched a fair few wrinkles and bags  – bags which are usually hidden by the specs, and wrinkles that don’t seem to show so anywhere near so much when you smile.

Ten years ago I was doing two jobs – both of which brought me fulfilment and frustration.  Our boys were still in primary school, we had a houseful of cats and I had just embarked on my Open University journey.

Facebook was born.

Janet Jackson flashed a boob at the Super Bowl, Uni Boy was obsessed with Harry Potter and Gameboys, Gap Year Boy was playing football in a local team and Hub was as much into Motorhead as he  was as a teenager and still is today.  He is as constant as the Northern Star.

My Bezzie Mate took a look at photo 2 and recommended ‘some of that TV glowing youthful reflective base, lightly pencilled eyebrows and lighter lippy’.   I may take that on board but I will have to consult some of my female friends for confirmation.

Hub looked at the pictures, gave me that smile that I know so well and made me forget all about silly old passport photos.

I have included picture 3 because I feel comfortable with it.  It is also proof of my ability to take  selfie. It may well be an only child though.

Wild,Wild Life

Drouth (Anon)

‘Oh Western wind when wilt thou blow, that the small rain down can rain?

Christ, that my love were in my arms, and I in my bed again.’

Lovely Hub brought me a big mug especially for Uni, it says –  ‘I’d rather be in bed’

So I’ve spent nine years studying with the  Open University and always managed to avoid residential courses. I’m glad to have participated in this one but didn’t realise just how much I’d miss Lovely Hub and the boys.  I’ve been at Nottingham Uni since Saturday and it’s now the early hours of Thursday morning.  I have finally extricated myself from the pirate party  – which has had its highs and lows.

It doesn’t help that at this time of night only the hard core are left and they divide up into the young, free and single ones who are angling to get off with each other, the party animals, those seeking to regain their lost youth and those, who like me, have families at home and have no desire to spend the rest of the night groping sweatishly with someone that you won’t be able to look in the eye in the morning.  (My conscience is clear I have only bestowed maternal hugs on my very favourite people).

Hub and I have been texting for the past hour or so – he’s on a night shift and is relieved to find that I am safely back in my room knocking back the San Pellegrino to dilute my alcohol intake  and blogging tearily whilst my lappy sings ‘Building a Bridge to my Heart’.’

Residential school has been good.  I have met some fabulous people;  a couple of the tutors are rather up themselves but the majority are delightfully eccentric – or just delightful. There are definitely some people that I’d like to keep in contact especially my lovely partner L who had to leave today because work called her away.  We had a great time working on the project together and our tutor, although this was only his first residential school (and I’m definitely old enough to be his mother) has been incredibly supportive and has almost awakened a desire in me to do statistics – Argh! Hold that thought.

Time passes …..

I started this blog but I didn’t finish it due to pressure of work  on the project – a hard, hard life as well as a wild, wild one.  It’s over a week later and this is the first chance I’ve had to finish this blog  – I’m blaming lack of blood in the alcohol stream and a carb-heavy diet that has left me sluggish and unresponsive all week.  I still have to write up the project and – for my own warped satisfaction only – run the stats programme all on my own to ensure veracity.  I must be mad.

I was given ‘a village idiot’s guide to doing  2×2 Mixed ANOVA’ by me (residential) tutor – and when I read it last night I actually understood (some of) it. Maybe these old brain cells still have some life left in them.  Mission may not be Impossible after all.

No regrets about doing the residential school now,  just saddened to hear that Lovely Hub felt that life was suspended whilst I was away.  Feel very humbled by this and will do my best not to run off again.  Knowing that he missed me so much is an added incentive to lose weight, get fit and hang around for many years to come.   I missed my men too though, and it was only the fact that I was kept so busy, stopped me drooping into the doldrums, especially late at night when all the fun and alcohol had dried up and every bone in my body was wanting to be home.

Enough of all that; once the food shopping was accomplished and my neglected sons were replete (hands up anyone who thinks they starved whilst I was away – No? – didn’t think so) Lovely Hub and I had time to hit the seaside at Crosby, eat ice creams in the sunshine and drive home through a belter of a thunderstorm.  We also managed to take the boys out to dinner (good old Nandos) and actually get through a meal without major domestic trauma.  The situation deteriorated rapidly when we hit Tesco for a spot of late night shopping – so let’s not go there.

Back to work on Monday and at least a day of trying to remember what the hell I do for a living.  It is gradually trickling back so I guess the cocktails I was drinking last Tuesday night didn’t kill  off that many brain cells.  It’s good to be back with my team – even if we are slightly depleted due to holidays and stuff.  I enjoyed being a student last week but I enjoy being a worker more – except for when my path crosses that of the terminally arrogant and dim who blight our lives by being jobsworths.

Ah, but I’ve only a couple of weeks at work before we take off down South to visit family and friends, especially those who couldn’t make it to the funeral.  It will be good to be back in the bosom of the family and to smell the salt air again.  There was a time when I was at college in landlocked Brum and I used to take jars of seawater back with me for a sneaky sniff whenever I got homesick.  Until the day my Mum phoned me at college in a tizzy because they’d discovered typhoid or something horrible in the water.  After that,  a crowd of us sea-siders had to content ourselves with sitting around Edgbaston reservoir making mournful foghorn noises and wishing we were home.

So, no more prevarication  – me tutor has sent me an email with stat-speak in it and after all his efforts at kick-starting my brain – I will not let him  (or myself ) down.  One more essay and the exam after this and the Psych degree will be mine! (I hope).  A final course starting in October on Crime and Justice and the Criminology degree will be mine next  year.  Toying with the idea of doing an online masters in Forensic Psych with Liverpool Uni – but I promised Lovely Hub that I’d take a break from studying and spend more time running wild with him.  Now there’s a happy thought for the future.

Bring on those stats!

You can go your own way …

Not the easiest of weeks in all.  Lovely Hub came back from his paintball weekend on Sunday afternoon, extremely knackered and a bit disappointed that he had to spend most of his energy lugging camping equipment from A to B instead of running around splatting people.  It didn’t help that the weather was lousy, that he lost an airbed and had to sleep on the ground, or that bad weather at home meant there wasn’t an opportunity to have a go at pitching the new tent before they went away. I’m told that the draught cider was good though and so was the cocktail bar (? and I thought they were being ruff tuff boys running around with gun-things – sorry – MARKERS –  not sitting there drinking cocktails all weekend).  The zombie game was a bit boring as well, not a lot of variety in being a zombie really.

So after Hub and I falling prey to  two sleepless nights, we were looking forward to a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately both Uni Boy and College Boy are particularly nocturnal at the moment.  Classical music and the boom of Super Mario on an elaborate sound system comes up from Uni Boy’s room and war game playing chortle issues through the curtain from College Boy’s room – he had a door once but it died and we are waiting for some sign of maturity before we replace it.

At half-past three in the morning the air was rent with the sound of the two boys fighting over bandwidth.  I ripped a muscle in my side jumping out of bed to separate them – last time they fought in the middle of the night, blood and bruises were involved (not mine).

At a quarter-past four in the morning an overwhelming smell of cooking permeated the whole house and I cursed College Boy for sneaking downstairs and making bacon super noodles with pepperami and tabasco sauce (a whole bottle) when I had to go to work in the morning.

At half-past five Lovely Hub had to leap out of bed to empty the overflowing water bucket  – for some reason the water from the tank decided to speed up while we were trying to sleep – Sod’s Law

I got up at six o’clock and staggered downstairs in search of painkillers for my achy breaky side.  Uni Boy was awake and it turned out that I had maligned College Boy and his super noodles, it was Uni Boy that had been cooking and despite being a hyper-intelligent megabeing it hadn’t occurred to him that leaving the kitchen door open whilst cooking would mean that the whole house stank of food.

I woke College Boy but he decided that his stomach was upset and he wasn’t going to get up.  Some guys have all the luck.

It was a relief to get out of the house and slouch at my desk – until I realised that torn muscles and slouching don’t mix.  Lovely Hub brought me more painkillers and I spent the rest of the day sitting in accordance with health and safety guidelines.  It’s getting better now – slowly.

Loveliest Friend worked her magic fingers into Hub’s feet and came home happy again and fully reflexologised.  Just as well because he had two day shifts – which he hates but I quite like because I get a lift into work and back.  The boys took turns (what!) to empty the water bucket as they were the only ones in but whatever it was that was causing the problem then decided to make the water flow even faster.

I phoned Uni Boy from work to see if he’d emptied the bucket.  He was a little terse.  Hub texted Uni Boy on Wednesday morning from work to ask him to empty the bucket.  This was Uni Boy’s response:

“Bucket looks fairly empty.  It fills 50ml about every 4 min., and drops 130 times a minute, so flow rate is 750-800ml/hr.  If that flow rate stays the same then the bucket shouldn’t need emptying until the evening at the earliest.”

College Boy would have texted “kk” or not even bothered to reply.

On Thursday night, Hub and I decided to tackle the water tank once and for all.  Well, I lay on the bed and watched Hub tackle the water tank.  He had to take some of the cupboard door frame off and stick his hand in the water tank to fiddle with the ball cock (ooh-er Missus!).  His master stroke however, was climbing out through the bedroom window (who needs Spiderman), scaling the roof and discovering that there was something nasty bunging up the overflow pipe.

All good paintballers have an unbunging stick and Hub is no exception.  Clinging onto the side of the chimney breast he shoved the stick up the overflow pipe and cured all our problems – well for now.  The bucket is still underneath the Heath Robinson pipework but it has remained empty since Thursday night.  Go Hub!  We still need a new boiler but that will have to wait for a bit.

Hub was at work Friday night so  a quiet night in.  Uni Boy and I had another one of our considerably lop-sided  conversations – nearly everything he says goes over my head.  So far this week we have discussed ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ – surreal to be talking about grubby DomSub books with your 19yr old son –  and whether or not the tot of whiskey I put in my morning porridge will still have an alcoholic content after being exposed to the microwave (he did calculations based on alcoholic content, amount of whiskey, temperature and length of time in the microwave – hic!.

When Hub came home we drove College Boy over to his mate’s in preparation for a day of shooting BBs in some disused army camp with a lot of other camouflaged pseudo-soldiers.  It was rather nice driving back at midnight  – just us – especially as College Boy gets particularly frantic when he is trying to get all his gear together.  He doesn’t know that we’ve found his college report (he hid it in a pile of paper on the sofa).  It wasn’t wonderful but then he’s had five bouts of tonsillitis in the past year  – oh – and he’s a lazy git to boot.

Saw Hub off to paintball this morning – it isn’t raining and he’s sent me nice texts so I know he hasn’t been too badly crushed, mashed or covered in yellow paint.  Uni Boy spent some time this afternoon practising his cocktail making skills – oh  dear – do you really need me to test that Cosmopolitan for you?  Oh well – alright then.  The boy makes a fine cocktail.  He went off to a friend’s house and for three hours this afternoon I’ve had the house to myself.

I fell asleep.  Must have been that cocktail.

This time next week Uni Boy will be in Spain and I will be starting my one and only Open University residential unit in Nottingham.  Apparently the booze is cheap (Spain and Nottingham Uni).  I’m going to be a real student for a whole week and I am more than a little bit terrified.

Hey Ho! The Paintballer and the BB Boy have returned.  The latter is totally shattered and can’t even raise the energy to go out for a meal with his best friend. He also has a red mark on his neck from a wayward BB.  He has just staggered past me with a bottle of water, a duvet and heading for bed. Hub has had a lovely day shooting at people as well but also has a couple of war wounds which he’ll show me – laterz.  Uni Boy is off out on the town again tonight with a couple of 500ml bottles filled with his cocktails – he has pre-drinking style that boy.

It hasn’t taken much to persuade Hub that tonight is a good night for a takeaway.

Just seen the war wounds – a bit tame – just on the arms but going to turn into lovely bruises over the next couple of days.  So glad I don’t have dangerous hobbies – unless you count OU terror camp next week.

Now where did we put that takeaway menu?

Paintball Wizard – got such a supple wrist

I am a deserted wife.  My Lovely Hub is somewhere in the Brecon Beacons firing small balls of paint at about 800 similar-minded individuals.  He will come home tonight, muddy, smelly and covered with a multitude of small but perfectly formed raised welts which will morph into bruises over the next couple of days.  He usually picks up three or four of said welts on a day’s paintballing but he’s been gone since Friday so I may have to use a red marker and join up all the dots when he returns.

We have coped with being so cruelly abandoned thus far; me and the squabbling teens, and that is despite the many issues that threaten to disturb our domestic bliss (!)  One of the main issues over the past couple of days has been an overflow water tank that doesn’t – or rather it does but in the wrong places.  The morning after the Fruit and Nut party, Hub woke to the sound of dripping and discovered that the valve that should open and let water out of the tank had stopped working.  Whether or not this has anything to do with College Boy’s filling our house with drunken teenagers, or whether it was just an awful coincidence, we may never know.  For the past month though, Lovely Hub has been utilising a length of plastic tubing and several jugs to empty the excess water out of the bedroom window and onto the roof below – where the moss has become lush and verdant. He usually has to do this in the early hours of the morning when the dripping wakes him up (it wakes me up too).

Being tallish and thin, Hub has no problem getting his hand into the tank and extracting the water via the tube.  Being neither tallish or thinnish, I have a very large problem – which is why I stay in bed and pretend to be asleep whilst he is stumbling about in the dark with jugs and a plastic tube, trying not to wake me.  College Boy had a go but he has inherited his mother’s chunky wrists and whimpered when the nasty tank bit him.

The mad scrap metal merchant who used to own our house put the door frame on the airing cupboard after installing the water tanks and as a consequence there is very little room for manoeuvre.  We know that we have to sort our heating system out but in our usual haphazard fashion we have put it off.  We all know that the timer for the boiler died a couple of years ago – which is why I get up earlier than everyone else in order to switch it on manually.  We all know that the radiator in the upstairs bathroom never goes off; it is a small sleepy satellite that has cut itself loose from the mothership.  We all know that putting the boiler to hot water only will turn the heating on – sometimes – it likes to keep us guessing.

There are many other anomalies in our house; three extensions and four flat roofs, wiring that sits on top of the wall instead of inside it, walls and ceilings that are covered in every pattern of Artex imaginable (we think that they used the downstairs hallway to practice on because it has at least five different patterns).  This smaller version of the Money Pit  (Home Crap Home) always has something that needs doing but there is always something else that is more important to spend the pennies on.

As the realisation that Lovely Hub was going away for three days dawned, so did the thorny issue of how I was going to empty the water tank whilst he was away.  College Boy and I had a dummy run but it consisted of him standing on a stool moaning about how much his hand hurt whilst I stood halfway across the bedroom holding a length of guttering that he found in the garage and which is now lying on the (broken – cheers Gibbo) patio table outside.  The guttering worked quite well once CB had got the water flowing but as the tank tends to fill up in the early hours of the morning, the idea of standing there holding a six-foot length of guttering out the window whilst CB swore at the water tank did not appeal.

At last, Lovely Hub conceded and called up a friend who has a plumbing business.  He was due to visit on Friday lunchtime, several hours after Hub and his friend had departed for jolly paintball japes, so I made sure that Hub wrote it all down for me.

Hub’s friend stayed in the front room the night before they departed.  We were not good hosts; Uni Boy spent much of the night watching American talk shows and chortling in his bedroom – next door to the front room, College Boy spent much of the night upstairs shouting at his game buddies and chortling, Hub emptied the tank before and after we got some sleep and the garage alarm went off at half-past three in the morning waking up everyone but Uni Boy – who had’t gone to bed yet.  We weren’t chortling.

After the paintballers had gone (only one false start – Hub had to come back for fruit juice and his paintball markers (gun things) without which ….. ) I was very proud of the fact that I got the grey and blue bins out on the road to be emptied (even though they were very,very heavy for poor little me) and glad that I did it at half past seven in the morning because the heavens opened shortly after that and continued to chuck it down all day.  My wonderful neighbour put them back for me. Mwah.xx

I made my ‘to-do’ list once they’d gone; ensuring that I’d already done at least three things on it so that I could cross them off straight away and give myself a sense of achievement.  TMA05 featured heavily on the list – it is the title of the next piece of Open University work I have to do and I need to get going on it because in less than two weeks I shall be leaving for a residential block at Nottingham Uni – ooh squee! The chance to be a real Uni Woman at last!

My new tutor – the one that I thought was so nice and sympathetic compared to his bile-filled predecessor – is just as fluent in sarcasm.  My sad attempts at hypothesising and working out whether I need an ANOVA, MANOVA or a MANCOVA to analyse my as yet uncollected data (we do the experimental research whilst at Nottingham) and how many tails it has (don’t ask) do not meet with his approval.  As a consequence I keep moving the books around on the ironing board that I use as a table and finding multiple distractions to avoid depressing myself further. Uni Boy irons far more than I do so I have to move my piles of books so that he can borrow the board.  Fortunately, he irons nocturnally so I find my board back in the front room when I get up in the morning.

The plumber and his mate visited at lunchtime as arranged, looked askance at the water tank and chortled at our solutions.  Within half an hour they had rigged up a curious Heath Robinson-type construction of pipes and joints that enables me to drain the water into the mop bucket.  I still have to empty it using the measuring jugs – so the moss remains healthy  – but I don’t have to try to get my hand inside the tank anymore.  Unfortunately, on the first night the pipe was a couple of inches short of the water in the bucket so all I got was drip, drip,drip all night long.  One night of the Chinese water torture was enough.  I have now raised the bucket up so the end of the pipe is in the water and silent.  Uni Boy emptied it for me yesterday tea time (when he woke up) and College Boy had another go at bedtime (mine not his).  The bucket was nearly full when I got up this morning – I had a lie-in and woke up at twenty-past seven – whoo!  Chucking water out of the window has a curiously medieval feel to it.

We ARE getting a new heating system.

This morning I have Tai Chi-ed, and will be eating breakfast shortly, after which I shall make another ‘to-do’ list that will feature TMA05 prominently but will also have things on it that I actually want to do – and some that I don’t but hey – that kitchen bin won’t empty itself now!

There are so many ways in which Lovely Hub makes my life easier (and happier and funnier and totally bearable) and it isn’t till he’s not here that I stop and appreciate that.  He’s got to cope without me for a whole week soon but I think he’ll manage a bit better than I do – which offends my ego somewhat – no one likes to think they are easily replaceable.  I’m still reaching for the phone to call my Dad and tell him things.  That may never stop.

Ho hum.  Time for breakfast before I get totally maudlin and have to put whiskey in the porridge to cheer myself up again.  Uni Boy has just gone to bed.  College Boy has chortled himself to sleep and this is a time when the Whinging Cat and I would have cuddled each other back into a good mood.  Except that the  Whinging Cat is now buried under a lavender bush in the garden.  Where’s that whiskey?