Spontaneous – but no combustion

dining out

Apologies for the absence of blogging yesterday.

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded and smiled encouragingly.

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

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

All that is behind me now.

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

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

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

Did we know this? Nope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like Spike Island.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love being an adult 🙂

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Hub is a master of spontaneity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

No combustion.

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

Epic Fail.

A tale of two fridges – well- four actually’


When Hub and I bought our first house 27 years ago, we were given a fridge freezer as a moving in/engagement present by Hub’s parents. My tiny fridge with freezer compartment that had served me well in my studio flat looked in danger of collapsing if it was removed from its little cubbyhole in the kitchen. I left it there for the new owner, together with an Ercol wall unit and a temperamental Baby Belling.

We bought it from Bejams –  a company now known as Iceland  – but in those days it only sold frozen food and things to keep the food in, and long before they started using A, B and Z-list celebrities to promote their products.

The fridge freezer sat very nicely in the tiny kitchen of our two up, two down end of terrace ex council house, and made up for the disappointment of finding that what we thought were kitchen units turned out to be doors with a big empty space and a gas meter behind them.

The little house was Uni Boy’s first home too; he cruised around the furniture and we were slightly worried that he was having problems walking. Then we took him to Southampton Common , plonked him on the grass near the Ornamental Lake and watched in amazement as he ran, and ran, and ran. Hub managed to stop him before he reached the lake.

When Uni Boy was just over a year old, and Gap Boy was more than just a twinkle in his father’s eye, we moved North and rented a house.  We let our little house to a mature student, his wife and daughter, and endured several months of them grumbling (via the agent) about the shortcomings of our happy little home.  We couldn’t get house or contents insurance because of our tenant’s status and they unfortunately they turned out to be a ham-fisted pair judging by the constant breakages and replacements they demanded.  The fridge freezer survived their clumsiness however.

We decided that we wanted to stay in the North; we had made good friends, Hub enjoyed his job and Uni Boy was busy running everywhere (and climbing into my Dear Friend’s fish tank).

After Gap Boy was born, we started saving up money to buy another house – providing we could sell the old one.  The tenants moved out and on to wreck another property after a couple of years.  We had the house professionally cleaned and tidied and put it up for sale.

The estate agents kept us apprised about viewings and we thought that they were looking after our little house.  Unfortunately they were slapdash and left the spare set of house keys in the kitchen drawer.  We got a phone call one Monday morning telling us that someone had broken in through the kitchen window and ‘somehow‘ managed to unlock the back door and take out the fridge freezer.  The burglar(s) tried to take the washing machine and the boiler but were too inept to manage the plumbing.  Oh, and the spare set of keys were no longer in the office, did we have them?

Surprisingly enough, the little house still sold and we went looking for a home for the four of us and our family of cats.  We had moved North with five cats and were down to four after our tiniest cat had curled up under the radiator one night and gone permanently to sleep. We lost another the night before we moved when he ran out into the road when a dog wuffed at him and was run over.  He is buried under our magnolia tree. The other cats lived out their happy moggy lives in the new house.

Our new house-to-be was occupied by students when we went to visit it.  The owner had left the students to show prospective buyers around and was perplexed as to why there were no offers after eighteen months. We found out why.

We visited just after Christmas.  They refused to let us in.

We called the estate agent and he arrived within minutes and threatened to call the owner.

They let us in, scowling.

The curtains were closed, the wreckage of a Christmas tree leaned drunkenly in the living room,  three hung over students were slumped sullenly on the sofa.

The agent showed us around.  His bright and breezy attitude at odds with the sulking students.  The kitchen was dirty and filled with rubbish – some of it in bin bags.  The downstairs bathroom and bedroom were damp, smelly and unaired, the living room too dark to see anything, so we climbed the stairs and were pleased with two of the bedrooms.  The occupant of the third obviously had a bad temper as there was a huge fist-shaped hole in the plasterboard.  The agent had described the upstairs bathroom as ‘impressive’.  It was.  It was a huge tart’s boudoir.  All white and pink and gilt and scalloping.  Uni Boy eyed the bidet with interest. He later informed friends that our new house had a ‘bumwasher’.

We visited twice more and saw the real house hiding beneath the students’ wilful neglect.

The owner appeared to have had lessons in artexing as every room in the house had a different pattern – on the walls and on the ceilings.  The stairway and upper hall still have the capacity to remove three layers of skin when you brush against it carelessly.  Under the grime, the kitchen turned out to be a seventies nightmare; brown and white tiles, pine cladding, pendant lights and pseudo Mediterranean arches that  blocked out the light. The front room and dining room ran the length of the house with patio doors opening on to a quiet courtyard – filled with more bin bags.

The purchase of the house was rather fraught; the students were reluctant to move, the owner was reluctant to change the locks or drop the price due to the state of the garage roof.

We won in the end.

With the help of our new and incredibly supportive friends, we moved out of our rented house, cleaned it from top to bottom and moved into the new house.  There wasn’t an awful lot of money to spare and though we kept the existing horrible hob and crusty cooker, the fridge freezer was beyond redemption, so we bought a new one from Iceland – RIP Bejams.

As the boys got bigger and consumed more food, we took advice from our Dear Friend and invested in a second fridge freezer which was installed in the downstairs guest bedroom after the garage proved too cold for it.  Uni Boy moved into the room when he started at high school and needed more peas and carrots (peace and quiet).  By this time he was cooking elaborate meals for himself and had already acquired a taste for grana padano cheese and soya milk, so having a fridge freezer in his bedroom was a must.

Hub and I were permitted to keep food in UB’s fridge freezer but GB was told in no uncertain terms to keep out.

Now that UB is away at uni, his room is frequently occupied by our Bezzie Mate.  He tells me that the fridge freezer is rather talkative – especially in the middle of the night.  It sighs like a mournful ghost apparently and is even more disturbing than the sound of GB thundering down the stairs to cook noodles in the early hours of the morning or Scoobs giving me his uproarious first thing in the morning welcome.

After fifteen years of living with the artex and pine-clad hell of our kitchen (we replaced the worktops and cupboards a few years ago, and bought a new cooker but I still hated it) we are having a new one.

Being kitchen virgins so to speak, we have relied on the support and advice of our friends. We were told to get at least three quotes.

Then we walked into Wickes and I fell in love with a black quartz worktop with multi-coloured sparkles in it.  Shiny shiny!  Shortly afterwards I developed an attraction for what turned out to be the most expensive set of kitchen units in the store.

The kitchen designer came out and measured up our horrible kitchen.  Scoob liked him – possibly a bit too much because he handed the job over to his colleague.

The kitchen fitter/builder came out and scrobbled Scoob’s head.  Scoob was smitten and so was the fitter.  I viewed my horrible kitchen as a monstrosity; he rubbed his hands gleefully and told me that this was his favourite kind of job and he couldn’t wait to get started.

Having had a boiler and radiators fitted the previous February, we decided to wait till May and give the weather a chance to warm up.  Three days of sitting together on the sofa huddled under a blanket with a nervous and wuffing dog had taught us a lesson.

Our kitchen designer drew pretty pictures on his computer and all the bits were ordered and paid for.  We now have a letter from head office containing a blue balloon and a piece of string which we have to attach to the gate so that the delivery men can find us.

So sweet.

The hob, the oven and the microwave are included. We are using our own washing machine and dishwasher. I have chosen floor and wall tiles and matched up the paint with the units. Oh, go me!

The only thing left to do was to find a snazzy American-style fridge freezer and a tumble drier that would fit in the gaps.

Hub did his methodical trawl through ‘Which’ magazine.  I hopped about on the Internet going ‘Oooh’ at very expensive and rather impractical monsters.

We headed to that big electrical/computer store and whilst Hub nipped into Halford’s for wiper blades, I did some fridge freezer stroking and exploring.  That was when I found the beauty that heads this story.  It is a fridge  with a nice, cold, ice-cold water dispenser and loads of shelves. And the beauty has a freezer brother with a tippy ice-cube tray and oodles of drawers – also pictured.  The handles are full length and very tactile, and even when put side by side, they are still only 30cm wider than the conventional 90cm allowed for the American-style monsters. It would also mean that we could get rid of the fridge freezer in UB’s bedroom and ensure that BM would have quieter nights when he comes to stay.

We also found a not very glamorous but highly rated by ‘Which’ tumble dryer with a condenser and a sensor – all this is over my head.

Clutching our measurements we toddled off to Wickes in the hope that the gorgeous chilly twins could be accommodated in our ner kitchen.

Oh, go Wickes!  Not only did our lovely designer redesign the kitchen to incorporate the twins, we got a refund for the bits of kitchen that we no longer needed.

So, today, 27 years after the day we first started going out with each other, Hub and I have purchased the last three essentials for our first new kitchen.  Work starts next week and apart from having to control Scoobs and move into camping mode whilst normal services are suspended, our only other shopping trip will be to pick up the tiles and paint in quantities as advised by our eager builder/kitchen fitter.

Now begins the mass chucking out of fifteen years of womble-hoarding in the kitchen cupboards.  I will be awarding a prize for the most out of date object found.  Lovely Friend and her Hub are coming over to endow us with some much needed ruthlessness.  I foresee many tip trips ahead.

We will be having a kitchen party once it is all done and I have been told that with my new kitchen will come a housework gene that has hitherto been missing.

So woe betide anyone who leaves a mess on my glittery worktop or puts a dirty cup in my Belfast sink!

‘Quite a Good Friday – really’



Ups, Downs and Mis-deliveries

The day started well, with bright sunshine.

So bright that we had the covers off the table outside and the parasols erected ready for lunch al fresco. Scoob has his own parasol.

Gap Boy had been up most of the night yakking at his US mates so he was tucked up in his bed when we arose in a leisurely fashion.

Scoob was happy because he got treats and a walk with Hub. he also liked the fact that there were no postmen and no delivery men: the bin men took him by surprise however.  He can’t and won’t like them.

I was happy because I had Hub to myself, I had indulged in a very long and very intense discussion with Uni Boy which ended in exhaustion but also with the exhilaration of knowing that we have bought both our boys up to have minds of their own – not just me and Hub clones.

Hub bought me a glass of Marsala when the conversation ended.  I needed it.

Bezzie Mate was coming to stay; I was cooking a cake to celebrate – rhubarb crumble cake with ginger –  and we were having Chinese takeaway for dinner.

All in all, a good Good Friday.

We did a minor shopping trip – too big for a handbasket, too small for a big trolley so the small trolley was just right – bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears meets Tesco really. Even the checkout man was in a good mood.  the sun seemed to have brought out the best in everyone.

Lunch in the sun on the patio.  Scoob was slathering after our bread and cheese.  Depending on his posture, he was either sitting in a pool of drool or wearing an unattractive soggy patch down his curly black frontage.

Hub very kindly laid out the ingredients for the cake and whilst I didn’t exactly do a Jon Richardson and pretend that I was on a cooking programme, it made the whole process more amenable having an array of bowls, spoons and other implements all ready for my use.

The cake went in the oven and Hub very obliging hoovered the lawn and the front room (misnomer really as neither machine used was actually a Hoover).

I was in contact with BM throughout his journey North, and we were actually on the phone when a large white delivery van pulled up outside – much to Scooby’s consternation.

Hub placated Scoob, I dispatched GB outside to fetch the parcel and busied myself between making sure GB’s mince didn’t burn and trying to turn my cooled cake out on to a rack – oh how Mary Berry am I!

GB returned, grumbling and clutching a card. He informed me that the delivery man had delivered my parcel to a different house and that he said it was up to us to go and collect it.

Boom! Ballistic me!

So GB gave the card to his father to go and collect the  parcel from the wrong house that it had been delivered to.

Unhappy Hub. He had been sitting contentedly reading his ‘Which’ magazine and like me, waiting for BM to arrive.  BM meanwhile was on the phone listening to me rant about the delivery man, and giggling.

Hub went off to collect the parcel.  GB had forgotten to tell him though, that the people who had my parcel had now gone out – which is why the delivery man had told us we would have to collect the parcel later.

I picked up the phone and complained to the company from whence came the parcel; no names, no pack drill but they share their name with a very long river.

The young lady I spoke to was very apologetic and very helpful, so my anger subsided. It takes a very good customer service person to calm me down.  She was extremely good.

BM arrived in the midst of the furore and was much amused by my transition from Mrs Angry to Mrs Placated.

Hub, BM and I had planned to pop down to the local tavern for a small cider and to watch the sun set, so I wrote a suitably nice note to the person who had my parcel and included my phone number so that they could contact us when it was convenient to come and collect.

As we were turning into the road, a white van came hurtling out and missed us by inches.  I knocked on the door of the wrong delivery house and was told that the delivery driver had just collected my parcel.

So we went back home again; the parcel had been received by GB, and I had a conciliatory email from the company requesting the outcome.

Off to the tavern; a tad chilly now but the sight of the sun setting behind the power station was one to behold.  The cider was pretty good too.

Chinese takeaway ordered, collected and eaten.  A pleasant evening  filled with wine, good conversation and more dog slather than you can throw a stick at.

Hub has now gone to bed (early shift tomorrow), GB is out on his motorbike, BM is watching ‘The Bourne Supremacy‘ and I am tappetty-tapping to beat my midnight deadline.

It has been a pretty Good Friday and we all have Easter eggs to look forward to – and rhubarb and ginger crumble cake.