Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Word Play

I saw these the other day and thought I would pass them on to you. They are from the Washington Post. Mensa each year asks their readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are the 2009 winners: (Number 2 of the second list has great meaning for me!!!)

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time. (this one describes me alarmingly well)
2. Ignoranus : A person who's both stupid and an asshole. (I know several people who this word describes beautifully)
3. Intaxication : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with. (Been there, done that)
4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future. (this surrounds Ignoranus's I feel)
6. Foreploy : Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
7. Giraffiti : Vandalism spray-painted very, very high
8. Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
10. Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
11. Karmageddon : It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
12. Decafalon (n.): The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you. (have no idea what this would be like. Sounds terrible though)
13. Glibido : All talk and no action.
14. Doppler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out. (so that's who it was....)
17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

And the winners are:
1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted , adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.
3. Abdicate , v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach. - Ahmen!!!!!!!!!!
4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.
6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.
7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon, n.. A Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

So, there you have it. Wordplay for a Wednesday.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Holding back the Sahara.

You will be delighted to hear that I resolved my costume dilemma in the time honoured way. I threw money at the problem and rented something. The local costume shop does not really 'do' fictional characters but they specialise in medieval dress. This resulted in me going as Maid Marion complete with long blue silk dress with laced up bodice, sleeves that small families could have camped in and a waist length curly black wig. Oh, and a girdle of course. I have now been told that I must grow my hair long, black and curly, which could prove tricky. Also, that I must instantly throw out my wardrobe and only wear medieval dress. This is either because I looked unutterably ravishing or because it gave everybody such a laugh that they want me to hang about like a court fool to amuse them everyday of the week. I am going with the latter as the most likely option.

Back in the real world, the builders are working so fast that if you blink, you'll miss something. There are skylights going in in the new corridor and doorways being bashed through. Studwalls are flying up and the new chimney breast is built. The electricians are festooning the house with cabling and the icing on today's cake is that the Forestry Commission have turned up and are taking down the trees that border my garden.

These have been slowly and steadily falling down and the next winter storm could have seen them tumbling onto my garden. As they are at least 80ft tall this was a problem which made me glance at them furtively in the lightest of breezes as I wondered whether they were leaning just a little bit more than yesterday. Taking them down is also going to have the added bonus of flooding my garden with evening light. OK. Flooding the garden is an exaggeration, but it will make a big difference. It is all too exciting for words.

The dust, on the other hand, is not exciting. Overwhelming would be a better word. The Loyal Hound is an interesting shade of grey, as am I, and all my worldly goods. Everything is coated in dust. I left footprints on the carpet when I went upstairs earlier. There is so much of it that it seems improbable that I will ever get rid of it. I am determined to not worry about it. I shall cross that dustbath when I need to. Right now it would be like trying to push back the Sahara to try and tackle it.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Costume Crisis

It seems that I stumble from one crisis to another. This weeks' mini drama? A costume party on Saturday night.

The title is 'Favourite Fictional Character'. I have come up with many cunning ideas for what I could wear to this. My favourite being Mavis the Fat Fairy from Will o' the Wisp (does anyone else remember that?? Heaven with Evil Edna the television). Here they are for you to admire...

I already have the figure for this, but couldn't face dying my hair blue and my wand is missing in action.

Having discarded that, I have had many hours in the car this week to think of cunning alternatives. Unfortunately I have not been near actual shops where I could then FIND whatever genius costume I came up with. Consequently I have done what I always do. Absolutely nothing. I live in the hope that on the night I will mysteriously come up with a fabulous idea which I can create using loo roll and double sided sticky tape (neither of which I have to hand).

This weekend's party is made more complicated by the fact that the cooking season has started again. So from Friday I am cooking for 14 people and will need to get a four course dinner onto the table in record time on Saturday night. The moment coffee is sent out I will do my 'wonderwoman' quick change in the kitchen before running off like a reverse cinderella to join the party.

So - back to my clothing dilemma. Bearing in mind how I am spending the weekend, I briefly considered The Swedish Chef, from the muppets. I just don't have the eyebrows for it though, and neither do I think I should be drunk in charge of a knife.

Then I thought I could go as God but that might offend those who think she is real, rather than fictional. My next idea was to dress entirely in black and decorate my Thumb with a small wig and dress and go as Thumbelina. All my black clothes are now dust clothes though and I don't have a wig small enough for my thumb. I wish I were a boy 'cos then I'd go as Captain Pugwash who is possibly my favourite fictional character ever. I have the perfect stomach for this costume so that would save on padding.

So, I now have to stop coming up with improbable ideas that I can't execute and instead, come up with a costume that can be made up out of bits of string, building rubble and carrot peelings. Any cunning thoughts?

Monday, 19 October 2009

One week in and I'm already behind.

So, the builders have started. The hovel has started it's metamorphic process and will soon shake off its chrysalis of dust and become a palace. Or so it goes in my fantasy world.

The builders started last monday and true to form they flooded the house in record breaking time - just three hours! That was fun and a novel way of keeping the dust down I suppose.

Despite the fact that this is supposed to be a five week project they have already been AWOL for two days out of the last six. Impressive, no? At this rate the five week job will escalate into a seven week job which will see me being seriously unamused.

They have done lots of destroying though. Walls have been knocked down and ripped out and I think they bought some extra bags of dust and rubble to scatter around and make the works look more impressive. Somehow, not only the house but also the garden is smothered in rubble.

This week should see new things going up - stud walls and things and the house I imagined will start taking shape. At that point I expect I'll start panicking and wondering if I am doing the right thing so that is an emotional rollercoaster to look forward to.

In the meantime I have moved all my possessions into one end of the house and am working in the kitchen with all the company business crammed into the understairs cupboard.

The nice thing about starting is that I can get excited about finishing. I have made improbable resolutions to myself about sorting all my things out before I put them back. Books will be alphabetically ordered (or if I am feeling shallow, then colour co-ordinated!!!), odds and ends that I hang onto for no apparent reason will ruthlessly be delivered to the charity shop. In this dream, mysteriously, my remaining possessions will become chic and elegant items rather than shabby and decrepit bits of ikea uselessness. World of Interiors will be slavering over the prospect of photographing the wonder that is the hovel. My optimism knows no bounds at this point.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

What does a boyfriend turn into?

I have a great friend who has just had an article printed on her. In said article, her other half, who is close to 70, was described as her 'boyfriend'. This is blatantly not suitable. You can't call a 70 year old man a boyfriend. But what choice did she have?

She couldn't call him her lover. Possibly if she were French this would have worked, but not for a Brit. We just don't do that. Neither can she bring herself to call him her 'partner' as it sounds too pc for words and also, faintly businesslike. But what is she left with?

There are moments when the English language is horribly deficient, and this is one of them. So what do you call your lover when you start rolling down the hill of life? What alternatives are there? If I ever find a man, and it might take years, then this is a dilemma I may face.

Suggestions please.....

Monday, 5 October 2009

My Underwear is not good enough.

I have been in London a few times in the last fortnight and I have come to one inescapable conclusion. My underwear simply isn't good enough.

Let's get something straight here. It's not as if everyone was strolling around wearing nothing BUT underwear, but they all looked so well turned out, so co-ordinated and fashionable and in vogue, that they quite obviously were wearing beautiful underwear. Most likely the sort where pants and bra actually matched and were made of intricate lace hand stitched by elves, bred for the purpose.

All of a sudden my cotton knickers and tired bra, which only match because I accidentally dyed them all in the wash, felt horribly tired. I am a useless female and it is no wonder that I am single. It is beside the point that I can't remember when anyone last saw me in my underwear but perhaps they can tell just by looking at me that I am a failure on the lingerie front?

The thing about it is that I balk at the cost of lovely underwear. A decent bra and knicker set costs the same as the bathroom taps. I need the taps more. My priorities are obviously all quite wrong. If I had good underwear, I would have a lover who would then urge me to let him pay for the taps. I see now that good underwear would have been an investment that would have paid for all other things. Why did my mother never tell me this? Why did I have to wait until I was 36 for this vital piece of information to reveal itself to me in the middle of Kensington High Street?

The problem is now too big to solve though. My bank account is under severe strain at the moment and paying for new underwear was going to be an impossibility. I mended my shoes with duct tape the other day rather than buy more. You see the problem.

Something had to be done though and my solution was pathetic in the extreme. I bought underwear in the supermarket. It wasn't plain white or plain black which is my normal approach. There are small patterns that nobody but me will get to see and bows on the front in delicate red ribbon. This is harlot underwear in my world. I even bought a new bra which had lace on it. The extravagance is shocking, I know.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Let the Stripping Begin....

So, after a week of every plumber within a hundred mile vicinity coming to visit, and the arrival of two builders estimates I have made decisions. The gold plated boiler is going to be installed at the beginning of October, and the builders start work on October 12th.

Armed with actual dates, I have hauled out the trusty steamer and begun steaming off the many acres of woodchip that are holding the house together. I always envisioned this being done by somebody else but budgets (and boilers) have made me abandon this plan and the work falls to yours truly.

I have a fantastic range of woodchip wallpapers. My office has three different styles in the one room and there are four other styles through the house. None of them seem that willing to leave which is vexing. In addition to the ones on the walls, there are those between the raftered ceilings which also need to be removed. I am going to have some sympathy with Michaelangelo at the end of this.

So far, after three hours of hot and sweaty labouring I have managed to strip just one wall of one room. I have until the 12th of October to get 5 rooms done. Hmm. It's going to be interesting isn't it?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

I'm skipping school this afternoon.

That's right. Work is reasonably under control, if not verging on quiet at the moment and I am running away to play for the afternoon. I am going to drive up to the coast and go to the cinema to see Julie and Julia.

This seems like the perfect thing to do on a grey september afternoon. It's indulgent, unnecessary and at four pounds a ticket, cheap. Perfect.

It will be an excellent distraction from worrying about builders, topsoil, boilers and clients who haven't paid their invoices and it will hopefully inspire me to cook something delicious for tea on Saturday when ElizabethM comes to visit.

Going to the cinema is rare for me. It is miles away and though I can be bothered to drive the 50 minutes to get there, I can't be bothered with the journey back afterwards late at night. I'm lazy like that.

There is a local cinema nearby. It shows films on Wednesday nights in the village hall and is a little behind the times. At the moment I think that the first Lord of the Rings film has just arrived for a grand premiere. Tickets are sold by a nice lady who is officially 'simple'. She is interesting though. Some years ago she won eight million pounds in the lottery. She bought herself a new second hand volvo and her children new mini coopers. They were not thrilled. Farmers one and all they live up mountains at the end of rutted tracks that Mini Coopers were not designed for. If you see a new mini cooper abandoned at the bottom of a track, you have found one of her sons! I don't know what she did with the rest of the money but she still sells the tickets for the cinema, and the ice creams and packs of minstrels and I have never seen her wear anything except her brown cord skirt, plain shirt and knitted cardigan. Her money did NOT go on designer shopping. Anyway, back to the 'cinema', such as it is.

You sit on those plastic, stacking chairs which after an hour are guaranteed to give you a numb bum, and halfway through the film, regardless of plot, dialogue etc the film stops for an interval! It's not the most comfortable experience and as they usually keep the film schedule top secret until the day afterwards, I rarely manage to go there!

Today's cinema trip though will be to a proper cinema with plush velour seating, the smell of old popcorn and probably children who really are skipping school talking and snogging in the back row.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A peek at my summer idyll.

In case you think that I am just one big grumble at the moment I thought I would remind myself, and show you, that there have been some idyllic moments over the summer at the new hovel.

Here are some photos which I haven't even doctored to show why life is good. I need to remember these things more often. It is all too easy to get sucked down by the vexing things, and forget the perfect moments. This will serve as a reminder for me.

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Box of Frogs is in Love.

My sister, mad as a box of frogs, hence the name, is in love. She met her beau at a houseparty in the North of Scotland. Tall, ex army and with a head of thick, grey hair, he was promptly nicknamed 'the Silver Fox' and so he shall remain.

They went straight from being strangers to being a couple. Literally. They met on a Saturday. They parted company for their respective homes on the Sunday. They met up the next weekend and officially became 'a couple'. They are at the stage where they can't remember each other's name and call one another 'Darling' a lot. Now they are talking about moving in together.

It just goes to show how quickly these things can happen. After all they only met two and a half months ago. My prediction? If they are still going out by Christmas then this time next year I'll be shopping for a wedding outfit. Apparently he is coming to stay with us for Christmas. Brave of him. Christmas in our household is a deranged affair with an excess of decorations, bickering, food and sulking. If he makes it through that then marriage to the box of frogs will be a doddle.

That's not actually what I wanted to tell you about though. Box of Frogs has been out of a relationship for a while now and she is a few years older than me. She knows what it is like to be single and how vexing the questions you get asked are. You want examples? Ok, how about this one:

"I can't understand why you are single?" This is usually said by well meaning friends but is intensely irritating as it is a pointless statement. I mean, if I knew why I were single, presumably I would do something about it. Are they expecting me to respond by saying in an insouciant fashion "Oh, it's because at midnight I like to eat a kitten and wash it down with the blood of a freshly squeezed bat." What am I supposed to say when people ask that. Do they want an answer? Seriously people, I don't know why I am single, but I am and I am getting on with my life. It doesn't make me less of a person or anything.

Box of Frogs, more than anyone knows how this type of question is not helpful at all. The other night she came to stay and she said to me.

"The silver fox and I feel so bad that we are happy and you are single. I must introduce you to some of his friends". (ok I'm paraphrasing a little)

So, let me get this straight. If I am single I therefore cannot be happy? Pah! Harumph and Bah Humbug to you. How is it that Box of Frogs, having been single for years and years, is suddenly converted to matchmaking me? It's not that I'm averse to meeting the Silver Fox's friends. They may be George Clooney, or Clive Owen. I'm all for that. What I'm not keen on is the instant pity factor that she has developed now that she is in a relationship and I am not. It is a betrayal of those of us who are single and surviving.

I imagine it is a bit of a conversion thing. She is converted to lurve and all it's glories and wants me to be on the side of the couples, god and all shiny happy things in the universe. Instead I am loitering on the dark side, eating crisps, watching House and wearing mismatched underwear because nobody gets to see it and I can! Obviously, I need to be saved.

Well, not today. Box of Frogs is off on holiday with the Silver Fox this week. Next week I expect she'll start matchmaking me with his accountant.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

I've been FIRED.

Since I work for myself, you will have probably already leapt to the correct conclusion that I haven't been fired by myself. Mind you, I did have to give myself a verbal warning last week but that is another story. No, this time, I have been fired by my builders. What makes this story even worse is that I hadn't even hired them yet.

Searching for a builder is a tiresome and depressing job. You want somebody you like, somebody with sensible prices, and somebody reliable. There is a local builder who I have worked with before but I have been avoiding going to him because he can't bear working for women. He thinks we can't possibly know what we want, or understand what we are asking for, and so tends to do what he thinks is right. This generally makes me apoplectic, very red in the face, and tempted to use his tools for purposes they were not designed for. So, I searched farther afield. I asked around for recommendations and finally was put in touch with a really nice firm. Well, 'firm' may be a bit of an exaggeration. Three guys who came highly recommended.

They came to see me and I liked them enormously. They understood what I wanted to do, and why, and my hopes, like a hot air balloon in May, started to rise. Their estimate came in. It was higher than I wished, but realistic all the same. I started to soar and dream of a house that wasn't a testament to seventies nastiness. However, due to the gold plated boiler requirements, I realised I would have to slash a third of the work off the budget. To do this, I needed a breakdown of the prices.

This is where it all goes horribly wrong.

I rang and asked if they could breakdown the estimate so that I could work out what bits could be done this year, and what would have to wait. 'No need to type it all up' I assured them, 'just scribble the figures on the specs that I gave you.' Two weeks later I had heard nothing. I chased them up. Still nothing. I left a shirty message asking where it was. Monday night I had a phonecall from John, one of the builders, apologising profusely for the slowness. They had tried to get in touch with me last week, he said, but I hadn't responded. I pointed out that they had my e mail, my house address and two telephone numbers and one of those would have reached me if they had sent anything.

Not wishing it to be a big drama I suggested they send me the paperwork by e mail or post so that I could give them a decision this week. I assured them that I wanted to go ahead with the work but I just needed to decide which bits had to be put on hold for a year. They promised me a response by the next day. Tuesday came and went. Nothing. Wednesday still nothing. I left another message wondering where the estimate was. Thursday I get an e mail. I shall copy it directly for you:

apologies but we are unable 2 help with your proposed works

No 'Dear Welsh Girl', no 'yours sincerely', nothing. It could have been from anyone. Anyone at all. That is quite aside that I can't bear the laziness of typing '2' instead of 'to'. Luckily for me the e mail address hinted at it being the builders. Otherwise I wouldn't have known who was firing me with one succint sentence.

I thought there was a recession on? I thought people wanted work? Surely you don't throw away £15000 of work this year with more to come for the next few years because doing an estimate is too hard? That can't be it? I think it is though. I have been fired by the builders I wanted to hire because they couldn't be bothered to do an hour of paperwork.

I don't think it was unreasonable to want a cost breakdown, particularly as I had assured them I wanted to go ahead, but couldn't do all the work this year. No, I feel certain that this is a direct result of me being a single girl. The builders have decided that I am tiresome with my need for estimates, and that they would rather work for someone who just says 'Whatever' to the costs and goes to the pub for a pint with them.

I know I should just move on, but this whole process has wasted two months when I could have been getting other builders in to estimate. I really did think they were the ones for the job. If I was married, or had a boyfriend, I bet they would have responded and produced the wretched paperwork when my other half requested it. Perhaps I should teach the Loyal Hound to write?

This is a huge thing to be doing on my own and it is frequently overwhelming in its enormity, both financial and emotional. Being fired by the builders I wanted to hire does not make it any easier at all.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

It's been a while. Sorry about that but I'm back now.

I know. I've been gone for ages. I'm not dead or anything. I don't really know what happened. I got blogging block! Anyway, I have overcome my fear and here I am again. Back luck. Thought you had got rid of me didn't you?

So, in my absence I have been busy. In addition to working like a loon, I have started work on the garden of the hovel. I have built a vegetable garden (of sorts) and am now spending my time trying to dig up top soil from elsewhere in the garden and lugging it over to the new beds. Back breaking work that is oddly satisfying. Here is a photo of the garden so far....

Hopefully, next year I will be able to show you a picture of it filled with a cornucopia of vegetables!

I have also made a driveway and parking area next to the house. This was done with the help of a local farmer and his digger and then 10 hours of crucifying work when I raked out eleven tons of gravel. That night I was so stiff that I thought it would kill me. The next few days even walking was a struggle. However, now I have an actual drive which you can turn in and everything.

My real battle is with the plumbers. The heating system in this house is deranged. The boiler, which the previous owner assured me was marvellous, is actually insane. There is only one thermostat in the house and it is in the sitting room. If it is cold I, not unnaturally, light the wood burner. Consequently the Sitting Room heats up and the thermostat goes off which then means the heating in the rest of the house goes off. In addition there is no timer switch and no way that I have found to turn the hot water on. If I want hot water I have to use the immersion override and wait an hour for the water to heat up. It is not ideal. Not ideal at all.

I have now had four different plumbers out to quote for a new boiler. I had naively thought that it would cost a painful £3500 or so. 'Or so' doesn't even begin to cover it though. It turns out they think £4500 PLUS VAT is more like it. The boiler is only £2000 so where is the rest of the money going? I am frequently driven to wanting to weep just thinking about it and it is becoming an issue which sums up the 'single and surviving, just' principle. I have to sort the wretched thing out but it is taking up a quarter of my budget for doing up the house, a quarter I desperately wanted for other things. Moments like this I would love to have somebody else in my life, not only to share the dilemma, but in all honesty, to also share the cost.

I know that it is horribly mercenary but it has taken me YEARS to save up the money for this project and now it is all being sucked up by the vile plumbers. Hateful, hateful boiler. It has given me sleepless nights, and chillblains. Ok, not actually chillblains, but if I don't get it fixed before winter then they are an option.

I am doing everything I can to earn more money. I am working on two book proposals but neither of those are likely to earn me any money for years (if at all) and the recession means that, though I have work on, people aren't spending as much so I am travelling as much as ever, but not earning as much.

In addition I made a mistake earlier this year (long story that I won't bore you with), that cost me nearly two thousand pounds. I have cancelled a trip to China to try and recuperate the costs but this is definitely my summer of money worries. Perhaps there will be a Karmic refund and I will win £10,000 (or a hundred thousand?) to balance out the arterial bleed that is my bank account.

Anyway, I shall stop whining about my life. The sun is shining, the blackberries are ripening and the sheets are flapping on the line. I just need to adjust my dreams for the house. Instead of it taking a couple of years to get the bulk of the work done, it may be a lot longer. A lot, lot longer.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

It's all downhill from here

You know how you never feel as old as you actually are? We live in a pleasant state of denial and it is only the occasional thing that makes us realise time is travelling faster than we noticed. The other day a friend pointed out that we had known each other for twenty two years. This seemed like a shockingly long time. Surely I couldn't have known somebody I only met in the sixth form for that long? But the maths was incontrevertible. We had been friends for over two decades. This was alarming. I must be getting old if I can have known someone for that long. However, nobody else would know my shameful secret. Surely I could carry on living in denial and pretending that I am only just out of my twenties? NO growing old for me!

But recently I have been kicked out of my state of denial with a resounding and painful thud. How can this be? I hear you cry. I want to lie, to tell you anything else but this but I must be brave. I must confess. Deep breath. Here goes. I am starting to go grey. (see how I put that in bold, not grey - it's all part of the denial process). It is the start of a slippery slope. There is no going back from here.

Last time I went to the hairdressers she kindly offered 'to pull out the grey hairs' before announcing that 'there were too many and she didn't have time'. What?? I'm young. I'm full of the joys of youth. Being 20 isn't that long ago. But it is. It's nearly twenty years ago. 40 is approaching like an out of control train and there is no avoiding that after that the next big birthday is FIFTY.

I don't know when this happened. I have been living in denial for the last few years but these evil grey hairs have made me face the horrible truth. I'm getting older. My youth is a memory and one that I can't revisit on a whim. Soon, I can say that I am 'middle aged'. I should probably be saying it now. I don't want to be middle aged though. I want to be anything but middle aged.

But the fates are out to prove to me that old age is all that lies ahead of me. Yesterday the small son of a friend, one who had announced he was going to marry me when he grew up, rescinded his offer on the basis that I would be too old and maybe dead when he grew up. He has obviously seen the grey hairs and rethought his plans. I'm devastated.

I am going online to look for a zimmer frame and may have to trade the loyal hound in for a posse of cats and some knitting.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Hospitality Man - a tale of woe.

I'm really not sure where to start. Friday seems a long time ago and I have had a weekend of friends and godchildren to try and forget the hideousness of the big date(thank the lord). However a promise is a promise, so I shall relive the experience of the last of the cybermen for your edification.

Friday morning saw me rather frantically getting ready for my much anticipated date. You know what it is like when you are in a rush? Suddenly there are a million and one things to do, none of which are things you actually want to do. Somehow, in between client phone calls, I dug up some clean clothes and found my makeup which I remembered to apply. I even located my hairbrush and was in the car and on my way in good time.

I looked ok, as good as I could hope for and as I drove to our meeting place my stomach churned queasily at the prospect ahead of me. Was this going to be another disaster or, more frightening still, somebody sane and normal and interested? I really wasn't sure which prospect made me more nervous.

I arrived a little early and headed for the pub to find that it was closed. Oops. Crossing my fingers that I hadn't made a hideous error and suggested a meeting place that wouldn't open at all, I waited outside the front door. There was no sign of HM (hospitality man) but I found myself scanning the faces of everyone who passed by wondering if they might be him. Absorbed in this entertaining pasttime I was pulled out of my reverie by a voice shouting my name from an upstairs window. It was Andy, my friend who runs the pub.

He came downstairs and let me in through the staff door and ensconsed me at the bar. I instantly told him that I was there on a blind date and filled him in on all we knew. He promised to duck out of the way as soon as HM arrived and we moved onto chatting about other things. Soon enough the pub opened for business and early lunch guests started turning up. The bar was still quiet though so I couldn't help but notice when a lone man came up and stood just round the corner of the bar from me.

He wasn't exactly like his photo, but then nobody ever is, so I decided to take the plunge and turning to him said 'Hospitality Man?' in what I would think is a friendly tone. He turned. He stared at me blankly with no recognition whatsover. He turned again and stared at the bar before turning back to look at me once more. I started to feel a blush rise across my face. How mortifying. I had obviously just accosted a stranger and he couldn't work out how to tell me so. Aaaaargh. He turned back to the bar and ordered a drink and I turned back to Andy to wince and carry on our interrupted conversation. But it didn't feel right. I was sure the man next to me was HM. I turned back again and there he was, staring at me. He put out his hand and I, not wanting to be rude, took it. He shook it without speaking then said 'Hospitality Man,'.

I was rather flustered by this and must have had an interesting expression on my face. A combination of relief that I hadn't been mistaken, and horror that I hadn't been mistaken. This was him. The man that had been e mailing nearly non stop all week. He wasn't a horror to look at or anything but neither did my heart go 'pit a pat' or my knees go week. (I wasn't really thinking either of those things would happen but a girl can hope). Still, it was early days and we had both made it to the assignation. Who knew what lay ahead of us? He still seemed incapable of saying anything so I suggested we move from the bar to a table. Since he seemed unable to do anything but stare at this point, I led the way and found a table round the corner where we both sat down. Bear in mind that he still hadn't really said anything other than his name at this point.

Once we sat down, he put out his hand and said once more 'Hospitality Man'. Being British, and unfailingly polite, I shook his hand and introduced myself again. He gazed speechlessly at me and I carefully removed my hand from his grasp. To break the silence I asked whether he had found the pub without any problems. He stared at the wall ahead of him and took several deep breaths. I wondered nervously if asking him if he found the pub was an offensive opening bid. Finally he spoke. "Do you think we can sit outside?" he said. I'm pretty sure he said that anyway. It turned out that he spoke with a south african accent and in a mumbling tone that you would expect from someone wearing ill fitting false teeth. "Certainly" I said. Up we got from our table and went outside and found a new table. Once we had sat down he again proferred his hand. I again took it. He shook it, again. He introduced himself, again.

At this point we have spent five minutes together and I am already feeling desperate. However, this is obviously his first 'blind date' so I decide that I had better try to get the ball rolling and say 'So, this would be your first blind date then'. He looks away from me and stares across the river. He draws a breath, as though he is going to speak and I look at him expectantly. He lets it out. He draws another. Finally he says 'so you have done this before?'. Relieved to have got a complete sentence that didn't involve an introduction out of him, I reply that I have and add that they are always awkward to start with. He starts several sentences but never finishes them. This makes having a conversation quite awkward. I decide to try a new tack. This has the same result.

We are now ten minutes in and I am already wondering whether throwing myself into the river might look desperate. Suddenly HM lurches into action. "Would you" he asks "be a good mother?" WHAT? That's his first question??? Seriously? I answer that I would be ok I supposed but that I didn't long for babies. He offers nothing back himself on this topic but after some more staring and failed sentences he suddenly says: "our eyes are the same colour". I agree that they are similar, though it is difficult to compare them as I don't have a mirror handy. Facetious I know but I couldn't help it. He then seizes the conversation once more and says: "what kind of wedding would you have?" The direction the conversation is going in is a little alarming but at least he is actually talking. Each answer I give involves him sucking my words up like a hoover and, with lips pursed (a personal hatred of mine) he would stare into space. If I asked him a question he simple couldn't answer it. It didn't matter what avenue I tried. Each one ended the same, with an awkward silence which he ignored by staring into space or staring at me in what I can only describe as wonderment.

He then asks why I live in Wales. I answer. Three minutes later, he asks why I live in Wales. I point out that I have just answered this question but he seems to think that it is not the same question if you ask it twice so I answered, again. At this point I have drained my drink and am wondering if it is too early for a triple vodka and tonic but he shows no sign of noticing that I have an empty glass and I am uncertain of how to excuse myself so early in the conversation. Luckily nature comes to my rescue and it starts to rain. I suggest we move back in (he seemed oblivious to the fact that we were getting drenched). As we pass the bar I realise that if I get myself another drink I'll have to stay longer. I decide death by dehydration would be better and we find another table to sit at.

I then struggle to find things to talk about. How was his interview? How long has he been in his last job? How did he like living in South Africa? None of these questions generate answers longer than a sentence so I start running out of gambits all too quickly. Every answer involves him starting into space for a disconcertingly long time, heaving in deep breaths as though he is going to answer, then letting them out without saying another word. Occasionally I try to prompt him but it is useless. He seems oblivious to the awkwardness of the whole thing. Indeed one of the complete sentences he gives me is how amazing it is to meet me and how he is struggling to come to terms with the idea of us. I am now worried.

Even worse, he would suddenly fire a question at me. This would be unrelated to anything else we might be trying to talk about at that moment. An example of this would be when he said to me 'Girl or Boy?' I looked blankly at him. Was this some kind of a test? Was he not sure what I was? which direction my sexual orientation was? I went with the first option and said 'Girl'. For once he wasn't lost for words and said 'Why'. I was bewildered but tried to help out by pointing out that I knew I was a girl because I didn't have the necessary anatomy to make me a boy. Seeing his expression I suddenly realise he was still on the baby / motherhood question and wanted to know which I would like, a girl or a boy.

Vexed I answered that is was a pointless question as you can't control what you get so wishing for one or the other is a sure road to disappointment. At this point I realise I can't keep going for much longer. I make up an appointment with the accountants and explain that I will need to leave.

He looks crestfallen and says that he was hoping to take me out for lunch (possibly on to a registry office afterwards?). I gently point out that I had only agreed to a drink and that I don't have time for lunch. He then eagerly says that he can meet me again on Saturday. Having already told him that I have friends staying for the weekend I am surprised at this. I remind him of the houseguests and he says 'are they not the sort of friends who would like to meet me?'. I firmly squash this and reply that we are going to be busy all weekend and he can't see me at anypoint in the weekend. 'Well' he says, 'when can I see you again?' Resisting the urge to say 'never' I say I will e mail him but that I am VERY busy for the next six years or so, and for the fourth, and hopefully last time, I shake his hand and leave him in the pub. Still staring at the wall and gaping like a fish. He was probably mid sentence but I didn't have the time to stay and find out.

Despite the fact that I had shopping I needed to do in order to feed my friends at the weekend, I fled the town. I arrived home and without further ado wrote my first 'Dear John' e mail. I very much hope that that will be the last I ever see or hear of him. Thinking of him now makes me go 'eeeeurgh' and shudder.

I officially give up on internet dating. Cybermen are all nutters and I can't put myself through this anymore. The Loyal Hound and I will have to grow old together and I shall start wearing purple and hats and banging my stick along the railings. It has to be a better way to live....

Friday, 24 July 2009

Possibly the worst one yet.

I'm alive. He wasn't an axe murderer. However if there was an axe to hand I was tempted to use it. This may have been the worst date yet.

I'm sorry to leave you in suspense but I have friends arriving to stay for the weekend any minute now, so I can't regale you with the story until Monday. I have though managed to e mail off a 'Dear John' to Hospitality Man to explain that I will never again be hospitable with him. I suspect he will cry upon receiving it.....

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

We are meeting, but I suspect he IS a fruitloop.

So, the date is planned. Friday at 12pm at a busy pub that is run by friends of mine. Worth having the amused and curious glances of friends as a small price to pay for not being hacked to pieces with an axe by a deranged fruitloop.

I confess that I am feeling more and more dubious about Hospitality Man's sanity. In the last 24 hours he has become increasingly keen. He has sent me a song (I'm just waiting for the mixtape to arrive) and many, many e mails and skype messages. He is so keen that is putting me off.

That is so typical isn't it. If they are too keen, I run away. If they aren't keen enough I think they aren't interested and, run away. But Hospitality Man really is keen. He e mailed me at THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING. I shall give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was working some strange night shift. If he wasn't then I really have picked up a deranged stalker man haven't I?

I thought I might as well meet him. He is going to be in North Wales and has agreed to come slightly closer to me. Considering he has no car so will have to try and use the convoluted and erratic public transport system this is brave of him. My thinking was that if I meet him now then we will find out quickly whether he is a fruitloop, or a sane and wildly attractive man who seems to think I am marvellous. The latter does not come about that often. Well, ever actually.

Precautions will be taken though. I shall notify some particularly sane friends of mine with all the details and line them up to ring me (I wonder if there is a phone signal there?). We are to meet in the middle of the day which is not really a time that I associate with stalkers and murderers so that is a good thing.

The downside of meeting him so soon is that I have not had time to lose the 10lbs (ok, should be 20) that I would like, find clothes to wear, and generally make myself look presentable. Everyone else that I have met has never come back after the first meeting so, assuming he is a nice and normal man, then I should make an effort. Instead I am in a dishevelled state of disrepair that is not fixable in two days. He might run a mile at the site of me (if I haven't run already).

I think this is the moment to point out that I HATE dating. Really hate it. I hate the worrying. Will he like me? Will I like him? What will we talk about? etc etc. I wish that there were more bachelors around here who you just got to know gradually in the pub etc and then things could unfold at a more relaxed pace. Instead I have to go down this crazed strangers route, which is fraught with angst and seasoned with the raising and crushing of hope. Yup. I hate dating. Maybe that is one of the reasons that I am single?

So, any advice on first dates - whether it be what to wear, what to talk about etc etc, it would be VERY welcome. I am a complete novice at this and on the slim (and getting slimmer by the e mail) chance that Hospitality man is actually normal then I would like to avoid messing it up myself and you could help with that.....

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Oh God, I think we might be meeting up....

It turned out to be the nicer of the two potentials who had paid for the sub. That's good isn't it?? Or does it mean he isn't actually nice but finds his victims by paying for three days of internet dating subscription for them?

Anyway, there has been a flurry of e mails and he is obviously deluded since he has decided that I am God's gift to internet dating. Seriously, he has. Hold on and I'll get some of his e mails off the site and put them here so you can judge for yourselves.... Here goes:

He says that I have "a most captivating smile hinting at the nature of your character" and that "Frankly,i'm quite taken aback by the fact that a random decision to join this site has resulted in....well,meeting up with someone like you.." and then "I am truly,truly still coming to grips with the fact that one can get a sense of empathy with someone never met or laid eyes on."

This is good isn't it? Or is it the sign of a deranged person? Aaargh. I don't know.

So what else do you need to know? He is tall (hooray - a man who is taller than me!), he doesn't wear cravats (I had to check), he seems to have a sense of humour, he works in the hospitality industry, he is VERY keen. He has already given me his e mail address, telephone number and skype address and he wants to meet on Friday because he is coming to caernarvon for work.

Should I? Meet him I mean. If I do, at least I get to find out now whether the whole thing is worth pursuing or not. That's a good thing isn't it? Typically he won't have a car so I'll have to drive there and it is about an hour and a quarter for a cup of coffee then the same back. Annoying if he is as disastrous as all the other cybermen.

Advice please. Do I meet up with him or not?

Monday, 20 July 2009

Emergency Poll - feedback needed asap!!!

To subscribe or not to subscribe, That was going to be the question. You see, the last cyber dating hell site that I was on never took my details off the site when I cancelled my membership (after Cravat man and composer man I felt there was no hope left in the world). In the last week or so I have had a couple of e mails from random cyber men who have seen my details and mistaken me for Cindy Crawford crossed with Victoria Wood (easy mistake to make). One of them sounded quite nice, and the other was friendly, so I sent them one of the set (and free) one liners provided by the service to say that my subscription had run out etc etc. I then sat and pondered whether I should reactivate myself (metaphorically and on line).

That was going to be the topic of this fascinating blog entry. I had a whole poll worked out which you - my fascinated readers - would have eagerly filled in. All decision making would then have been taken out of my incapable hands and the resulting chaos would have been your fault. It was a good plan and I do like it when a plan comes together.

Only this one didn't. Just as I started writing this post an e mail dropped into my inbox from one of the cybermen. He has PAID FOR MY ACCOUNT FOR ME!!! Just for three days mind, but still, that's keen isn't it? Or is it, in fact, stalkerish? Am I now obligated to bear his children and wash his socks for evermore? And on an etiquette front, is it rude to use the free sub he has given me to e mail the other cyberman as well?

So, new poll for you.

Is the latest Cyberman a stalker or a gentleman?
Do I have to bear his children for him in return for three days subscription to cyberhell? If not his children, must I give him my e mail address, bank account details and mother's maiden name?
Can I e mail the other cyberman (possibly the nicer one) without being plagued by guilt that cyberman one has enabled it.

Answers asap please. The subscription is running out as I type....

Monday, 6 July 2009

Life is out of my control....

Rubbish holiday. Grrr. Group of people did not mix well and I, as gracious hostess, was horribly distracted and saddened by the totally unexpected death of my Uncle at the beginning of the week.

He had what you could argue is the ideal departure for him. In the middle of a walk, hunting for butterflies, he sat upon a rock and never got up again. This is fine but it is fifteen years earlier than any of us thought he would go. My father said the saddest thing. "I have had a brother for 73 years, and now I don't". Heartbreaking for him and for my Uncle's wife and son.

I didn't come rushing home. There were reasons for it, and I think they were right, but this week is now a maelstorm of trying to cram a week's work into half a day, move flights around and find black clothes to wear for the various services taking place on Thursday and Friday.

I had to cancel a set of flights for work to france and move them to tonight, and I can't claim on the insurance because they want a copy of the death certificate and I can't bring myself to ask for it. It seems so callous.

So forgive my absence from the ether world for a while. I leave for France tonight and am back just for funerals before going away again for work.

I feel as though I never went on holiday. The only reminder is my still packed suitcase sitting in the hall, where I expect it will remain for another ten days, my still damp swimming costume rotting away somewhere at the bottom of it.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

OK, so you can go further North than Thurso...

I wrote some great posts whilst I was away. Unfortunately, as ever, they were all in my head whilst I drove several hundred miles at a time. Wish you could have heard them. They were witty, anecdotal, enraging and amusing, and that was just the titles.

I even wrote a couple of posts on my mini laptop but now I can't find my USB stick thing to move them to this computer so that was a waste of time.

To amuse myself on my journey I took photos through the windows of the car as I drove along, about one every hour. They are thrilling stuff and illustrate very clearly how this country is NOT overpopulated. As does the fact that I drove for an hour at about 60mph and didn't pass a single house.... I did pass deer, sheep and one cyclist who I think was lost.

I worked my way up the country and on my day off I decided I hadn't gone far enough North and caught the ferry to Orkney. It's an odd place. Much more cultivated than the mainland and covered in the ugliest houses you have ever seen. More surprising is that there was NOBODY there. Not tourists, and not locals either. The place was abandoned. Maybe they had all gone for Sunday lunch on another island? Or they were in a Midsummer Day Druid ritual somewhere? Who knows?

Things that are worth seeing there? Well, they aren't beautiful but the Churchill Barriers are an amazing feat. Much more fascinating is the Neolithic Village. This is three thousand years old and is a village that was underground. Everything was made of stone; the beds, the furniture, the rugs, the works. There was a reason they called it the Stone Age. They really loved that stuff. Having said that they feasted on lobster and scallops and built underground villages. If you happen to be dropping by Orkney in your travels it is definitely worth seeing.

So is the Italian Chapel. Built by prisoners of war out of Nissan Huts it is tiny and look innocuous enough from the outside, but inside it is beautifully painted to look as though it is made of stone. All the metalwork was done with salvaged metal off shipwrecks and it is strangely moving.

Monday saw me back at work on the North East coast of Scotland and at half three the hound and I piled back into the car and drove the nine hours home. The next day the book club was convening at the new hovel so I went foraging for food. Unfortunately, as I stepped into Somerfield, there was a powercut. A harassed manager shouted - you have five minutes to do your shopping before the batteries run out in the tills. Supermarket sweep in the dark. Where is Dale Winton when you need him. I'm sure he glows in the dark.

Shopping in the dark on a time limit though. Not so easy. Why oh why didn't I take a torch shopping with me? I normally do of course. I must have been jet lagged from my drive. So I ended up with pork (which I thought was chicken), parmesan (which I already had at home), a bag of salad with cabbage in (eerugh), a punnet of raspberries that I thought were blueberries, a pack of lard instead of butter and a bag of pre buttered new potatoes. We feasted like kings, as would anyone if lard were involved....

I am now repacking to leave again tomorrow, this time on holiday. I have had the normal vile time before going away where work escalates to improbable levels of franticness not experienced the rest of the year, and you wonder why you are going away. I have thrown anything clean into my suitcase and the loyal hound is sleeping on it in a rage that I am packing again.

I'd love to come back and have some time at home but NO. Instead I have to go to France for work the week I get back, and then fly to Edinburgh for a day as soon as I return. All the good work my holiday has not yet done is already undone.

Also, why is it that when you go on holiday, the weather at home is always idyllic? Cerulean skies, hot sun with a cool breeze and starry nights.

I will stop wibbling now (wibbling is what happens when I start typing a blog entry at midnight) and leave you with some photos of my road trip.

There was a lot of motorways - like this:

I saw this on a client's bird table:

Then there was several HOURS of this:

Followed by nearly three hours of this (an extra hour was thanks to a FORTY MILE DIVERSION due to a lorry slewing itself across the A9.

Welcome to my life. Glamorous isn't it.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A crafty nudge for Charity!

I know you all do a lot of stuff for charity but you might like to hop over to Lettuce Eating as she, along with others, has set up a fab charity auction involving handbags, which must always be good. What is even better is that they are vintage craft handbag things... Oh - just pop on over and have a look. I promise you will like them and they are raising money for Darfur which is always a good thing.

I am in the midst of packing as I have one of my leisurely trips ahead of me. "Where to?" you eagerly cry Why, in about an hour - Manchester and then on to London. Tomorrow Staffordshire, then Edinburgh on Thursday, then Pitlochry, Brora and Thurso on Friday(yes, it isn't possible to go much further north without gettting seriously wet feet!). Monday sees me back at Brora then on to Lancaster for Monday night and finally home to the hovel on Tuesday. The Loyal Hound has already packed his bag as he is accompanying me on this merry jaunt. I have packed very little but have strewn an awful lot of stuff around the house and lost all the chargers for my phone, laptop and camera.

We won't be back until next week so, unless I manage to track down a squirrel with internet access in the wilds of Scotland, I'll be back then... Must go and pack.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Raise a glass to yourselves.....

It's thundering at the moment and I can see lightning flickering in the next valley. The air is still and tremulous with the occasional bird song sounding startlingly loud against the waiting silence. This is a good thing as I need to be inside working and good weather would have lured me out into the wilderness beyond my windows.

In contrast to today, we were blessed with great weather over the weekend. This meant that my visiting friends and their children, who had arrived wtih macintoshes, wellington boots and all other manner of rain gear, were instead scrabbling for sun cream and got to enjoy an idyllic weekend of Wales at it's secretive best.

We walked through sun dappled woods, the children looking for fairies and listening out for bears. Their two and a half year old son marched ahead of us with a big stick 'to stab the bears and dragons with' and their morbidly fascinated 5 year old daughter pointed out multitudes of 'dead fairies' which she took great joy in. The baby slept in the shade then sat under an umbrella to play on a rug. We threw stones in the lakes, built dens out of boxes and old sheets, and the children ran around barefoot and delighted on the grass. It went well.

I had enough food of the right kind (though not enough kitchen roll which turns out to be a vital implement in the child rearing process). The playdough was a success, the lego provided amusement and I even remembered to prerecord stuff of CBeebies onto Sky+. We ate, we drank, we walked, we lolled, we gardened, we had more friends over for lunch; to sum up, we had a proper weekend. It was lovely.

By the end I was exhausted and am yet again amazed at how you all do the whole parenting thing. It is relentless and selfless and never ending (unless you are me in which case it ended at 7pm on Sunday night when they left). I say raise a glass to yourselves parents out there. You do an extraordinary thing every day.

Friday, 12 June 2009

How to kill a town....

As you may know, if you read my earlier, panicked posts, I have friends coming to stay this weekend. Living in the back of beyond, as I do, this means that preparation is required. Lists must be made, menus planned and the shopping tackled. If I forget it now, that's it for the weekend unless I want to do a 30 mile round trip for milk. So this morning I headed off, list in hand, to a local town to do the food shopping.

From the new hovel I have three towns to choose from. They are all about the same distance (16 miles or so) from me. One of them has a large Morrisons, one has a Tescos, and the other has a smaller Somerfield. The last town was the most convenient today as I needed to head off in that direction in order to drop some things off at a neighbour's house.

Due to the fact that my money cupboard is virtually bare, I had done a cunning menu plan which would look as though I had gone to vast effort, whilst in fact spending very little. Or so I thought.

One small trolley later I was a HUNDRED POUNDS poorer. What? How the $?@* did that happen? I always mentally have a figure in my head for how much my shopping will cost. My worst case scenario for this one was seventy pounds. If it wasn't for the fact that I simply didn't have the time to drive the now 40 miles to the next town and back home again, I would have refused to pay. It was daylight robbery.

Shopping is getting more and more expensive, whatever they say about inflation. It's not like I was buying scallops on the shell, caviar and blinis. I was buying value chopped tomatoes, bread, milk; ordinary things. The cashier watched me go white and sway slightly with interest.

"Expensive isn't it." She commented.
"Euurgh, splutter, swoon, YES" replied I.
"They can charge what they want here, no competition see." she explained.

And that is the nub of the problem. There is no other supermarket within a good 30 miles of this one and they can charge what they like, so they do. The thing is that this is a surefire way to kill the town.

I had been to the bank, the post office and the hardware store before I went to the supermarket, as I imagine do lots of other people when they come into town. However if Somerfield doesn't get its act together people will stop deciding on that town for their shopping. They will head in the other direction instead. At that point, not only does the wretched supermarket suffer, but also all the other shops in town. Slowly but surely, it will die. All because Somerfield are too greedy.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Do Animals want to be Celebrities?

I ask this question purely because this morning, upon sitting down at my desk to work I saw these photos in an e mail. They were both taken by someone stopping to get petrol at a garage in Mexico.

You can imagine the way your heart would race upon realising that instead of the standard alsation chained to the wall (standard movie casting I know), this particular garage had the equivalent of Vin Diesel as security. Padding across the forecourt is the celebrity of the animal world - a lion.

Those of us who watched Tarzan films as children may have wondered how we would fare when a lion turned to give a baleful and hungry glare. The thing was usually we were improbably surrounded by imaginary jungle (should have been savannah, I know) not innocently trying to buy fuel. So, are you ready? Stare down the beast....

Good Dog!

So, in answer to my question, apparently Animals do want to be celebrities. This one went to the hairdresser and said the equivalent of 'I want to look like Jennifer Anniston', but instead of being told 'I'm a hairdresser, not a miracle worker', this particular scissor holder thought, 'why not? I could do this' and set to, and voila! Celebrity animal lookalike.

I suspect it is wrong, wrong, wrong. Where will it end? Goldfish having prosthetic shark fins added to their backs? Finches wanting a Golden Eagle makeover? Spider monkeys longing to be Silverbacks? We could be witnessing the start of the end (or the end of the beginning?) and a new culture of animals obsessed with celebrity is to sweep the world. Don't say I didn't warn you. Watch carefully for the signs. I have banned the Loyal Hound from reading Heat Magazine, and I send him out of the room when I watch The National Geographic and Discovery channels in case he starts getting ideas....

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Do Dogs Speak French?

I'm sorry everyone, I can't help it. You see, I drift about my house and my life with nobody but the Loyal Hound to bounce my thoughts off. Most of the time this isn't problematic. He has a charming habit of agreeing with everything I say, and looking at me with a worshipful gleam in his eye the rest of the time. He's an excellent listener. However, every now and then (or every ten minutes or so) I have a crazy thought which I want an actual response to, and this is where you come in.

You see, most of the time I resist plaguing you with inane questions, or I forget what they were before I get to the computer. Not this time. This time I need answers and as you lot are the equivalent of a long suffering husband / lover / boyfriend / flatmate etc then you are the ones that I have to ask. It's a downside to reading the ravings of a single woman who lives at 1200 feet with little to no oxygen and only mad neighbours.

Ok, so to my deranged question: are you ready? Pens to paper, pencils sharpened? OK. Here goes. DO DOGS SPEAK OTHER LANGUAGES???

I mean, does a dog from France speak in French? Is the french poodle totally incomprehensible to the English Cocker Spaniel? Does the Irish Setter have such a thick accent that none of the other dogs know what he is going on about? Assuming that animals have vocabulary is there just one 'language' for the same species wherever they live on the planet? In the Tintin comics Snowy doesn't say 'Woof Woof', he says 'Woo Woo' so obviously french dogs bark differently. I mean Tintin wouldn't lie would he?

I mean is 'dog' a universal language or are they all speaking individual languages? If we do, why shouldn't they? And if that is the case then do all animals have the same problem? Does that mean that migratory birds are bilingual or are they like the British on the Costa del Sol and refuse to speak a word of the holiday countries language? Swallows could be sitting in South Africa in the winter speaking very loudly and slowly to the locals and asking for "FLIES AND CHIPS PLEASE" then saying to each other "I just don't know why the locals won't TRY to learn English".

If my theory has merit then the zoos must be very confusing places. It could explain the failure of the mating programme for the Pandas. I mean there are loads of chinese dialects so if you get two pandas from different places they probably have no idea what they are saying to each other. Sex is not going to be on the cards until they have found some common vocab and that could take a while....

If they don't have different languages though, then how come? Why would dogs the world over speak the same language but people wouldn't? I need answers and as the wisdom of the ages is out there in the interweb thingummy then I figure I am asking the right people.

P.S. Now that you get a glimpse into the deranged workings of my mind perhaps my single status is less of a surprise.

P.P.S. Obviously I don't mean actual French - I mean dog version of French, though perhaps there are dogs out there going "Je voudrais un saucisson. Possible but highly unlikely

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Mothers out there - help please!

I'm panicking and I need help (more than usual!). This weekend, I have friends coming to stay with their three children who are aged between 9 months and 5 (I think she is five anyway).

I am now in a complete panic about what to buy in the way of food and what to do about toys etc. Their mother has been very lacksadaisical about what I need to get in the way of food. I don't think she has really understood the lack of local shopping if I don't have the things she would have in her store cupboard. What should I stock up on? Do five year olds and three (ish) year olds eat the same as grown ups?

The only experience I have is of Chutney Mary's boys who eat strange food free of gluten / dairy / taste and definitely don't eat grown up food.

I'm also worrying about the toy status of this house. My toy supply does exist as I got fed up with children arriving and saying "do you have any toys" and then seeing their look of horror when I said "No." Consequently I have a little Noah's ark and a couple of other miscellaneous things. I also have packing boxes which I have found to be hugely successful as child entertainment. Various forts can be constructed and there is always the ever popular option of 'how many children can fit into one box'. I do also have a few children's books. What else should I bed / borrow / steal?

I am used to children who live up here and can spend hours playing outside but these are London children who are used to on tap entertainment and the equivalent of Hamleys in their own house.

I thought I could make some fairy cakes that they could ice. Perhaps I should borrow some DVD's? What else?

All ideas and suggestions are welcome, and much needed......

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The calm after the storm

I haven't had a moment to show you the landscape that I have moved into. Last night, during a brief break in the torrential, Malaysian style rainstorms, I took the Loyal Hound along the track from the house and took these photos for you of the nearby puddle.

This is what lies round the corner from the hovel, quite literally three minutes walk away.....

I know, it's pretty terrible isn't it? Wait till I take some pictures on a sunny day, then you'll really see how awful it can be.....

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Oh God No. Not Big Bloody Brother again....

If I had a list of Bete Noirs, the top five things on it would be stupid Big Brother. I hate it with a passion. All those people with no merit whatsoever and an insane desire to be famous. Famous for what? For their erudite interpretaion of Thomas Hardy's bucolic novels? For their ability to knit faster than the speed or sound? For blindfolded wedding cake icing? Singing like Susan Boyle? Composing verse in Iambic Pentameter and knowing who Milton is? NO. Instead they seek fame for snogging someone of their own sex in the hot tub or smothering themselves in spaghetti and then rolling in lawn clippings or whatever it is they do that generates headlines for weeks and weeks of the summer.

The initial idea of Big Brother was interesting. How would 20 odd people get on if locked in a house together for what seems like a lifetime? The actual reality is not remotely interesting. It is an excuse for silly vain people to leap up and down and say 'love me, love me, vote for me I'm meritless but here'. No thank you.

I have a cunning plan for a highly entertaining Big Brother series. The contestants would enter the house in top secrecy and live out their pathetic lives for the cameras etc WHICH WOULD NEVER BE TURNED ON. At the end of each week one contestant would be 'voted off' by the producer, and on exiting and expecting the media and country's eyes to be on them would be greeted by a psychiatrist with a lone camera who would interview them to find out how they felt about the fact that all their scrambling for attention in the house had been for nothing. Now that is an interview I would watch.

I don't understand what grips everyone about this series. The contestants never ever talk about anything except themselves and each other. I'm not even sure if they can read. After all, you never see them with a book, or hear them discussing politics or plays or the world outside their tiny, pea like brains. There are so many things they could do while in the house.

They could make them all read a classic novel and then have a debate about it. They could make them all learn yoga, tai chi and knitting. They could teach them to speak another language, to grow their own food, oh a million things. Instead they treat them like spoilt ten year olds, incapable of doing anything other than bickering, crying and doodling. It's patronising in the extreme and the tragedy is that the thousands of wannabe entrants all think it looks like heaven. I would say it is more like hell on television.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Neighbourhood Watch

Things have been so hectic I haven't really had a moment to tell you about my neighbours. Having neighbours is a new thing for me. The previous hovel had no neighbours at all. The nearest house was three quarters of a mile away and I liked it like that. The new hovel has a house on the other side of the road which was one of the things on the 'con list'. However I decided that since we weren't in eyeline of one another and this location was remote enough as it was I could live with neighbours.

Then I met them.

It took a few days. With moving and everything I simply didn't have a moment to go over the road and introduce myself. When I finally made it over one evening it was an interesting experience. The neighbours, let's call them Bob and Peggy, had just arrived back and I called out a cheery 'hello' over the fence. Bob turned around with a friendly smile but Peggy ducked behind the car. I know that I'm not an earth shattering beauty or anything but I've never had anyone duck and hide at the sight of me before.

Bob came to the gate to chat and some minutes later, Peggy followed. She apologised profusely for hiding and announced that 'she thought I might not want to meet her so she had hidden.' This isn't normal behaviour but she was effusively friendly from this point, almost disturbingly so. She told me she was a mental health worker and that she housed unwanted horses, which I was welcome to ride at anytime. I admired the horses and after five minutes of chat I left and retreated to my garden.

We didn't particularly see much of one another for the next fortnight. A quick hello here and there, the perfect lack of communication as far as I was concerned, and I was just starting to feel at home in the new hovel. Life was looking good. The night after my birthday I was having a Mrs Tiggywinkle moment and hanging sheets out to dry on the line. The washing line is in the one spot that is in eyeline with the neighbour's house. Within moments of starting to peg out my washing I hear Peggy's voice shouting over the road.

"Hello there, I hope we didn't disturb you last night?"

I turned and smiled in her direction. She was hanging out of a window beaming at me.

"No, I didn't hear a thing" This was almost true. I wondered if I had heard some shouting earlier that morning but it honestly didn't intrude. My walls are 70cms thick. It would take a Harrier Jump Jet landing on the house for me to hear it. I waved and turned back to the washing.

"I've been up since 3.30 this morning you know. I haven't even had a cup of tea yet"

I'm not sure what to say to this but I call back in as cheery a manner as I can muster. "Perfect time for a cup of tea now though"

"I like mine black and weak. Haven't had it yet though". There is a disturbing note to this conversation. We are virtually shouting to each other and she won't move from the window. The word I realise I would use to describe her today is manic.

"Did you have a good birthday dinner last night?"

"Yes, thank you I did. I hope we didn't disturb you" I'd mentioned to them that I was having friends over for my birthday earlier in the week and she had latched onto this

"No, not at all. I wish I'd known it was your birthday..... I must get you a present. What colour horse do you like?"

With a faint feeling of horror I realised that she might actually mean this. She houses horses for people and all credit to Peggy they are fantastically healthy and happy horses, but she does collect them in the same way that some people buy reduced books at the supermarket.

"No need to get me anything" I call back with a desperate note in my voice but it isn't enough.

"What's your favourite colour? Tell me?" There is a demanding note in her voice. I don't want to get on the wrong side of her. There are rumours in the village about her. It seems she isn't a mental health worker but a mental health patient and like a small child, she doesn't like to be thwarted. Tales abound of the odd revenges she has taken on those who have displeased her. Most of them are probably exaggerated gossip but it isn't a truth I want to discover for myself by vexing her.

After more shouted 'casual conversation' and persistent questioning I said that I liked Black horses and scarpered back to the house. The whole conversation had made me feel horribly nervous. Suddenly my hovel felt less secure.

The next day a friend came with her children for coffee and a nose around the new house. We decided to walk down the forest track to the lake. As we left the garden a voice yelled out of the window. "I haven't forgotten. A black horse. I won't forget!" Oh dear I am in trouble. More shouting followed us as we walked away and I realised that now I was nervous of seeing Peggy, or being seen by her, and getting caught in conversation with her. I wondered if she would start stalking my garden and presenting me with horses every time I came out of the door? My hovel suddenly felt a lot less like home. I decided to try and catch Bob and mention to him that I did not want a horse but the moment did not arise.

I hated feeling nervous in my own house about going outside and getting stuck in conversation. There are millions of different types of people that you can end up with as neighbours. People who become friends, people you never talk to, people who will water your lettuces while you are away, people who will steal your lettuces when you are at home. It seemed I had got the bipolar mental health patient with nothing else to do but sit at the window and wait for me to emerge from my lair. The only good thing was that she was apparently too shy to emerge from her house and actually descend on mine.

This morning, resolved to catch Bob and talk to him about Peggy's disturbing longing to give me a horse I emerged from the house to see Bob and a friend sitting outside the gate. To their right was a police car and another car was parked along the verge. Bob came over to me and explained that Peggy, who was 'not well' had been getting increasingly worse and had that morning let all the horses loose onto the road, and had been getting increasingly upset, and he had had to call the police and the doctor to her. It seemed she was being sectioned as life had got to be too much for her.

My overriding feeling was one of relief. I feel as though a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can live in my house without looking over my shoulder every minute. I feel bad for Bob, though it seems he knew this was coming. He is a quiet and gentle man and he obviously is very fond of her (she is his girlfriend of some years and technically lives in the village though her horses live with him). He said she has 'two sides to her and unfortunately the wrong side was ruling at the moment'.

I am now feeling giddy with happiness that she is gone, and correspondingly guilty to be so happy about her misfortune. If I am being honest, I am also hoping that this is a long term solution. I know this makes me a terrible and selfish person but if you are living in the middle of nowhere on your own the one thing you don't want is a mentally unstable neighbour. God, that makes me an awful person but I can't help it - I feel as though a great big burden has suddenly been lifted and I look out of the window now and feel happy.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The mystery of what gets lost when you move house...

It is baffling how the oddest things go missing when you move. The biggest thing on my list is the boot cover for my car. It's one of those sliding cover things that hides all the junk I have left in the boot. I remember taking it out of my car in order to cram more stuff in there but now it has totally disappeared. It's some 3 1/2 foot long for goodness sake. It's not as if it could have slipped between two books or something.

Other things on the list? The dvd remote control. Now that is irritating. The mandolin from the kitchen (not the one that you strum when dressed in medieval clothes. I know where that one is!). My knife sharpener.

There are other things but I can't remember what they are. It seems that the god of moving extracts a price and it is an odd miscellany of household objects.

Everything is unpacked and put away though some of it now needs extracting and putting away in different places. I seem to spend my life drilling holes in the walls for pictures, curtain poles etc etc. Having said that it is all feeling more settled.

My birthday dinner went well last night and I collapsed into bed at quarter to two this morning. The kitchen was a horror this morning; covered in a mixture of leftovers and chocolate sauce from the profiteroles. It also smelt oddly of petrol because one of the guests was running out of fuel and so I gave him the 3 litres I had for the lawnmower. Unfortunately one of the other things that has gone missing is the funnel for the fuel can. This meant that at 6.00 o'clock this morning there was an episode of Blue Peter taking place in the kitchen as he made a funnel using a fruit juice carton, safety scissors and, I hope, a loo roll and some sticky backed plastic.

My mother would never get me sticky backed plastic when I was a child. This meant that Blue Peter was an open wound in my childhood. Never would I be able to make a miniature of Buckingham Palace out of loo rolls, egg cartons and fairy liquid bottles, all because I was only given copydex and not double sided tape or sticky backed plastic. This is a source of great disappointment to me and definitely thwarted my hopes to become a diorama maker when I grew up. Then again I did spend an awful lot of time painting the palms of my hand with copydex and then peeling it off when it had dried. Aaah, the fun we had. The highs of copydex sniffing. It all comes rushing back to me.

Actually, I wonder where my copydex has gone? Perhaps it is stuck to the boot cover?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


So, I have finally found my camera, unpacked my charger and found the linking cable thing and here are some photos of the new hovel in all it's glory!

Here is the Sitting Room (one day it will be the kitchen), with it's monumentally scaled fireplace and light absorbing red carpet....

And here it is with my furniture in it...

This is a view of the lean to, homemade conservatory before I painted it...

Now, hang on a moment whilst I run outside and take a photo of the house itself, and of the conservatory repainted....

And here is the view from the house (with the Loyal Hound surveying his new domain)

And finally the house itself

I have more pictures of rooms with furniture in and stuff but those will have to wait as I have to go to Manchester for a meeting and don't have time to upload them.

This weekend has been transforming on the house front. I had a couple of friends to stay and we worked like dervishes each day, painting the conservatory and uncovering flower beds, mowing acres of lawn and moving curtains round. It looks as though I have lived here for a year, not three weeks. The house works brilliantly for filling with friends. This is a good thing as I have 8 for dinner tomorrow to celebrate my birthday, and more people staying this weekend, 12 for lunch on Saturday and TWENTY for lunch on Sunday. I suspected insanity in myself before but now I know it's true.

The structural engineer comes on Friday morning and that will be the critical meeting. If I can afford to take out the wall I want to take out then it will be all change on the house front in the next few months. Keep your fingers crossed it's good news.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

I'm Alive - Just!

I can't believe it has been nearly a month but I am finally back online and the relief of having internet connection is making me feel giddy with excitement! Now that I'm back though I scarecely know where to start. The last few weeks I have very much felt that I am single and scarcely surviving. It has been testing to put it mildly.

I have mixed feelings about the new house. I spent the first week in floods of panicked tears. The house felt spooky and the landscape is so totally different from the Hovel that I felt a million miles away from everything familiar. All I could think was that I had made a terrible, terrible mistake and that I had ruined my life. I feel slightly calmer now and though I don't love it yet, I have accepted that I live here which is a start.

I know this sounds mad. Why buy it if I didn't love it? The thing is that I have been looking for four years for a house. I have fallen madly for a couple but have missed them. This one had been on the market for ages and I never came to see it because a) it was out of my price range and b)I didn't want to live in the forest.

However they then dropped the price and I thought I would come and look at it. My first instinct was that it wasn't for me. It was too big and too much of a shrine to the seventies lack of architecture for me to wrap my head around. That night though I sat and drew a plan of how the house could be laid out, and I also wrote a pros and cons list. The plan on the back of a napkin solved all of the layout problems with the house and when I looked at the list I realised that this house had everything on my wish list. Four bedrooms (one more than I wanted actually), a big garden, a barn big enough to have an office and storage for junk that I can't be bothered to sort out, a field (which I have no use for but what the hell - perhaps I'll get some pigs!). In addition it has the potential to have a huge sitting room, a good kitchen, a utility room, downstairs loo, a front hall. Finally it is literally two minutes walk from a huge reservoir with miles of walks in all directions.

I let my head rule my heart and I made an offer and you know what happened next.

The difficulty that I hadn't forseen was that I don't love it. I have bought twice before and both times I fell in love with the property before I had even seen all of it. Neither of them had everthing that I wanted and yet I wanted them passionately anyway. This one had everything and I didn't want it but I bought it anyway.

Not having your heart involved is a strange way to go though. I have spent the last few weeks talking the house up to myself and persuading myself that once I have spent every last groat in my bank balance on ripping it apart I will then love it. Sometimes I truly believe that. Other times I don't.

It would definitely be easier if I weren't single. It is a house that needs two of you to drive each other on and to pick each other up when it all feels overwhelming. The Loyal Hound does his best but he gets bored talking about what colour to paint a room and has a nasty tendency to go to sleep on the pile of curtains that are heaped on the floor.

The plumbers are here today moving the bath from the downstairs to the upstairs. I am looking forward to being able to have a proper bath upstairs. I think it will make it feel more like home. In addition I have friends coming to stay this weekend and if the weather plays nice then perhaps we can see the house at it's best, and go for long walks, tackle the garden and sip pimms in the sunshine.

I have taken some photographs but have now misplaced the camera (the joys of an excessively large house!) but I will find it and show you what I have committed to and you can be the judge. Am I 'single and have lost the plot' or 'Single, surviving and possibly thriving?'

I missed you all.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Terrified House Owner reporting for Duty.

It is done! I am now the terrified owner of a house in the middle of nowhere, as of 2.30pm today. At the moment I'm not excited about it. Instead I'm wondering if I have made the worst mistake of my life and will be miserably unhappy there. You know how it is. You get the keys to this empty house and suddenly you see all the damp patches, the exposed pipework, the shell bath (yes, truly, there is a shell bath) in all it's glory and you think. What have I done??? I am hoping that over the next couple of days this feeling will be replaced with excitement.

I know that one of the reasons that I am not that excited yet is that I feel horribly displaced. My current hovel is a fort made of packing boxes with newspaper tumbleweed blowing down the stairs. All of it's Brambly Hedge charm has been packed away and it sounds, smells and feels like a different place. Equally the new house doesn't feel like mine yet either. Nowhere feels like mine.

This will change. It just may take time. I will take photos tomorrow of the new house for you and when I can get on line then you can see for yourselves whether you think I am a lunatic or an inspired interiors genius.

Now accepting that moving is in the top three most stressful things t do, it has been the icing on the cake that my idiotic broadband suppliers cut me off on Friday last week, instead of this coming Friday. Consequently, in between packing and a trip to Dorset and a trip to London, I have spent the last few days shouting and sobbing down premium rate phone lines at indifferent call centres. All to no avail though. It seems that cutting me off is easy, reconnecting me takes millenia. Growing crystals is faster. This is why I have been so quiet on the blogging front. I simply don't understand why it takes 'up to THIRTY FOUR DAYS' to connect me back onto broadband? What are they doing that takes that long? Weaving the lines out of spider silk? How do they expect small businesses to survive if this is their idea of speedy??? On Monday I really did break down on the phone, sobbing with frustration and fury and then slamming the phone down on them. On Tuesday I actually yelled with rage when I had to explain the situation for the SEVENTEENTH TIME. Honestly, the seventeenth. The whole thing has nearly killed me and it has certainly put me off moving ever again. I'd better learn to really love this house.

So, on top of giving up smoking I have had to give up blogging. It's too much to ask of a girl. The smoking quitting thing is going okayish I suppose. I have had the occasional cigarette break but we are talking one every four days, not one ever four minutes, so I am getting somewhere. I don't think the hypnotist can take that much credit for it though. I did have a return match there but left feeling no different (though no worse this time either).

There has been one lone ray of sunshine in the last few days though. On Saturday there dropped through my letterbox a jiffy bag filled to the brim with honest to goodness delicious chocolate. This was from Just Me (who has a link over there on the left) and who has now been elevated to a goddess in my world and is going to have a shrine built to her at the new house. I mean seriously. This is somebody who sent me chocolate because she wanted to cheer me up. Just Me - THANK YOU. You are a kind and lovely person who deserves better neighbours, the lottery numbers and your very own George Clooney. If Karma really works then all these things will be yours. You have been my silver lining this week.

So. I know this is another demented and incoherent rant from the mountainside. I blame moving and no nicotine. It fries the brain, drains the soul and leaves you a crumpled rag with no ability to be coherent. Bear with me - I promise that, Phoenix like, I shall emerge from the ashes a new and lucid Welsh Girl.

Oh BAUBLES! I've just realised I was supposed to organise a date with composer man last night and I forgot. Oops....

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