Monday, 30 March 2009

Holding out for a Hero?

So, I spent my Sunday evening lolling about on my sofa with the Loyal Hound snoring gently on my foot. The fire was crackling away and I decided to watch the film Signs with Joaquim Phoenix and Mel Gibson.

Now, the merits of the film (or lack of them) aside, I found myself pondering something deep and meaningful. This is most unlike me and gave me rather a shock. Then I realised it wasn't actually that deep and meaningful rather flippant and irrelevant which made me feel a little more at home. Despite pondering this for a full lap of my concentratcion span (a good thirty seconds then) I came to no decisive conclusion so I have decided to share my hypothetical dilemma with you and gather your thoughts on the matter.

Here goes:

Are men naturally more 'heroic' than women? Is their natural instinct to protect and defend or is that just what they think they should do? This thought came about because Signs is a predominantly male cast. Without any token women to protect it addresses much more the question of how brave men might be on their own without the stimulus of protecting 'the little woman' and rescuing her from the proverbial dragon (or aliens in this case).

All our lives, the literature and stereotypes that we are fed show us girls being rescued in the nick of time by the tall handsome hero. Films and television perpetuate this myth more often than not. I must be honest here. I don't find this to be particularly true in real life but as I am very rarely carried off by Godzilla or King Kong and left stranded in improbable places and in need of a Bruce Willis style rescue it is hard to judge. Perhaps this happens to you all the time though?

I am also handicapped by the fact that I have never been in a situation where I have not had to sort the monster under the bed out on my own. I've not been given the opportunity to see hero man in action. Also, being a tall person, men don't tend to view me as being in need of much protection. I shall be honest and admit that sometimes I wish this was not so because somehow the sense that I can look after myself makes me feel less feminine. Less like a heroine. Consequently I behave less like one. It's a self perpetuating thing.

Opportunities to be a screaming heroine in need of rescue are scarce though and in my case, futile. If a mouse runs across th kitchen I could leap on a chair and scream but what would be the point? I'd still have to deal with it myself so that is what I do. Deal with it. Would I do things differently if there was man to rope in to deal with it though? Would having a man around make me less brave and does it force him into a position of having to be heroic even if he didn't want to be?

Being on my own does not make me heroic though. I mean, if there is a noise downstairs in the night I choose to ignore it on the basis that I don't want to meet a burglar (so far I am happy to report that it is the mice or the wind). My decision to stay in bed is self preservation rather than bravery. Going downstairs to investigate is asking for trouble. Why would I want to do that? What I don't know is if I was lying in bed with somebody, would he insist on going to investigate? What's more I don't know WHY he might want to go and investigate? Is it stupidity, bravery or foolhardiness?

So here are some questions that I have and that you might be able to answer?

Ladeeez- do you feel safer if there is a man in the house? Why?
Big Strong Men- if you are on your own would you hide from the proverbial burglar in the night?
Ladeeez- if you are home alone and there is a noise in the night do you hide or grab your handy hair straighteners and go and investigate? In other words are you braver when you are on your own?
Big Strong Men- Would your answer to the first question have been different if you were with someone? Why? Do you feel obliged to be a reluctant hero or is it some instinctive reaction to defend those that you love that sends you hurtling into the arms of danger?

Enlighten me. Please.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

You've changed.....

One of the people I count as my greatest friend is my old boss. I worked for her and with her for 8 years and only left because I no longer wanted to live in London.

I have helped her move house (twice), am an executor on her will, have had her children to stay countless times and seen her through an affair, a divorce and the death of her mother. All that on top of working together in a fairly high pressure environment and still managing to laugh an inordinate amount and stay friends. In eight years we only argued once. That's rare.

The thing is that in the years since I have left London she has changed. I expect I have too but I really notice it in her. She is harder than she used to be, more impatient and more self centred. These are deliberate changes. She was always an incredibly generous person, hugely accomodating and would bend over backwards to help the friend of a friend if she could. I think she got fed up with it and decided that she was going to put herself first from now on and have what she wants. I can understand this but I confess that I feel I have lost a great deal of the person that I was friends with.

She is so much more impatient now and much less accessible as a friend. She was always my first port of call if I had a major dilemma or crisis and now I think twice before ringing her as I'm not sure of the reception I'll get. In the last three years I have asked her to stay countless times and each time she has cancelled me at the last minute with frankly really poor excuses. Essentially she couldn't be bothered to come from London to Wales. What does that say about how she views me as a friend?

I loathe situations like this. People change, I know that, but I don't want to give up on a friendship that has meant so much to me over the years. Equally the friendship simply isn't the same anymore. I know that there isn't an easy answer to this. No quick fix that can resolve it. The obvious answer is to talk to her about it but that is the crux of the problem. She is incredibly hard to talk to now. Aaargh. Life is always so hideously complicated.

I shall stop moaning and get on with painting the office instead.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Surveying my Domain - it seems I'm doomed. Doomed I tell you.

So, after a manic week spent mostly on building sites, in the car or at the airport I have made it home and have been able to speak to the surveyor. He took great pleasure in suggesting that the house of my dreams is a deathtrap that will suck up my lifesavings, my will to live and leave me penniless and in debt for life. He was on the verge of suggesting I watched 'The Moneypit' and took it as a serious documentary.

The difficulty is how much attention should you pay to a survey? They are naturally pessimistic and never tell you good things that make you feel happy about spending the most money you will ever shell out on anything. In fact they are designed to part you from large paper bags of cash in order to persuade you not to part with further bags of cash for the actual house.

The big problem on this one seems to be the roof. Unlike most welsh houses the roof does not have slate but is done in some delightful tile invented by a lunatic in the sixties. I had naively hoped that, despite its ugliness, I could live with this for 20 years or so before worrying about replacing it. Not according to Survey Man. Apparently, the tiles are 'shaling' which is a BAD THING. Not that he has ever seen it before, but that fact in itself seemed to induce a gloomy outlook over the whole roof.

In addition, he added morosely, the roof trusses might not be strong enough to support the weight of slate tiles so replacing the sixties tiles with slate might mean changing the entire structure of the roof. Great.

His advice? Pay for more specialists to come and look at it and then throw myself off the nearest cliff when overwhelmed with depression.

Naturally he also said that the house had, and I quote, mysterious damp which was erratic and unsourced. Well, that's a welsh house for you.

Oh god - am I biting off more than I can chew? Are my eyes too big for my stomach? Am I cursed with an inability to write anything other than cliches?

What do I do now? I'm sort of afraid to haggle in case I lose the house entirely but equally I can't buy it if I can't afford to look after it. I can feel myself getting stressed just thinking about it. I will go and lie down quietly and moan to myself for a while and hope for words of wisdom from all of you as to what course to take.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Chutney Mary squashes the Pickle.

My earth mother sister, ensconsed in Devon, and nicknamed Chutney Mary, had a bad day yesterday.

Going into the sitting room to sort out some childish squabble, she tripped over her own shoes and fell, squashing her eldest son, the Pickle, under her as she went and knocking his head into the hearth. Blood, tears and casualty later and the Pickle is a proud owner of some skin glue, a new toy motorbike and a Peppa Pig DVD. Chutney Mary may be scarred for life though.

She is quailing under the guilt. I mean, she is prone to being more sensitive than you or I anyway. The slightest hurt or criticism will be hoarded for years, brought out every now and then, polished lovingly and then carefully stored again in acid free tissue paper. This one may beat all our past insults thugh. I think it will never, ever go away.

I imagine that accidents like this are totally normal if you are trying to bring up children. You are tired, bored and trying to do a million things at once and they are small, wriggly and inevitably in the wrong place at the wrong time. This defines incipient disaster. Chutney Mary can't see this quite yet. She is tormented by the fact that she was cross with the Pickle anyway - as though she caused some Karmic disaster by not being permanently loving and sweet natured. I could explain to her that that sort of parenting is only achieved with Valium but she seems convinced that there is natural state of perfect parenting that she could achieve if only she cooked her children more organic food, knitted them ugly clothes out of leftover newspaper and made up a new and imaginative story every night at bedtime.

Her life would be so much less agonising if she was not aspiring to win the mother of the year award all the time. She might even get to enjoy the chaos and madness that parenting seems to engender.

Obviously I am speaking from a child free position. In her book this means I can have no opinion as 'I won't understand'. Maybe she is right, but I can see how she is tortured by the very act of being a parent and as my sister, deranged or not, I'd like her to have an easier life. I could give her a million pounds and a nanny and she wouldn't rest any easier though. She hasn't had a full night's sleep in FOUR YEARS and has martyred herself to the cause for good. Days like yesterday, whilst horrible, will never become a funny story to tell at future parties. Not just because she won't go to any parties (she couldn't leave the children!) but mainly because she will never let go of the guilt for long enough to see it as just an accident.

I wish that a bit of skin glue and a Peppa Pig DVD could fix things for her.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

I officially owe lots of money to the men in suits..

So, I have a mortgage. It's official and to prove it the bank has just nicked nearly £600 out of my bank account as an 'arrangement fee'. Translation - money in return for them lending me money which will be repayed threefold over the years. I might set up a bank - I'm mystified as to how they all have lost money in the last couple of years as I have never been so conscious as I am at the moment of how they make money off you at every single bloody opportunity.

Anyway, enough whinging. Spring is after all officially here. The geese have arrived back from their winter holidays, parents and three children in noisy and ebullient form. They are currently practising their formation flying over the house then landing in the field and discussing in their loudest voices who did the best.

The crocuses (crocii?) are in such full bloom that they have fallen over under the weight of their own blossoms and there are bright green leaves unfurling on the dog roses.

It's odd to not be gardening but there seems little point as I should be in the new house in the next six weeks. There is plenty of garden space there but no actual garden - a lot of lawn and a few bedraggled shrubs. I'm not sure how much actual top soil there is either - this is Wales where you often discover granite mere cms under the soil. I'm planning on taking as much of my current garden with me as possible but will first have to find somewhere to plant everything at the new house.

I spend a lot of time at the moment imagining myself living there to get used to the idea and to wean myself off the current hovel. I think it is working. I nearly drove to the new house after my meeting today I was so convinced I already lived there. I was going to go for a walk round the reservoir and everything.

The estate agent board has a 'sold subject to..' sign on it and I have a mortgage - it must be real. Up until now I have been convinced that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax and that something would go wrong and I wouldn't get the house. From this point on if the whole thing falls through it will be very expensive as I will have paid for the survey, have incurred solicitors charges and the banks arrangement fee. Fingers crossed nothing goes wrong. How odd that by May I might be living in my own house though. For four years I have been agonising over the house search, despairing of ever finding anything and wondering if I should just give up and stay where I am. Now, in the space of just a few weeks, my whole world has been shifted like a kaleidescope and there is suddenly a new view ahead of me of what my life will look like.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Insuring I'm ripped off....

So, life is a little hectic right now. In addition to trying to buy a house I have been working in France, London and Dorset (small commute then!) and at the moment it is a miracle if I am in one place for more than three hours at a time. This is a little tiring but it's the life I chose, and still choose, so I shall not complain too much (today!).

The thing I do want to whinge bitterly about is insurance and house surveys. I met with the bank today to finalise the mortgage arrangements (aaargh - fear - debt - penury - fear...). As part of the mortgage I have to get a valuation for which they charge a small yet painful fee of £256.00 This is for somebody to drive by the house on their way home and say 'looks rubbish to me - I'd only pay X'. They then inform the bank of this on their headed paper knocked up on Powerpoint. It's a disgrace and the world's biggest con. I mean I could do that. You could do that. For god's sake, the Loyal Hound could do that.

The next option is to do a Homebuyers Report. This is when they do exactly the same thing but write a longer report explaining that though they didn't see anything because the door was closed / they didn't go upstairs / they never actually went there the house could have damp, a roof that will blow off if somebody sneezes, windows that don't fit, a boiler that will explode every other Tuesday. This is an even bigger rip off at £550. I could still do that, as could you. It's just a bigger con.

The last and only viable option is a Buildings Survey. This is where they visit the house and actually go inside. They are usually a qualified surveyor of some kind and they prove it by bringing damp meters, test tubes and pipettes and possibly a lab coat and they test everything they can find. Then they inform you that the house is a death trap, everything that could go wrong, just might and that you would be nuts to buy it. This small novella will cost £856.00. OUCH. There are so many other things that I could buy with that money. Things I'd actually like to buy. I mean, when else do you pay to receive bad news?

I would so love to be the person who says 'bollocks to that' and just doesn't get a survey but at the back of my mind is the fact that if I don't get the survey then Sod's Law says that I will end up with a house that does have death watch beetle encamped on the sofa watching daytime television and drinking Horlicks. If I get the survey at least I would know this, but if I don't then I will have bought a house with a sitting tenant that could make it worthless. So, I have had to agree to spend nearly a thousand pounds on a survey 'just to be sure'. It's downright depressing.

I mean, we seem to insure against EVERYTHING. Car Insurance, health insurance, contents insurance, building insurance, travel insurance, life insurance, mortgage insurance, public liability insurance (Ok I have that one for work but I do have it). The bank also wanted me to take Sickness Insurance and Trauma Insurance (I might need that one if I survive the process of buying a house which is vilely traumatic). If I saved up all the money that I spent on insurance I'd be a millionaire and could retire in a fortnight.

When it comes down to it I don't actually know anybody whose life has been ruined because they didn't have insurance. I do know plenty of people though who had insurance which didn't pay out at the vital moment because of some incomprehensible and devious bit of small print that said the insurance was invalid if you had a vowel in your name, or you tried to claim in the afternoon, or you preferred Cindy to Barbie.... you get the general gist. It's the world's biggest scam and I fall for it everytime. Why? well, just in case of course.

I'm never going to be the person who doesn't insure, but I am it seems always going to be the person who bitches and moans about the fact that I wish I didn't have to. The only thing insurance seems to do, whether it be a survey or travel insurance, is insure that I get robbed once a month like clockwork.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Friday is Award Day!

A couple of weeks ago the lovely Not Supermum gave me an award. How very lovely of her is that? Unfortunately since then I haven't had much time to do anything with my lovely shiny award. It has sat collecting dust in the trophy room while I run around like a headless chicken. Now though I have polished it up and I am putting it here for all of you to go 'ooooh' and 'aaah'....

There is some rather fabulous text that goes with this award. Here it is: “These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”

So, now not only do I get to go up on the podium and weep copiously and thank everyone I have ever met but I get to make other people go through the same thing. Huzzah. I only wish that I could do the links properly - I'll try but last time I turned the entire blog post into one giant link so don't hold out any hopes.

I would like to present this award to... (drum roll please)
Katyboo because she is the one who seduced me into this blogging malarkey.
Welsh Hills Again because she writes beautifully, and has also chosen to live in Wales which is worthy of an award in itself.
Not Enough mud anyone who kisses an elephant and gets set up on dates by the waiters in the hotel she is staying in deserves an award!
Country Lite because her blog is great and you should all rush off and read it.
Confuzzledom because she has a new and shiny flat and an award would fill her mantlepiece nicely!
Singlutionary This is a blog which gives the insider scoop on single life on the other side of the pond...
Australian in Florence. Monika lives the life I sometimes want - in Florence with a husband who she loves, travelling round to see as much as they can, eating wonderful food and then bloggin all about it!
Home Office Mum because this is a woman who has her own business, two small boys, a husband etc etc and is going to head off and sail a clipper ship for weeks and weeks because she can. Now that deserves and award!

Oh dear. Typing out all those links individually is exhausting work and I think I need to go to a post awards party to recover.....

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


Things got a little frenetic last week so I haven't had a chance to catch you up on the drama of the search for a new hovel. As some of you may know I had put an offer in on a bijou residence in the middle of nowhere, just to the left of the back of beyond and I had been waiting to hear if I was to be the lucky owner.

The news was not good. A new buyer had appeared on the scene with a higher offer. Not much higher, but higher. However they needed a mortgage the size of a small country's national income. I chewed my nails, I counted up my shekels and I decided to play hardball. I refused to up my offer. I said I was the better bet, the nicer person and had shinier hair. I pointed out that the Loyal Hound was sought after by thousands and what an honour it would be to have him move in. I also pointed out that I had my mortgage lined up, I wasn't in a chain and I WASN'T UPPING MY OFFER.

A deathly silence followed. I panicked. Had I made a horrible mistake? Should I spend the weekend building a small mint and printing off some extra money? How important was food in the general scheme of things? Could I budget on not eating for a year and up my offer that way? OK, obviously I'm never stopping eating (even if perhaps I should). I held my ground (sobbing and wailing all the while mind you) and I went back to waiting by the phone.

So, after a week of sitting on tenterhooks (not a position to be recommended and should definitely be looked at by Health & Safety), the phone rang yesterday evening. It was a miserable grey day with rain driving horizontally across the windscreen as I drove home. Ironically it was one of those days when I wondered why I live in Wales when I'm sure I could have made a life for myself and the Loyal Hound in Jamaica. However, I digress. The phone rings. Naturally I can't find it to start with as it is buried under old receipts, cheque books, mascaras I don't use and bits of lint at the bottom of my bag. Despite this obstacle course I find it in the nick of time.

Who should it be but Smelly Sheet man. Shockingly, he has finally made a decision and his decision is (drum roll please) - FOR ME!!!!

Holy Camole, Gadzooks and Jiggery Pokery. Suddenly there is a very real chance that I will have a house of my own. After four years of looking the shock of actually getting something may be too much for me. I can't imagine it. Before I start dancing a jig I give myself a stern talking to. There is much that can go wrong between now and being given the keys and I won't get my hopes up in case I jinx the whole darn thing.

By the time I got back onto my mountain side the excitement had worn off and been replaced by fear. Crippling horrible fear. What if I didn't like it enough? What if I couldn't fix it up the way I had so merrily planned? What was I doing taking on a mortgage in the middle of a recession (god forbid, depression). What if I was attacked by yetis living in the surrounding forest? Aaargh. I am now living on an emotional rollercoaster of joy and terror at the possibilities that my life suddenly holds.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Deafening silence.

He hasn't rung yet. AAARGH. People say girls are indecisive but this is just ridiculous, and cruel.

Hurry up pale bachelor man, hurry up and ring me to tell me that I can hand over all my worldly goods in return for your house that smells of old sheets. If you don't ring soon I may have expired from frustration and then the offer will be no more.....

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