Monday, 26 January 2009

Boing, boing - I have spring in my steps......

I had a spring in my step this morning. I woke up and stretched like a cat (ok, an overweight cat in mismatched pyjamas but you get the picture), then I wriggled my toes and for once I didn't mind that it was a Monday morning. For me this is the New Year; no more cooking jobs for months and so the burden of normal work seemed like a feather as I lay in bed.

Ten minutes later, having failed to brush my hair or care what clothes I put on, I emerged into the daylight with the Loyal Hound frisking at my heels, delighted at the prospect of his morning walk. The air was balmy and I could smell spring in the westerly breeze. A halo of cloud was waterfalling over the top of the mountain but the rest of the sky was blue and for the first time in months I didn't need to put a coat on. Finally it seems that the icy shroud of winter may be being shrugged off by a defiant spring. I know that this is a false spring, that winter will return, enraged and chilly, but for today I enjoyed this glimpse of what could be.

After a leisurely breakfast where I had to have toast and butter because there wasn't enough milk to be healthy and have cereal, I wandered over to the office. I didn't have much to do today. I just needed to gather together everything hat I need for my Scottish trip, catch up with my mileage sheets (I know - it's gripping isn't it), then I had this cunning plan that I would venture into the garden and try and dig over the vegetable patch and plant the garlic out.

Naturally, from the moment I entered the office this plan was blown out of the blue and spring like sky. I have been deluged with hideous e mails that have taken hours to deal with and it is now half past four and I haven't been anywhere near the garden. Incidentally though, there was a very nice e mail in amongst the horrible ones offering to get the Loyal Hound a new toy - how nice is that!

Somehow though, despite not having the day I was looking forward to, I don't care. That sense of spring has buoyed me up and nothing will get me down if I can help it. I hope you all feel the same.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Musings on the divide between those who do, and those who don't have to.

So, this is the last cooking job of the year. Thank God! 16 people for a weekend is not my idea of heaven however my menu planning has been rather cunning and most of tonight's dinner is done in advance. This did involve working in the kitchen until 10pm last night mind you.

I've made a delicious pudding for tonight - Cointreau and Orange Jelly with grapes and stem ginger. It set in about 5 minutes. I mean I turned around to talk to the Loyal Hound, went to fetch the pudding to put it in the fridge and it was set! Jelly never does that when you want it to. Let's hope that this doesn't mean that it is revolting because it has too much gelatine in it. The main course is lamb tagine, which I have cooked already so that the flavours can develop so that makes that a bit easier as I only have to do the couscous and vegetables now for the main course. The starter is a doddle and so now I just have to do the nibbles and I'm sorted for this evening. Only two cooked breakfasts, a lunch, tea and another 4 course dinner to do.....

Once the cooking is done, I don't have a lovely relaxing time to enjoy my new found freedom. Oh no. The next fortnight is pretty hideous. I am in Scotland next week, then London and Dorset the week after. I know it is all money in the bank, for which I should be grateful as we are now officially in recession, but I confess that I am tired just thinking about it.

There are some women out there who seem to live their life without this kind of manic running around to stay ahead of themselves to afford their book / chocolate / cashmere habits. Instead, they drift around after school looking pretty, marry somebody wealthy and never have to work - EVER! They then spend years complaining that their nanny is unreliable, the new Chanel collection is unwearable and their holiday house is SUCH a chore to maintain. They wouldn't know an electricity bill if it jumped up and bit them and the idea of finding a cheap flight to try and go on holiday just once every two years would be laughable.

How is it that I wasn't one of those and why were they the 'lucky' ones? I don't get it. They aren't necessarily any brighter, funnier, or better read than you or I and I'm not saying that their lives are perfect, or that they are necessarily happy. In fact from the few I have met, they are usually dissatisfied. Perhpas that's the thing that gets me about this peculiar category of women; they don't realise how lucky they are.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

In which I reveal that I am thinly read, and seek your help

Today, I am prepared to show my ignorance to the world and to seek your advice on how to remedy my sad situation.

In the words of the great Eddie Izzard, I suspect that rather than being widely read, I am in fact, thinly read. I know part of the reason for this; you see I am a re-reader. If I like a book, I'll read it several times over the years. I love re reading a book. It's like visiting old friends, catching up on the gossip and finding that, in a comforting way, nothing has changed. Some books don't stand the test of time and when you return you wonder why you liked them to start with, but most are just as good second time round.

I'll put it another way. If you ate chocolate for the first time, and found it delicious, you wouldn't refuse to eat it ever again because you know what it tastes like. No, you'd go back for more. Well, that's what I do with books.

It frequently occurs to me how much else I might have read if only I didn't read the same books over and over. There's a lot of misspent reading time in my past. Then it occurs to me how many of the 'great authors' I have never even touched, because I was busy reading my favourite authors all over again. So this is where you come in. Here are some authors I have NEVER read and my pathetic reasons why; tell me, faithful blogging companions, should I read any of them? What am I missing?

Tolstoy - the books look so heavy - literally. I'm not sure I could actually take the physical strain of reading them.

Salman Rushdie - the man is prolific, I'll give him that, but are his books any good or just published becasue of the Fatwah and only read by people who eat at Nigella's house.

Kafka - now, did he write The Unbearable lightness of being? If he did then I have read that, but if he didn't then I have read nothing by him.

James Joyce - I did once start Ulysses but my brain exploded and I fell asleep with the weariness of the worlds that fell on my shoulders during Chapter 1, so I did not persevere. Did I miss out?

Emily Dickinson & Sylvia Plath - I put them together because I've read neither and for the same reason. To me (who has never read them!) they give off a rather depressing vibe of female angst and misery. It's not appealing but I am basing my opinion on very little other than third hand opinions (probably of people who have also not read them). Give me some first hand feedback. I know someone out there has read them.

Tom Stoppard - now it's decidedly odd that I have never read any Stoppard as I love his screenplays and the way he writes. Despite this I never pick up his books. This is, I think, because I am worried that I won't like them as much as his plays and films, and then I'll be cross. Am I right to worry?

Tolkein - I am reading Lord of the Rings, but only when I stay with one particular friend in London who has a copy by the Guest Bed. This means that in three years I have only got as far as chapter 4. It's slow progress. I don't actually own the book myself and I keep resisting buying it. I just don't know whether this is the wise decision of one not swayed with Tolkein fever, or the sign of an idiot missing out on one of the all time great storytellers.

Who else have I missed of this list? I'm so badly read I can't even tell you.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Honest Guv!

So, Just Me Really (I can't do the links but she is over there on the left of the page), has tagged me with an award. Here it is and can I just say that I rather like it. I love those old signs so to get one as an award is a double whammy.
Anyway, it turns out that there are rules to this award thingummy. I have to tell you ten honest things about myself and then ruin other bloggers' days by making them 'fess up as well. So, here goes:

1: As a small child I announced that I would like to be called 'Alopecia'. I had no idea what it meant and thought it was very glamorous. My family have not stopped laughing about this ever since.

2: I get horrible hairs on my chin that I pluck out as soon as I see them. Apparently this is a result of having polycistic ovaries but I am paranoid that I will miss one and then people will talk amongst themselves about my hairy chin. Aaargh - I can't believe I told you that.

3: I didn't vote in the last election even though I told everyone I did. I lost the postal vote form thing. Now I am a firm believer in voting because if you don't vote then you can't really complain about the government you get. Consequently I have had to lie about my ballot status in order to whinge about the world today and point out to everybody how it would be so much better if they only made me chancellor, or just the Emperor Ming.

4: I have lost a ring that Crazy Frog lent me and haven't confessed to it yet. I keep hoping it will turn up even though it is a YEAR since I lost it (I took it off while I was making Beef Wellington and never saw it again. I suspect I cooked it in the Beef Wellington and somebody ate it....)

5: When I was small, and special boy was still smaller, we were playing superman in his bedroom. This involved jumping off the top bunk and pretending we could fly. The bed had a removable ladder with metal hooks which was lying on the floor with the hooks face up. Special Boy leapt, landed on the ladder and very nearly lost his eye as he impaled his face on the hooks. He still has a scar through his eyebrow to this day. I made up a totally different story to tell my mother as we went to hospital so that I wouldn't get into trouble.

6: I once worked in John Lewis in the run up to Christmas. My very first morning I overslept and was late in. In my defence this is because I was sleeping in a box room with no windows and I had no idea it was daytime! However, when I turned up to work the manager gave me this look of utter disdain and said "Overslept did we?" in this incredibly sarcastic way. I was so vexed to be caught out that I found myself saying "Actually no, my grandmother died last night" At this point all my grandparents had already died so I didn't feel this was going to jinx any of them but I spent the next few weeks explaining why I didn't go to the funeral....

7: I am very bad at returning books that I am lent. I have very good intentions but if I don't get said book back within a week of borrowing it then it seems to make it's way onto my shelves and never goes home to it's real owner. Considering that I hate it when I don't get books back which I lend out, this is rather a repellent habit.

8: I always wished I had titian coloured hair but I was too frightened to dye it in case it looked mad on me. I hate that I didn't take even small risks like that when I was younger (or even now), instead I always tried to do the right thing and consequently missed out on all sorts of excitement (see point 9)

9: I was once offered a full time job cooking for a Senator but I turned it down because my parents would have hunted me down and killed me if I didn't go back to University and I was too chicken to tell them that I was wanted to defer. I still wonder what my life would have been if I had accepted that job.

10: I don't seem to have a biological clock. I don't long for babies though I do want a family (if you see what I mean). Sometimes I wonder if that is why I am still single.

So, there you are, 10 random but true facts about me, just for you. So in the name of passing these things on I nominate Katyboo, Bevchen, At Home & Happy, Mr Farty and Home Office Mum to take up the baton and show me how this should be done.

Monday, 19 January 2009

They have to be kidding?

So, I went to see a house today. To be honest it was WAY out of my price range. I mean a hundred thousand pounds out, but I thought 'what the heck? It's been on the market for over a year, why not?' and off I pootled to check it out.

The estate agents (foul untrustworthy fiends) had painted a picture of a 4 bedroom farmhouse with kitchen, sitting room, dining room and utility room, a couple of acres, stables, outbuildings etc etc. Everything I wanted in my dream world (well, a swimming pool, Library and walk in dressing room wouldn't go amiss either). It looked sort of interesting on the site and over the last year of property searching I have looked at this house over and over again and persuaded myself that perhaps the reason I can't find a house is because this one is perfect and naturally therefore out of my budget. But in these hard pressed times perhaps they would take an offer, a ridiculously low laughable offer. I am an optimist. I booked a viewing.

It was blizzarding as I drove through the lanes, following the directions from the foul, untrustworthy fiends. Naturally these were ludicrous and took me 5 miles out of my way on the most circuitous route possible. Finally I find the house. First problem? You can't turn into the drive. Instead you have to drive past it and reverse in with a lovely three foot drop off on one side of the car. Not encouraging.

The yard was a tip. The 'stables' were a ramshackle corrugated shed, with a second shed randomly placed behind it and then bizarrely a small garden shed with a balcony looking, not at the view, but at the road. Turning my attention to the outside of the house, I see that the doors are painted in seventies brown and the window frames in a shade of yellow that should be illegal. That definitely did not show up on the website but it's all fixable so I refuse to run away and instead, knock on the door.

The man who showed me round said they had lived there for 18 years and had not had to do anything to the house. This might be because it was too messy to see that stuff needed doing to it. I mean in all honesty, it was a tip (I'm always amazed at people who don't tidy up AT ALL when they are trying to sell their house). What I could see was not particularly exciting. The utility room is, well, utilitarian. The downstairs loo had a charming blue loo and sink with contrasting cream loo seat (mmm, nice!). It turns out that if you want to flush the loo you have to run the cold tap on the sink. Really, for hundreds of thousands of pounds, you can get charming personal touches like this.

The kitchen isn't nice or horrible, it's just a kitchen and it turns out to be one of the lightest room in the house. I could see my hands and see that there was only 1 metre of worksurface. However there is a narrow room next door that could be knocked into the kitchen with money I don't have so I refuse to let this get me down. Next we go through a biggish room that is the sitting room but is also the corridor so they have only been able to fit one chair and a short sofa into it. The room is bitterly cold and with no doors on the openings leading out of it, I can't see that getting any better. We turn into the old part of the house and move into what I am told is the 'Dining Room'. The ceilings so low the loyal hound might risk concussion and the walls are painted the colour of an aubergine. It's so dark I trip over a chair. Fumbling towards the doorway on the other side of the room I find myself in a lobby at the foot of stairs so steep I may need crampons to climb them. It turns out that the Master Bedroom is on the other side of the stairs, but on the ground floor. It is also dark and icily cold due to the fact that all the floors are tiled. Now I know that a lick of paint can work wonders but this is all starting to get ridiculous. I feel like a mole, a mole facing the eiger.

I climb the stairs wishing for safety ropes and choose door number two. This is apparently bedroom 3. I'm not sure I'd call a room so small that you can't open the door fully into it a bedroom but there you go. Opposite is a tiny bathroom and then there are two more bedrooms, not small but definitely not big. I take a deep breath and go back down the stairs, beaning myself on the meter box that hangs precariously over them as I go.

Emerging back into the cold wind whipping over the hill I stared across the valley and wondered exactly what I would get for the hundreds of thosands of pounds that I don't have. Concussion? Hypothermia? An inability to see in real daylight?

I know that we all put our hopes and our hard earned cash into our property. It is the ultimate nest egg but this is ridiculous. If that house had been half the price I'm not sure I would consider it and they want twice what it could possibly be worth. They have to be kidding. I'm sticking with the hovel. At least I can see inside it without a flashlight at midday.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

If I were a lady of leisure I would.....

My feet are cold. Just thought I'd share that with you. I'm in the office and have the wood burner going but I have just put the last log on and that means I shall have to brave my way across the yard through the driving rain and wind to fetch more. Eeeugh. Where are servants when you want them?

So, this is what I would like to do with the rest of my afternoon.

Have a wonderful, leisurely hot bath. I adore baths in the middle of the day. They feel so luxurious and faintly rebellious. I would put in my peppermint and lavender space NK bath oil and read A thousand Splendid suns.

Once I'd emerged clean and shiny and with warm feet I'd slather myself in Chanel Mademoiselle Body Cream and put on my new trousers and jumper that I bought in the sales (though naturally, they weren't actually on sale) and go and make tea and toast and eat it whilst watching Memories of a Geisha which I sky + at Christmas and haven't had time to watch.

At some point I would have to wrap up in every waterproof I own and take the Loyal hound for a walk. Perhaps I shall do this before the bath? Then i'd light the fire before going up for my bath.

Come 7.00 o'clock I would pile into my trusty charabang and head off into the hills where I am having supper with a friend.

That would be heavenly.

In actual fact I am going to have to stay in the office and work all afternoon, oh and fetch the logs. However, at least I know how I would spend my day if I was a 'lady of leisure'. How would your perfect afternoon pan out? Go on, spill the beans.....

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Death threat by Sausage Casserole.

I've been feeling bad all week. As I drove through the dawn on Monday to Dorset, froze my little socks off at various meetings and then drove through the Dorset lanes and back to Wales I have been suffering from pangs of inadequacy, guilt and just a soupcon more inadequacy. Why? You clamour. Read on and all will be revealed.

So, to celebrate surviving the puppy experience I spontaneously asked friends over for Sunday lunch. I mean to have friends over all the time, I have a vision of a Nigella like life where my house is filled with an ethnically appropriate mix of people who work in 'meejya' and write novels and who rave about the fabulous time they have at my hovel. In truth, as a result of the minimal amount of time I am actually home, the time I spend cooking elsewhere and my hermit like tendencies invites are issued all too rarely. When they are issued it is to perfectly lovely and thankfully normal friends. Not a 'meejya' babe in sight.

So, invites were issued and at lunchtime on Saturday I suddenly realised that I had six people for lunch and no food to speak of with which to feed them. Now in most places this would not be a problem. You would dash out to the nearest deli / supermarket and stock up on delicious things. This is Wales. They don't do delis, or supermarkets for that matter. Plus, I was puppy sitting so the amount of time I could leave the house was going to be limited. I decided to cook a stalwart favourite; Cider and Sausage casserole with pancetta. This is normally DELICIOUS and one of my favourite things, particularly as I usually have all the ingredients floating around the house.

Reviewing my larder, I discovered that I had not a sausage to my name. A dash to the village Londis was my only option. The sausages looked..... well, cheap. Not particularly appetising and that naked shade of pink that is rather worrying in a foodstuff. At this point I should have changed my menu plan but I thought 'No, the sauce is delicious so the sausages needn't be.' How wrong could I be?

On Sunday I discovered that cheap sausages, rather like Blue Nun wines, are never, ever a good buy. With the best cooking in the world, I was in trouble and there were no other options. I had nothing else I could cook instead, and nowhere to go to buy alternatives. It was too late. I had to serve the casserole even though I KNEW that the rubbish sausages were going to ruin it by being disgusting.

I tried to hide the horror by merrily offering bloody marys to one and all, only to discover I had no tabasco, no ice and no celery, so they had warm tomato juice with worcester sauce in it. And all the while, like a stormcloud on the horizon, lunch amd the repellent sausages were looming. Finally, it was too late to delay anymore and I served up the food.

It was torture watching my poor friends chew away and say in a manful way 'mmmm, delicous' as they reluctantly forced another mouthful down. The sausages were so tasteless and of such a revolting texture I was wondering if it would be cruelty to give the leftovers to the Loyal Hound later on that day.

God, I hate it when my cooking goes wrong. I'm not looking for flowers to be thrown at my feet and guests to pass out at the joy of the gastronomic experience I provide, but I do firmly believe that guests should get good food that makes them feel loved and wanted. Sunday lunch was more like an assasination attempt, or at the very least a hostile death threat. And all because I couldn't be bothered to drive the extra sixteen miles to get decent sausages.

I did make a tart au citron for pudding which turned out beautifully but it wasn't enough to make up for the disastrous casserole. Let this be a lesson to me. Never, ever think I can buy food from the local shop and actually eat it. The food there is for a nucleur holocaust, or hated enemies.

Now I can't decide whether to ask people back so I can try and redeem myself, or never have people over ever again in case they are frightened to actually eat......

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Puffin 'eck!

I am a fool. Special Boy was given a puppy by his wife for Christmas. She is the great granddaughter of his much loved childhood Spaniel who went to the great kennel in the sky two summers ago. There was a lot of dithering about whether he should be given the puppy this year. Dithering with good reason.

Special Boy and his wife live in a tiny flat in London. It's known as The Mouse House and with good reason as it is small enough for mice to sniff at it in a sneering way and refuse to live there. If you want to sleep on their sofabed you have to open the oven door in the kitchen to fit your feet into the room as well as the rest of your body.

Anyway, my parents, who already have five dogs, had agreed to look after said puppy, thinking one more dog would make little difference, and the decision was made. Christmas day came and the puppy bounced out of a box with a ribbon round her neck and gave Special Boy the fright of his life. She was christened Puffin and subsequently she has been spoilt rotten by everybody who comes near her, as is only natural with a small, fluffy puppy.

Now, special boy and his wife have returned to London and my aged parents have sodded off to stay with friends having persuaded me that with my first free weekend in months I would surely love to do nothing more than puppy sit. Fool, fool, fool. I said fine.

She has been with me since about 4pm yesterday and in that time she has peed in the office 5 times (despite going out every half hour). She has pierced the Loyal Hound's ear with her needle sharp teeth (truly, she has), and stolen and shredded his favourite toy - The Phuck (so called because it looks like a pheasant but squawks like a duck).

She barks if you shut her in a different room, even if she can see you, and thinks that furniture is her plaything to be chewed, leapt upon and generally mauled so she has to be watched like a hawk. Once she was put to bed in the laundry room she barked until 1.30 am and then started again at 6.30am. When I finally staggered out of bed to let her out it turned out that she had poohed everywhere and then gaily jumped about in said pooh, spreading it all over the room before hurling herself at the door with poohey paws and decorating the door in crap. Quite literally. She is totally unrepentant and joyfully threw herself at my leg when I let her out, covering me in aforesaid crap as well.

I am now exhausted, have cricked my bag from bending over to clear up endless mess, scarcely slept due to puppy barking (and had odd dreams about giving David Tennant a puppy when i did sleep) and I have another 24 hours to go. So much for my luxurious weekend. In addition the Loyal Hound is in a terrible grump about having his toys stolen, his ear pierced, and his peace cut up by the Puffin terrorist.

p.s. I know, I know, all you mother's out there will be chortling to yourselves at the easiness of my task compared to small children but there are supposed to be upsides to being single and childless and this weekend was going to be one of them.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Who says Prince Charming isn't out there?

I have been a little slack recently about checking up on the old internet dating site. What with one thing and another it moved to the bottom of the heap of priorities, and then to the bottom of the heap of things that were lost beneath the priorities. However, today I thought I would log on and have a look at who was out there. Imagine my surprise when I find that ROYALTY is out there a wooing... and wooing me it seems. He is currently my Number 1 fan. This is what he has to say for himself:

"I am Prince Onyeka
Handsome man looking for that special soul mate to share all of life up and downs , very outgoing honest and yes i don't play games , slim build for now chose me and i will do everything to make you happy meaning cook clean and yes i can do laundry and i will even pick up the milk call during the just to hear your voice very kind honest and loyal i promises never to make you cry or even shed a single tear ,if interested just drop me a line trust me your friends will be jealous your friend will wonder why there soul mate doesn't do that for them."

The fact that he lives in Ghana might make dating a little tricky but what do you think? I like the fact that he is 'slim build for now' - is he hoping I will feed him up? It's tempting, very tempting, particularly if you could see his photo where he sports a jauntily positioned white baseball cap in a very Back Street Boys fashion.......

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

When everyday tasks are not remotely everydayish...

Having finally finished my accounts yesterday afteroon, I had to get them to the accountants. A neighbour was going that way this morning so I promised to deliver the files that afternoon so that they could drop them off. I also had to go and collect my post from over the valley where it had been left as a result of my impassable road, and buy a pint of milk. I know, I know. Surely these are not worthy of a blog entry. I mean they are everyday tasks that we all do without thinking. But you have forgotten, I live in a hovel on a hill where things are rarely easy. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin..........

My journey started as all good journeys should - the packing of a wicker basket of provisions. This has an old fashioned charm to it as a concept, bringing to mind picnics and bottles of ginger ale. Sadly, my basket was packed with a bulging lever arch file for the accountants, but the premise is still a good one.

The Loyal Hound and I locked the door and set off through the corner gate at the bottom of the garden. He instantly shot off to explore the highly suspicious looking rushes that he obviously felt were harbouring all sorts of menaces (or thrills. It can be hard to tell). I stepped out over the white and frozen field, being careful not to wrench my ankles on the frozen cattle prints. Instantly the siberian wind crept through every gap and seam in my coat and gloves. Pulling my scarf over my face so that my lungs weren't stabbed by the needle like air, I carried on. We crossed throught the gate tied with baler twine and slid over the 4' frozen ditch on the other side. I then followed the hare tracks through the snow whilst the Loyal Hound set off on foraging parties to either side of me. Through the rushes I wended my way, the freezing wind nipping at my cheeks and numbing my gloved fingers. The route was a new one, for all the bogs and wet places were frozen solid and so passable with careful balancing and a cautious step. At the far corner, a drunken gate leaned against the fence post.

Frozen solid, it wouldn't move, so the Loyal Hound was tossed over the top and I scrambled over at the hinge end, wicker basket, accounts and all. We were nearing the farm at the bottom of this bit of the valley now and the loyal hound was put on the lead as we headed for the buildings on the far side. He pulled me over the skating rink that is normally a slow and steady running ditch and we made it to the yard, then finally onto the gritted road. The river at the bottom is now nearly entirely frozen over. You can hear the water running underneath but above are frozen waves and torrents. After stopping to chat to the ancient and permanently unwashed looking farmer (who kindly offered me parking space in his yard should I need it) we carried on with our errands. It's amazing how quiet it is. The sound of the stream is muffled by ice and the birds are too cold to sing. Most of the farm stock is in the sheds, munching on silage and huddling together for warmth. The few sheep who are outside are puffed up close to the ground, defrosting a patch of grass to have for their supper.

Swinging my basket down my side, and trying not to get pulled over by the hound when we hit slippery patches we wove our way down through the narrow lanes towards the village. We reached the car and then had the chilly job of trying to defrost the windscreen with hands so cold they couldn't hold anything. If the hound had sat still for long enough I might have just followed the sheep's example and lain him down on the windscreen to defrost a patch.

Eventually we were on our way. The files were delivered, the post collected and the milk bought. I had decided to try and get the car at least half way up the hill and in this we were successful. The worst bit was at the top, between the second gate and the cattle grid where we slid about in a graceless manner over the packed and frozen snow. I decided not to tackle the last bit of road as this was infitely worse than the prvevious section, so parked the car in the field and let loose the hound once more. Whilst he charged around investigating every rock, root and rut I realised that I would need to grit the road around my car if I wanted to ever be able to extract it again. The council gives us a grit bin every 1/4 mile or so but naturally no shovel. A rummage in the boot revealed a frisbee. This turned out to be an excellent gritting implement. It scoops well and sprinkles evenly. Who knew that they were such multifunctional things?

The temperature by now was dropping still further from the delightful -6.5 it had been at 3.00 o'clock so throwing the frisbee back in the car and putting the provisions in the trusty wicker basket, I pulled my hat down, whistled for the hound and we crossed the cattle grid and wove our way home down the icy road through the oncoming dusk.

It just goes to show that some days everyday tasks are simply not everyday.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Paper Mountains

I am sitting at my desk and between me and my computer is a mountain of receipts that I absolutely have to wade through. For the last six weeks I have shoved receipts into every pocket, niche, book and bag that has been nearby, saying to myself as I did so that I would remember exactly why that one was important. I have finally gathered them up and am faintly horrified at the scale of the job ahead. So, naturally instead of dealing with them I thought I would blog instead. Me? Evade important stuff? How could you suggest such a thing.

In addition to the receipt mountain, to the left of my computer lie last years accounts that need to be finished and delivered to the accountant. I had good intentions of getting this done by the first week of December but the will to do so evaporated like snow on a Bahamaian beach and there the pile sits, staring balefully at me whilst I alphatesize my rubbish and do everything I can think of rather than my accounts.

I know I will be on a high for at least a week when I finally tackle both these piles. They have been niggling at the back of my mind for so long now that the sense of relief when they are done will be overwhelming. I may even do a jig in the snow to celebrate.....

Right. I'm going to do it now. Really, I am......

Friday, 2 January 2009

Life, or something like it.

Life and some sense of normalcy has finally resumed. I don't know that I can remember how to do a normal life? I have remembered where the office is and spent time in it doing little work but lots of faffing. I have been all the way to the local town to do essential shopping only to discover that I left my bag of joy with it's accompanying cash and cards in my kitchen in the hovel. It's a good start. Really.

I managed to irritate everybody over Christmas. You know how there is always somebody who everyone gets cross with when you are all together at Christmas? This year it was me. I think the excessive tiredness of not a day off in three weeks combined with a ridiculous diary during Christmas meant that I was so tired I couldn't remember how to be tactful, charming or much else for that matter. Plus the fact that the rest of my family are mean and nasty and were picking on me.... WAAAAAAH.

Chutney Mary insisted that we all get up at seven o'clock to view her precious ones open their stockings. The boys couldn't have cared less whether we were there or not and I was overwhelmed with bitterness that Chutney Mary had not even tried to seduce us out of bed with coffee and freshly baked pastries. Having got to bed at around 1.30 am the night before and been awake every hour through the night (no, not listening for Father Christmas you muppets), I was most grumpy.

Box of Frogs was possibly on drugs - I've never known her to pick so few fights but she did tell me THREE TIMES IN A ROW that she had infinitely better dress sense than me. All this whilst she was wearing a jumper with pigs knitted on it. I'm sorry. I have bad dress sense and you wear a jumper with farm animals on it? Actually, I think you'll find I have totally indifferent dress sense. I wear clothes so that I'm not naked. I like fabrics that feel nice and if my budget allowed I'd only have cashmere jumpers. I don't do dresses and I struggle to do skirts but I NEVER, EVER wear anything with animals embroidered on it. I studiously ignored her for at least an hour after this, and then told Chutney Mary all about it who kept making loud pointed remarks in front of the Box of Frogs about the fact that I was about to put a coat on to walk the loyal hound and perhaps she should help me to choose it.... Aaaah, the joys of a family at Christmas.

I've made only one New Year's resolution which is to find a house to buy rather than continuing renting. I like this kind of resolution. There is very little I can do about it but the prospect of achieving it is nice.

I braved the shops on Tuesday to try and get one of those little notebook computers to have in the house. This is mainly so that I can blog at all hours of the day and night without having to go over to the office but I think that work can pay for it as it sounds like a work kind of thing! I nearly stabbed my pen through the assistant's eye in PC World due to the extreme irritation that she engendered just by talking. Bear in mind that I had had to sign up in a queue just to get her to consider helping me, whereupon she completely ignored everything I said, tried to sell me things that I didn't want and wouldnt' tell me how much things cost other than an airy 'oh around a £100, around £1,00000.00 etc etc. I should have learnt my lesson when the last PC World assistant I spoke to thought I was a hobbit. Needless to say I left without the netbook thingummy and with a blood pressure that could kill lesser mortals.

Anyway, I am in a white world now. The temperature this week has averaged a delightful -3 in the day and -7 at night. My water took two days of lugging buckets of water up from the stream and boiling them up to defrost but what the hell, that's what life on the hillside can be like. I stayed with friends on New Year's Eve and woke in the morning to find the most amazing Jack Frost ice patterns on the inside of the window - they were so thick I couldn't see out! Each day the frost layers itself over the previous layer so that I woke this morning and though it had snowed the world was so white. So, here i am in my silent and frozen world and loving every minute of it.

Happy New Year.

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