Saturday, 28 February 2009

Waiting for the phone to ring.....

So, I've been looking for a house for 4 years now. Having sold my flat in London some 5 years ago it never occurred to me that buying in Wales would be difficult. In fact I was pretty certain that I would be able to afford well, Wales. What a fool I was! The last few years have seen property in Wales go stratospheric. Beyond sense or reason and certainly beyond my self employed budget. A small hovel in the hills, usually with 2 bedrooms, a downstairs bathroom (lucky it's not outside I suppose) and tiny rooms with doorways so low that I concuss myself has been disappearing off the market at the 350k mark, well out of my reach and not what I want to live in anyway.

For the last 18 months though I have had my eye on a house that I couldn't afford but which looked interesting. Finally the price dropped in January. Not really within my reach, but certainly enough for me to justify going to visit it without the estate agents going 'Pah! I don't think so fair and impoverished maiden. You shall not cross the threshold of this house you could never afford'. Instead, they sighed a heavy sigh (they are used to me visiting everything that comes on the market and then saying I hate it and think it is overpriced and not big enough for the Loyal Hound should he wish to live on his own). A visit was arranged.

The house is lived in by a bachelor and his brother. Not a dating type of bachelor but an overweight and pale man who has a shy smile and possibly a fear of the outdoors. The house smells of unwashed sheets and the Sitting Room was dominated by a large flat screen television on which Battlestar Galactica or some such sci fi thing was playing.

Although the house technically has everything I have dreamt of, I didn't like it. It didn't feel like home. I left feeling despondent but that night I drew up how it could be laid out, I dithered, I agonised and I realised that though I didn't love it at the moment that could change. I didn't love the hovel when I moved in and now it is more home than I could ever have imagined. Things change. So, I rang him and offered him money for the house. Nothing like as much money as he wanted and unsurprisingly he said "No. Sod off." (well more politely than that).

This should have been the end of it. I went off to the big smoke for work and couldn't shake the house from my thoughts. I'd lie in bed thinking about it before I fell asleep. It had everything that I say I want for the forseeable future. I have looked at a lot of houses in the last four years and finding something that ticks all the boxes I have is not easy and is inevitably well out of my financial reach.

This house needed more thought. I made an appointment to go back with a builder and look at how much it would cost to make it what I wanted. I met with the bank to find out how much money they would lend me. I went back to the bachelor on Saturday and I made him an offer. I didn't think it had a hope in hell so you can imagine my shock when he said that his answer was likely to be 'yes, 99% yes' and he would ring me and confirm once he had spoken to the people he was buying from.

Now I am waiting. Waiting for him to ring and say definitely yes. In the intervening days between making the offer and waiting for him to ring I have realised how much I want this house. Please, bachelor, ring me and say yes.

See the irony of how my life seems to be dependent on single men failing to ring me?

Friday, 27 February 2009

Cyber dumped, I think......

So, it is nearly two weeks since I met up with Pilot man, the best of the cyber men to have come my way. We had a pretty good time all in all, though there was no particular jolt of attraction on my side at least (I don't know about him) and at the end of our date he suggested that we meet up again. He suggested, not me. He is based in Manchester this week and so it was agreed that this would be a good time to meet up. That was the plan.

Since then - NOTHING. Not a text message, a phone call, an anonymous note, or a carrier pigeon. I sent him a brief friendly e mail last week saying thank you for lunch and that it would be lovely to meet up again. I haven't even had a reply to that. I can't read anything good into this deafening silence.

Have I been dumped? If I have then why can't he at least e mail me to say 'I'm really sorry but I don't think this is going to work.' Is that not the done thing? Or is this just typical dating behaviour and I am living in a Georgette Heyer novel to expect actual communication?

Should I be ringing him to find out what is happening? Is this a test? Am I supposed to just know that he doesn't want to see me again because he hasn't rung, or is he just a useless male who hasn't noticed that two weeks have gone by and we haven't spoken. I didn't think he was that dozy to be honest and suspect this is a major hint that I am dumped, did not live up to expectations and was a waste of his time. But what if I'm wrong?

It's a dilemma. If I don't ring then he might think that I wasn't interested. If I do ring then he might hang up on me then change his number and move to Guatemala because all he wants is to never see me again, hence his deafening silence over the last fortnight which I was supposed to recognise as a firm 'bugger off' signal. The etiquette of this whole thing baffles me.

God, this dating thing is hard work. My heart isn't broken or anything but I would like to know where I stand. How on earth do I find out though? Help please.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Death of a car salesman

There are lots of people out there who can get very excited about buying a new car. I am not one of them. Despite my disinterest, this week I had to trade my car in and buy a new one. This nearly resulted in my being sent to jail for murder most foul.

The person I normally get my cars from has nothing at the moment that fits my particular requirements. As I needed to get this whole thing done and dealt with as quickly as possible, I widened the search and found the perfect charabang online. The whole thing went downhill from here.

This gets me to the real reason for this blog entry. It is not to bore you with the details of me trying to buy a car but for me to vent my rage at the intolerable, endless and appalling sexism and general uselessness of car salesmen.

Let's make something clear. I am not a bra burning feminist. I like my bras for one thing, and I have no objection to having a door opened for me. I don't think that's sexism, I think it is gallantry. However this particular experience was filled to the brim with old fashioned, patronising and excruciating sexism from an older man towards 'the little woman'.

The prat that I dealt with was consistently patronising, and at the same time shockingly stupid. He had obviously decided that as a girl buying a car, I could not possibly understand what I was doing, despite me explaining that this was the third car I had traded in in as many years. He ignored this fact and instead spent his time explaining things in a deliberately slow voice as though he were dealing with a lunatic. Things that I already understood and didn't need explaining to me.

At the same time he wouldn't actually answer my questions because 'you don't really need to know that dear'. All this while he constantly called me by the wrong name, didn't listen to me when I explained what I wanted and told me to 'calm down dear' when I exploded with rage as he ignored me for the umpteenth time.

I longed to just walk away from the sale rather than deal with him but I didn't have the time. So I bottled my ire and headed to Lincoln to fetch the wretched thing. It turns out that the prat had no idea where he actually worked. He had insisted that it would take me no more than 2 hours to get from central london to Lincoln. Try 3 1/4 hours. He then gave me such terrible directions to the showroom that it took an extra half hour to backtrack and find him. I am good at directions - my job entails me finding new places three or four times a week and I get lost about twice a year. Even the other people in the showroom looked baffled when I showed them the directions I was given. He didn't even apologise. He just mentally patted me on the head and said 'well you got here didn't you dear'. How did I not stab him there and then with my car keys?

Where do they get these people from? How are they still alive, let alone employed? This man was a dinosaur and needed to be made extinct. I longed for a comet to land on him and leave nothing but a charred pair of shoes and a smoking crater. I mentally put my hands round his scrawny neck and choked him to death, laughing maniacally, then put him through a potato chipper and burnt the remains before driving over them in my newish car. The whole experience was hideous because of him. I am getting cross just typing about him. AAAAAAAARRGGHHHH

I am glad to say that it is rare to come across this sort of attitude, but invariably when you do it is in a car salesmen. Do the dealers go out looking for sexist, stupid idiots to patronise us? Do they think to themselves 'hmm, next to a house, this is the biggest purchase most people will make so let's make it as hellish and insulting as possible?' If that was their plan then they succeeded. And as for me? I am going to drive this car for the rest of my life so that I NEVER have to deal with a used car salesman again. Ever.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Tragic, cruel world. It really isn't fair.

On Thursday night last week my Godson was born; Sam. In the early hours of Tuesday morning he died. His mother fed him at midnight then got up again at three to feed him again and he was no more.

It isn't fair.

I don't know how to process information like this. It's not fair. It's cruel. It's inexplicable.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Cos your feets too big...

There's a fabulous song by Fats Waller called 'Cos your feets too big'. When we were little we used to run around the lawn screaming the words out and laughing hysterically. Little did I know how prophetic this would be.

You see, I'm tall. Just under six foot and I have correspondingly large feet. Size 9 to be exact. This is useful if you want to go water skiing and don't have any skis but downright hideous if you worship at the altar of beautiful shoes, or for that matter just want everyday shoes.

I could take vanity out of the issue and persuade myself that shoes are just for protecting your feet and stopping you getting cold toes but I am fooling myself. Shoes say something about you. About the woman you want to be, the mood you are in. Killer heels for vamp days, pretty strappy things for days when you want to pretend you are a feminine and enchanting mille feuille of a girl. Knee high boots for Saturdays spent strolling through Borough Market, ballet slippers for supper with friends. The list goes on.

Fairytales are filled with women whose feet predetermine their destiny. There is the Devil wears Prada, when Anne Hathaway's transformation from student shabbiness to New York uber cool is marked by the day she is given new and ravishing designer shoes. Cinderella's life revolves around her tiny feet with their double glazed slippers, The Little Mermaid's story revolves around her tiny white feet being stabbed by red hot knives in order to get the Prince (no happiness without pain in the feet seems to be the moral). I could go on.

It seems that my feet are never going to lead me down the fairytale ending. Quite aside from the fact that the killer heels add so much to my height that I have to have an oxygen tank to cope with the thin air, they make me far too tall for men to want to talk to me and too tall to hear what my more vertically challenged friends are saying. It's irrelevant anyway because the shoe shops just won't stock shoes in my size.

Somebody out there has decided that girls with big feet don't deserve pretty shoes, or necessarily want them. Apparently we are so ashamed of our monstrously sized feet that we wish to hide them in remedial style shoes in various shades of dog pooh.

I walk past shoe shops and peer through the windows like The Little Matchgirl, gazing at what I can never have. Occasionally I brave the doors and go in and ask longingly what size the shoes go up to. Invariably the assistant says 'size 8' and when I say that won't do as I am a size 9 they look faintly horrified at the thought of feet that big and their sigh of relief as I leave their emporium of beauty sends me on my way. Often I boil with rage when they crush my hopes. Why is this avenue of loveliness shut to me? 'It's not fair' I sob in my head.

Now that shoes have become so affordable everyone seems to have the loveliest of shoes. I find that I buy shoes just because they fit me, even if I hate them. Anything to fulfill the craving for shoes. If I were a millionaire I would have shoes made for me. Sparkly shoes, strappy shoes, shoes in every colour (Ok, not yellow or peach but every other colour). It would be heaven.

I know that there are websites out there now that do shoes for bigger feet but the choice is limited and often the only lovely ones are too narrow and often the more mundane shoes are only just a size 9, making them wildly uncomfortable. I once found the most beautiful pair of shoes and ordered them. They arrived and were a thing of such beauty that I scarcely dared lift them from their nest of crisp tissue paper. It was a soul destroying moment when I tried to put them on and discovered that they were never ever going to fit. They were sent back in a tear stained box.

The reason for this blog is that the dull, dull, dull pair of brown shoes that I wear everyday are wearing out and I must face the prospect of a search for a replacement pair of everyday shoes. I am off to London tomorrow, the mecca of footwear. The only thing I can guarantee is that I will want to cry during the search and will end up buying ugly shoes just because they fit. It's cos my feets too big.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Mad woman needs help.

So, in the wonderful world of the blogging stratosphere I have come across the lovely, funny and energetic Home Office Mum. With two sons, a business she runs from home and a husband you'd think she'd be resigned to life as she knew it and would be happy to only dream of all the things outside her ken that the world would say she now could not have.

But, dear readers, life is not like that. About three weeks ago she blogged about an advert that she had seen to do one of the round the world clipper ship races. She mused on the fact that she'd like to do it, and then she applied AND GOT A PLACE!

Suddenly she has been launched into the choppy waters of managing a business, a family and the race to raise £8000 sponsorship and then flee her life for a few weeks to live life on the high seas. She has set up a new blog for the rest of us to follow her in awe as she sets out on this epic journey from normalcy - More to Life than Laundry. I hope you will go and visit her there, and if you can spare some loose change, sponser her via paypal.

It seems to me that we all spend our lives dreaming of 'what if' and very rarely dare to try it so those of us who do take the plunge deserve loud cheers, cash or at least a supportive comment.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Just how necessary is 'the spark' with a cyberman?

So, I have a question for all you halves of couples out there. How important is the SPARK? Did you meet your loved ones and 'just knew'. Did your pulse race? Your heart accelerate and your palms go sweaty? Was your first thought "how quickly can I jump this man / woman's bones?".

You see I am an innocent abroad in these matters. I know, I'm 35 and should be jaded, worldly and wise but I'm not. I've only gone out with one person and that was years ago and I'm not quite sure how it happened. I know that it ended because he sent me flowers (contrary I know, and obviously glib too but that was the genuine catalyst). So, it's been over a decade since that momentous event and I have been skipping along through life, single, footloose and literally fancy free.

On Saturday I met with pilot man, after months of delicate UN style negotiations and failed treaties. The spot was Ludlow, half way between our respective homes. I was nervous the night before and scarcely slept. Would this be the love of my life? Was Friday the last night of life as I knew it? Was I going to be initiated into the world of those who had 'another half?'. Consequently I woke on Saturday morning with a cracking headache. Not the best start.

The day was thick with low cloud and I only knew I'd reached Ludlow because the sign said I had; you could scarcely see the town for cloud. I was early and managed to find parking at completely the opposite end of town to the pub we were to meet at. Pilot man sent me a text to say that the road he was coming in on was closed so he would be late so I wandered through the town, past the busy shoppers and after getting directions headed down the hill to the pub. It was the pub you always imagine you'd like to have down the road. Low beamed, with wide, scarred oak floor boards and a roaring fire. A whippet puppy was busy destroying half the newspapers and locals would drop in every now and then to tease the barmaid and catch up with friends nursing a pint. I settled myself at a table with a slant that would be defined as a black run were it a ski slope and rescued some of the paper from the puppy.

Ten minutes later Pilot man rang to say that he had parked and was on his way. I watched the door anxiously. Was this it? The door swung open and a man came in. Like every date I have met off the web, he was sort of like his photo, but not completely but I did at least recognise him. I'm not sure he recognised me mind you but I called out to him before he could look around and decide that I wasn't there and run away.

He's nice looking. Wearing jeans and a black polo neck he looked as though he had made an effort which is flattering. Also, there was no cravat and that is always good news. His hair, which is a dark brown grows in a widows peak above a friendly used sort of face. He comes over and joins me at the table. We kiss hello (on the cheek). After a brief 'how was your journey' kind of conversation he looks a little embarrassed and says he has no English money to buy a drink. I finger the stack of cocktail sticks in my pocket and wonder if I will be needing them. But after Wednesday's debacle I am now prepared for the drinks thing so offer to get him a pint. He has a good excuse. He only landed back in the UK at midnight on Friday and had not had time to change his stack of foreigh currency back into sterling. He immediately says that he will buy lunch in return. This seems fair, and generous. I put the cocktail sticks down.

We sat and chatted easily for a couple of hours. Conversation ranged from the forthcoming Rugby to Philosophy, via the state of the economy, the joys and woes of snow and various other topics. We touched on the thorny issue of valentine's day and he had strong feelings on this. They were that men who had to make an effort on valentine's day quite obviously did not make enough effort the rest of the time. I pretty much agree with him on this point and am glad that I took my kind readers sage counsel and arrived bearing no gifts of any kind.

Two hours later, lunch over, our respective parking was running out. At this point, I was wondering in the back of my mind what next? He's nice, he's easy to talk to. We chortled over similar things and were happy to disagree on others. There was nothing wrong at all. But shouldn't my heart be racing? my stomach churning with lust? Or is 35 too old for such things? Does lust come slowly, or not at all and I should just be looking for company, with wild passionate sex discarded as a 'service' station that I have shot past and can't get back to?

He's paid the bill and I am wondering whether I should suggest a walk around the town? But why should I suggest it? Why hasn't he? It could be that he doesn't want to be pushy, or that he can't wait to get away? I want him to take the decision but none is forthcoming. I weakly suggest that I should get back to my car and he offers to drive me through the town to save me the walk.

A few minutes later we pull up by my car. Pilot Man says that he has enjoyed meeting me and that it would be nice to 'do this again'. I agree and we work out that he will be based at Manchester airport in a fortnight so we could meet up again then. We kiss on the cheek again and I get out of the car and he drives off.

I'm left confused and slightly indifferent. We had a nice time, he was charming and kind and the time passed easily but he could have been a long lost cousin, not a date. Does that mean that we are on a road to indifference, or just that it is too soon to tell? This is all horribly new to me and I don't know the rules.

So. I've established that he isn't horrible, he doesn't have a flat cap or an autocratic mother. I've also established that my stomach doesn't churn at the sight of him and the prospect of seeing him again is neither dreadful nor thrilling.

I return home muddled and confused and needing your advice. How important is the spark?

Friday, 13 February 2009

Sucker for Punishment. The cybermen march on....

So, after many moons of no single men on my horizon, this week spat up three at once (rather in the manner of buses). You all know the disastrous results of Wednesday's date. Tonight a friend had lined up a single man for me. There were some caveats mind you. The main one being that she was 90% certain that he is gay. Despite this dubious point it seems she felt that desperate times called for desperate measures so a casual dinner with the four of us was arranged.

I should have known that my luck was not about to change though. It is after all, Friday 13th. I have just had an e mail to say that Gay Date has come up with a limp excuse and dropped out of the evening. It seems that my appeal is not enough to lure him off his chosen path, even to have dinner with me. Darn it.

However, all is not lost. Some of you may remember Pilot Man, another in the ranks of the Cybermen. There was a moment when I wondered if I was accidentally stalking him over the summer and then a long, long drought when I heard nothing from him. Then, early in the winter, he got in touch again. We have now spoken several times and had several failed attempts to meet that have been thwarted by snow, flying schedules, and possibly fate. I have ignored fate though and we have a new date made - for TOMORROW! At the time I had not appreciated that this was valentine's day. I mean valetine's day does not generally have much significance for me. So when we picked Saturday to meet it did not occur to me that we would be surrounded by couples smothered in chocolate and roses and pretending to adore each other. This might make a first meeting a little awkward.

In addition there is an etiquette issue. Should I take some token valentine like gift with me? My instincts are throwing up at the thought and I want to trust them. Advise me readers, advise me....

You'll have to wait until Sunday to find out what happens as I won't be able to get near a computer tomorrow. Perhaps this is the one? Then again, perhaps he too will have a flat cap and a cravat.....

Thursday, 12 February 2009

NOT Hugh Grant then......

So, picture the scene. I have had a seven hour meeting and driven two and a half hours and I am nearly at Cheltenham, scene of the Cyberman date. Traffic is lousy and I am running late. It's dark, it's raining. It could be the scene from Scary Movie.

Despite running late I pull into a layby and do a quick change into something not covered in builders dust and slap on whatever makeup I can find on the floor of the car. Then I text the cyberman to say that I am nearly there. Get the encouraging reply 'OK'. I am faithfully following the ludicrous directions but as I get closer to the hotel where we are to meet the directions fail me horribly. This is because they are filled with helpful things like 'there is a street that runs off at right angles - don't take this!'. Ten minutes later I have been swept round the one way system twice and seem to be heading from Edinburgh. Desperate I pull over and ring the cyberman to get new directions.

He doesn't sound remotely sorry that I am having difficulties, in fact he sounds impatient and has that tone in his voice that says I am being stupid and must be an idiot to be lost in a city that I don't know, finding a hotel that I don't even have a street name for. Despite this I finally locate the wretched place. It is the only commercial building in what is otherwise a residential square and it looks as dull as the proverbial ditchwater. Standing outside the doors is the Cyberman.

It's dark and raining hard so he is just a dark outline and I don't get a chance to assess who I am meeting until I am inside. I apologise for being late and don't get a word of apology for the fact that his directions were useless or sympathy for the fact that I have had to come 90 miles to meet him in the middle of a 250 mile journey.

By the light of the lobby I realise to my horror that I am apparently meeting one of my father's school friends. He's tallish, with greying hair swept carefully back from his forehead. He is wearing a tweed jacket with a handkerchief nattily arranged in the pocket, dark jeans, a red and white stripe shirt nd the piece de resistance; a paisley CRAVAT!!!!! Who wears a cravat for god's sake? Tucked into his coat pocket is a flat cap. My heart sinks but I am determined not to judge the evening on the basis of his sartorial approach to life. I give myself the pep talk where I point out that I am not 20 anymore and can't expect the cream of the crop. There is a strange sense of familiarity to him though. It niggles at me and as we walk back to the bar I realise what it is.

For those of you who watched Four Weddings and a Funeral, there is a character in it who has a thing for the Andy Macdowell character. He's the one who is staying at the same pub as her character and Hugh Grant's and she spends her time hiding from him while he calls her 'a damn fine filly'. I think it is his brother that I am meeting. Shit.

The bar is horrible. Reminiscent of a railway bar it is all dark wood, plush red velvet and fake pictures. It is virtually empty with only a depressed looking old woman in it and a bar man who is overcome by having three people to serve at once. This is not going to help with the atmosphere. In fact I wonder if I am going to start hyperventilating. Was there nowhere else in cheltenham that we could have gone? Somewhere with people and life? If this was his idea of a 'suitable' venue then we were already worlds apart.

We've not said much to each other at this point. The cyberman wonders if I would like a 'snack' as he thinks they do them here. I picture a tiny pack of peanuts such as you find on aeroplanes and realise that this might extend the date so hurriedly say that I am not hungry. The drinks are ordered. I've gone for a soft drink due to driving, despite the fact that a bottle of tequila suddenly feels like the only way through the night. I then realise that cyberman is taking an awfully long time to produce any money. I hadn't really thought about the paying thing much. To be honest, I didn't think the £1.20 my drink cost would leave me indebted to him and having done the bulk of the work to get to the date then one drink would be the least he could do. It seems I was wrong. I fumble in my bag and pull out my wallet at which point he grandiosely says 'Oh no, don't worry I'll get this' as though he is doing me the world's greatest favour. I wonder how soon I can leave.

We move through to the front of the hotel where he says there is, and I quote, 'rather a marvellous regency portrait'. Why would I care? However I dutifully follow him and we stare at a portrait of a bewigged man in brown velvet. It could be my date. I hurriedly sit down at a nearby table and cheerily ask him if he has had to travel far to get to the hotel. With the air of a man who has been greatly put out he announces that he has had to come at least '400 yards'. I start to boil over. All his insistence that this was the only place we could possibly meet, despite me pointing out that it took me out of my way, and he WALKED HERE. Could he be more self centred? Apparently yes.

The next hour dragged by as he told me of the biography he had written on Le Clerc (a french general). I vainly tried to make this interesting by saying how lovely it must have been to go and see all the places he had been. The crushing response was that 'he couldn't possibly allow a £20 - 30,000 budget for travel expenses'. Where the hell was Le Clerc fighting? on the moon? No. Morrocco and France. What is this man's idea of suitable travel? I am then informed of the difficulties of finding an agent, the cruel monopoly that history professors have on publishing historical books (odd that!). I change the subject.

"So, do you manage to get away from cheltenham much?". Instantly the autocratic mother is brought up. Apparently he can't leave her though further investigations reveal that she is in the peak of health. The poor woman is probably desperate to have him leave the house once in a while but he just won't go.

Every conversational avenue I try is quashed and I want to run away / weep / stab him through the eye with a cocktail stick. The few questions he asks me, he kindly answers for me and the rest of the time is spent telling me about how vast his family is, how they all hate each other and are constantly falling out with each other bickering over inheritances. I point out that I wouldn't fall out with a sister over heirlooms if I could possibly help it. He points out that heirlooms are more important than family. The cocktail stick route is starting to look really appealing.

After what feels like a lifetime, but is only an hour, I brightly announce that I must get back on the road as I have at least another three hour's driving to do. It is seven thirty. He says 'so you'll be home by nine then.' WHAT??? I resist the urge to explain the maths to him and gaily laugh in a brittle way that I despise about myself but has to be better than the bloodbath that such falseness is preventing.

As we go through the doors back onto the street he pulls on his flat cap and says 'well, I'll be off then'. Not a word about my journey, or how to get out of Cheltenham. I call out to him as he walks off. 'How do I get out of Cheltenham?' and I can see the look of exasperation on his face under the glare of the streetlight as he comes back to tell me how to get out. He doesn't see me to my car or say anything further. I can see he is disappointed but I couldn't care less.

As I pull out and drive around the corner I see a lovely wine bar not 50 yards away. It is the perfect venue for a blind date. I wish I had gone there instead and left him on his own in his flat cap with his Georgian ancestor portrait.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Cybermen - the story continues

So, I am just packing to walk through yet another blizzard with my suitcase and the loyal hound. We are off to Dorset for work. But, not just work. I am meeting one of the Cybermen.....

Now this one I'm fairly underwhelmed by. In fact I think I might be meeting the ultimate early old fogey. Things to worry about:

1) He lives with his mother! She is apparently 86 and autocratic. They live together in a vast and draughty pile in Glouctershire that he is slowly refurbishing.
2) He lives with his mother. I think this point is worth re-iterating.
3) He writes historical books. Not Bernard Cornwell type novels but esoteric tomes on odd bits of history I think. I am worried I will be lectured to.
4) He is fairly inflexible. Considering I am driving from Dorset to North Wales - a five hour journey at the best of times, he is still making me come 30 minutes off the motorway to meet him as he says there is nowhere between Cheltenham and the motorway that would be 'suitable'.
5) He can't give directions for toffee, let alone a hotel. The directions he gave me were so convoluted that I doubt we will ever actually manage to meet. They included helpful things like 'go past my bank' 'there is a street that goes off at right angles' 'Go north here' (this last one when you are in a town with no helpful compass to hand).
6) When he sent me his telephone number he asked me to text him before I rang. This annoyed me and made me wonder if he was worried that one of his wives would answer the phone otherwise. Am I meeting Bluebeard?
7) When I didn't ring him he get marking me as his favourite on the website every day, twice a day for a week. This verges on stalking.

I know, I know - why am I doing this? As a warm up I suppose. As an effort at showing willing in this dating game and so that nobody can say of me that I am not trying. I'll let you know how it goes. So sorry, I know this is a muddled entry but it is snowing hard and I need to get moving. Not only do I have a meeting to go to but a cyberman to meet. I wonder if he will bring his mother?

Monday, 9 February 2009

Dare I say the word 'Thaw'

Although my world is still white I am silently dancing with glee because there just may be a thaw in the air. For the first time today, my footprints in the snow have turned transluscent, giving a glimpse of the ground beneath. In fact, the whole texture of the snow has changed. The top is a frozen crust that rattles when you walk through it but beneath this icy top the snow is wet and rotten.

You wouldn't know this to look out across the valley. The world is monochromatic still. White with black hedges and woods scratched across the glare and not a hint of green to be seen yet. But I have hope.

Yesterday, before the two hour blizzard that blotted out the world once more, I managed to get my car off the mountain. This involved getting friends with a tank like four wheel drive to cautiously edge their way down my track, before leading me on a towrope back out. There were a couple of hairy moments. One where i slid down a gully with no steering control or brakes, straight towards an outcrop of granite, and a couple of times where my wheels spun uselessly on the snow as I went nowhere. However, we succeeded. An hour later my car was parked safely in the village. So now, though I still have to walk in and out, I can at least then drive myself wherever I want to go, whenever I want and for as long as I want!

The long walk back up the hill does not encourage road trips just for the hell of it but it is a taste of freedom and not soon enough for me. This means that my work trips can now be safely rescheduled so tomorrow it is off to Dorset and back again on Wednesday night. If the thaw does come then I might even be able to drive all the way to the hovel by then. If instead we have another foot of snow as they are forecasting then I will be knocking on doors in the valley to beg a bed for the night. I don't fancy walking a mile up the mountain carrying my suitcase after a five hour drive. I'm a lightweight like that!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Day Six - silver lining on snow clouds.

After the excitment of seeing actual people yesterday, and shops and everything I was on a high! I mean the town I went to had not one, but two greengrocers, and a Barnardos and a mad knitting shop. I went into all of them just because I could! Coming home later that night, pulling my groceries along on my toboggan with the loyal hound diving into the snow around me, I decided that I would make the most of this situation. That plan lasted all of ten minutes.

You can tell how bad it is by the fact that I am in the office on a Saturday when I don't have to be. This is entirely due to the fact that I am bored of being in the house, and I have been for three walks today just to pass the time and needed a newish horizon to make my return to the hovel more exciting.

I keep thinking the snow will go, but each morning I wake to find that yesterday's tracks and footprints have been eradicated in another snowfall and I am back to square one. I rescheduled last weeks meetings to next week and honestly, I'm not sure that I will be out by then.

By the time the snow does finally go I will have the tidiest house in Britain, the best organised office and the crazed look of Tom Hanks in Castaway. If I had a football I would instantly name it and start talking to it.

Watching the news / forecasts it is fascinating to see the presenters skate over (scuse the pun) the fact that every day they forecast more snow for North Wales. Because it is just 'small showers' then it doesn't count as anything much, but small showers (for which read several hours of snow) add up to multiple inches of snow on the ground and massive annoyance for me. But watching the news it is as if it is uninhabited up here and so snow falling in the mountains isn't relevant. Nothing like as relevant as a couple of days of inconvenience elsewhere in the country anyway. Currently we are getting the edge of the weather front that is in the South West, and the one travelling down the Irish Sea. This means I have had snow coming in from both ends of the valley. Sorry, enough of a whinge about national forecasting.

However there is an upside to the snow. The light. This time of year is normally so grey and drained of colour but the snow casts such wonderful light everywhere. Yesterday the hound and I went for a walk at 10 at night because the snow made it so light that you could see for miles. I guess that is my silver lining. Every snow cloud has one.

Friday, 6 February 2009

I'm escaping again...

In order to protect my dwindling sanity I am escaping. Just for the afternoon mind you but anything in order to see other people and remind myself that the world is still turning out there. I am donning my arctic gear and digging out the toboggan and then I'm heading down the mountain where a friend is going to come and pick me up and we will go and stare in shop windows with looks of astonishment on our faces. I will buy more junk food, and very little that is healthy and return to my mountain a new woman.....

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Cabin Fever - HELP!

I'm getting cabin fever. Seriously.

It is now the fourth day of being stuck in the snow and at the rate the snow is still coming down there are at least another two days to go. I'm not totally snowbound. I can walk off the mountain (or, like yesterday toboggan down 400 feet (in altitude terms) of mountain at ridiculous speed, shrieking like a loon) and hitch a lift to pick up supplies. This means that I'm not reduced to eating my shoes or anything in a Stalingrad style. However the inability to be independent and choose when and where I go, and for how long, is astonishingly frustrating.

I have caught up on all my chores. I've finished my work, thought about doing the filing. I've painted the second coat of paint on the bathroom, and painted all the beams in the house so that they aren't all black and glowery but elegant and taupey instead. I've fed the birds and plucked the brace of pheasant I had. I've cleaned the kitchen floor and watched nearly everything on my sky + box. I've read a book of John Updike short stories and finished A Thousand Splendid Suns. The Loyal Hound and I have been tobogganing just for the hell of it, rather than for transport purposes. This afternoon I think I will throw everything out of my wardrobe that I keep pretending I will fit again and hide it all in the car which has currently turned into a snowy storage depot. I am soon going to be forced into writing my own great novella just to pass the time.

More importantly my secret stash of kit kats is running low and I may have to resort to making fudge to keep me going. In addition the Loyal Hound is addicted to the snow and spends the entire time nagging me to let him go outside and play in it, again.

I watch the news and see reporters across the country discussing in all seriousness the fact that 'it has stopped snowing here in outer Cambridgeshire' or 'there are at least 4 inches here in the local town and people are having to walk to the shops' and I wonder if they even know that there are those of us who are quietly going crackers with genuinely limited access to the rest of the world.

So, entertain me, amuse me, make me feel connected to the rest of the world. Please!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

The Curse of Pollyanna

Lately, I seem to get a lot of phone calls from depressed and miserable friends. I'm not sure whether this is just due to the fact that they know I am trapped on a mountain and can't run away, or whether it is because they want me to cheer them up. Possibly the answer is a combination of both things at once.

You see, I suffer from a Pollyanna like state of always trying to look on the cheerful side. I can't bear feeling unhappy and in addition I am an inveterate 'fixer upper'. If something is broken I want to put it right. My friends know this and will ring me when the world feels overwhelming and get me to put it in perspective for them, or I assume that is what they want me to do. Now of course this is lovely, and flattering in a way but listening to one monologue on the misery of life after another is draining. Ironically, this constant stream of people wanting me to cheer them up can get me down a little. It is exhausting being everybody's Pollyanna.

To illustrate two examples at the moment. I have a friend who is a very successful artist, but like all artists I know, she has an ambigious desire to see her work sell but a complete inability to actually sell it herself. Consequently she spends the time bemoaning the fact that the Cork Street Gallery that she sells at won't push her work hard enough, but if somebody came up to her and said 'Can I buy 3 of your paintings please' there is a good chance she would say 'No' and then run away and hide.

I can understand the opposing forces that influence her, and none of it is helped by the fact that she is in the throes of post natal depression. The difficulty is that there are only so many times I can repeat the same mantras to her and if she acts on none of them then I start feeling like Sisyphus and his rock. My will to help evaporates and I dread the phone call. I'm not sure that that doesn't make me a terrible person.

The second example is more local. A girl (well, woman really since she is nearly 40) who lives nearby is about to have her second child and once again the father has left the scene. This can't be easy, though it was very much her choice to have the baby which I think she wanted more than the father. She frequently rings me, or invites me over to supper, and will tell me for hours of how badly the world has treated her, how unkind everyone is to her. In her world she is Cinderella, surrounded by evil relations and courtiers trying to thwart her from her happy ever after. I try and be sympathetic to this as it can't be easy being in her situation. But secretly, I can't help but feel that that attitude achieves absolutely NOTHING to change her life.

I mean, if everything is always somebody else's fault, then you never take responsibility for anything yourself. I do believe that ultimately our own happiness rests on ourselves, not everyone around us. If you start out optimistically and are responsible for your own life, then you can control how you react to whatever life throws at you. Even if you start out depressed then I believe you can force a fixed grin onto your face, and bully yourself out of the worst of it, with your friends there to cheer you on. It is interesting to consider that the people who are happy inevitably make you feel a little happier. Happiness can be as contagious as the winter flu. So, if you take care of you feeling happy, then those around you are likely to be happier, which in turn will make you feel happy. I know that's simplistic but it is also true the majority of the time.

However, if nothing is your own fault then it seems that the general consensus is that you shouldn't be expected to do anything about it. Somebody else should come and pick you up, dust you off and wave a magic wand over you. I don't think life works like that at all; in fact, it's a recipe for disaster.

So, I sit and listen, occasionally I will make some Pollyannaish suggestion about how she could break the cycle, walk away from the baggage and detritus of everybody else letting her down and start afresh in her head. Stop the cycle of saying 'if only they would...' or 'if only I had' and instead take charge of her own life. Be the one who is responsible for her own happiness, rather than hold the rest of the world responsible for her life. I try to put it more kindly than this of course.

I recently read a book called 'The seven habits of effective people'. Excluding the tiresome Americanisms of it, there are some interesting points. First habit: Be proactive. You are responsible for your life and you can control how you approach it (not necessarily what happens in it, but how you react to it). Abandon the past and just look forwards. Don't blame the past, and those around you for what happens to you tomorrow.

There is a lot to be said for this but it is a point that most people seem incapable of absorbing. If you suggest to somebody that they forget the past and start afresh their instant response is 'Oh, I couldn't do that - I mean, my past won't let me' or words to that effect. We cling to what has happened to us, rather than what could happen. It seems to dictate everything we do. So, the artist friend will say 'I've never been able to sell my own work so I couldn't start now'. She never wonders whether perhaps she could if she wanted to. That what happened yesterday doesn't have to repeat itself every day unless she wants it to. In fact, I think that she doesn't like the idea that she could take control of things - if she did do that then she would have to be responsible. God, I'm such a bitch to feel this way.

What is particularly noticeable about these phone calls is that they NEVER ask me a single thing about me. Not how I am, where I am, whether I am happy, sad, insane etc etc. They just give a sigh of relief that I have answered the phone and start in on the free therapy session. This can stop the phone call feeling like a friendship, and make me feel more like the official 'Pollyanna helpline'. I know that this is part of what friendship is, but endlessly repeated you start wondering if it is a two way friendship. All else aside, if they only ring when they are depressed, and never when they are happy, then you end up with a one sided view of them.

So, that is the curse of being Pollyanna. I am now going to take my own advice and cheer myself up by taking the Loyal Hound and the Toboggan out. There isn't much that that can't fix. Thanks for listening.....

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Snow days of yore (well, the seventies anyway)

Katyboo (hmm, not sure the link worked - look on the left hand side if it didn't) had some rather fabulous and fond memories of being a snow child of the seventies. I'm with her 100% on this and reading her entries has inspired me to pass some of my snowbound time with fond misty recollections of my own:

Being Snowed in: this had a nasty habit of happening the day after we were taken back to boarding school. Our parents would ring and tell us that several hundred feet of snow had fallen the moment they got home, and what a pity that we weren't there to enjoy it! One famous time though we had a houseful of people staying - 12 of us in all and we got snowed in, then the power cut out and we lost the hot water. We were there for four days living by candlelight, with the boys taking thermoses of hot water heated on the aga upstairs to shave. I can remember how strange it was to be woken in the dark morning by my father with a candle.

It is astonishing how much washing up there is to do when you have to heat all the water to do it in a kettle, and how often it has to be done with 12 people to feed. Eventually we tracked down some paper plates and resorted to those, burning them after eating. The nice thing about it was that we all ended up in the same room, writing letters, playing board games and playing cards. It was too cold to go off and sulk on your own and there werent' enough candles to light more than one room properly. Each night we took our own candlestick upstairs to bed. It's the closest I've ever been to being remotely like a Georgette Heyer character.

Tobogganing: I grew up in the mountains of Wales so hillsides weren't exactly in short supply. On snow days the four siblings, the parents and the inevitable pack of dogs (my parents have never had less than four) would pile along the track behind the house each dragging a toboggan. The road drops precipitously off into fields with a slope so steep it is hard to get onto the toboggan before it shoots off down the hill. The slope was long, incredibly fast and laced with frozen mole hills that could destroy a cocyx with one blow or send you flying through the air. As the bottom approached, you had to hurl yourself off the toboggan into the snow or hit the dry stone wall. Each time, the dogs would come pelting down beside you, occasionally one of them would throw themselves onto the toboggan with you, risking life and limb (ours) in the process. The long walk back up took five minutes and we spent our entire childhood trying to persuade my father to create some sort of a chairlift using the tractor from the farm. We told him that Hannibal from the A team would be able to do it, so why couldn't he?

Epic Journeys: I think my parents specialised in epic journeys. The one and only time I have been a bridesmaid was one such time. It was a January wedding and it snowed and snowed and snowed. The sheep were buried under drifts and had to be rescued and the half mile of drive leading to our house had disappeared entirely, becoming level with the hedges either side. I was to be a bridgesmaid to a girl who had been my mother's bridesmaid and the wedding was taking place relatively nearby - some 25 miles or so. To this day, I don't know why my parents were so determined that we were going to make it there but the decision was made.

I remember being dressed in an abandoned ski suit of my sister's. The bridesmaid dress was put in a bag and I was put with said bag in a toboggan then my father and mother set off down the drive pulling me along. I couldn't have walked if I had wanted to as the snow was so deep. I have such a clear memory of my father, who is 6'2", disappearing up to his shoulders in a drift at one point.

We walked nearly two miles to a farm near the A road. He lent us a landrover and we piled into this. The main roads were relatively clear, as I remember it, but the road up to the church and house was a steep single track lane that no gritter had seen for years. Ahead of us was a coal lorry. I have no idea how, but this coal lorry made it to the top, clearing a path for us to follow behind him.

I don't remember much of the wedding itself. I have a clear memory of being lent a cream shawl to wrap around myself because the church was so cold, and of eating eclairs under a billiard table in a vast and draughty house where the reception was held. My next memory is back in the Landrover. Dad had bought us fish and chips and we drove through a starlit and snowy world and watched a total eclipse of the moon.

I don't remember the toboggan journey back up the drive. I must have been asleep by then. I do know that most of the wedding party, including the bridge and groom, were unable to leave, and so the reception went on for three days!

Now, I must go and muffle myself up in my snow kit as I have to relive my youth and make my way through the dusk to the village where a friend is dropping off some stuff for me that I need. I wonder if he will bring fish and chips?

Monday, 2 February 2009

Pesky Snow has trapped me again!

So, more snow then. I have to say, in a curmudgeonly way, that I have possibly lost the thrill of being snowed in. This makes the fifth time this winter and as I was supposed to be on my way to London right now and in Dorset on Wednesday it has rather buggered up my plans. Despite the fact that all the forecasts said that we would scarcely notice the snow I have several inches covering my world and I can't find the track at all in the white wilderness. I had vaguely considered getting my trusty wheelbarrow and gritting all half mile of it but if I can't find it, I can't grit it!

It never seems to do this when I don't have to be somewhere. Instead there is always something horribly urgent that means I have to walk off the mountain and hitch a lift with somebody with a four wheel drive to achieve whatever it is that needs doing. Today that was a trip to the solicitors and post office that took FOREVER. The document I had to sign was wrong and had to be re-done. The only cafe was closed and we ended up sitting in a car park watching the snow bury us alive. Once I had finally got the wretched thing and dashed through the snow to the post office the girl at the counter took the greatest pleasure in telling me that she could no more guarantee me delivery than she could look like Kate Moss. I suspect that she might eat my vital letter just to prove her point.

The Loyal Hound on the other hand could not be happier. That dog just adores snow. His favourite activity is to travel at a hundred miles an hour scooping snow up into his mouth as he runs. One day he'll crack his jaw on a rock and I'll laugh - a lot! He loved the walk through icy blizzards over the shoulder of the mountain and I suspect he laughed when I went flying as we went down the hill. All the same, it is almost better to have a dog with you in the snow than a small child. They get just as much enjoyment but don't care about being cold and wet!

So, now I have an enforced stay at home for at least another two days. This after the luxury of an entire weekend at home. I'm not sure that I remember how to spend that much time in my own house....

internet stats
Rent DVD Movies