Thursday, 30 December 2010

Hop Along Hound

I warn you now; I am not having a good week. Within five minutes of arriving home on Tuesday, I had a client on the phone in a panic because she was about to go skiing and there was a drama at her house. Could I please sort it out??? Sure. Why not? This was going to be the first three days off I had had in a year but I'd love to work instead. Time off is overrated isn't it? I am feeling very Bah Humbugish about that particular client now. The drama is entirely one of her own making and yet she has that peculiar skill of making everything somebody else's fault; usually mine.

To top things off yesterday morning the hound became the Reliant Robin of the dog world and refused to use his front foot. It, he said, hurt a lot. This was slightly baffling. He had been fine the night before but we had done a very strenuous amount of work on Monday, sliding down gullies and crossing frozen rivers. There was obviously something horribly wrong. By the afternoon he was booked in to go to the vet. Being Christmas, the local one wasn't open and so it was a 40 minute drive to their main branch. Joy. Having mercilessly prodded and squeezed the offending paw, the vet decided that he had probably stubbed his claw so hard it had jammed back into the bad. We were sent home with medicine.

I have overly optimistic faith in medicine. I felt certain that with a cocktail of drugs he would be better by now. Instead his paw is even more swollen and is now a third bigger than the other one. He has a new appointment with the vet tomorrow morning and I am now in a dilemma as to what to do.

I am supposed to be going to Guildford for New Year's Eve, leaving tomorrow morning. Then on to Hastings, back to Guildford for Sunday, Southampton on Monday and London on Tuesday... However if the loyal hound has to be admitted then I am not going to want to go. This raises two questions.

Question One; Am I becoming a sad old spinster whose life revolves around her equivalent of a pack of cats?

Question Two: If I do cancel my trip south will my friends think me pathetic????

This may well be my worst ever Christmas / New Year week. Oh, and I didn't win the lottery, even though I actually went to the trouble to buy a lottery ticket this time. Grrrrr

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Why didn't I buy everybody book tokens for Christmas?

It is dark and about minus 10 outside and I am about to make my umpteenth trip up the forestry track with my toboggan laden with presents. This is because my car is at the end of the track, next to the gritted road. It's a good thing really as with a foot of snow on the ground already I had another six inches last night. Hurrah.

When I bought my presents I was rather delighted with the scale of some of them. They were so excitingly large after all. Their size is infintely less appealing when they have to all be carried nearly a mile on a toboggan and you can only fit one or two on at a time.

It is at this point that I realise the true value of book tokens. With just a laden pocket I could have skipped out of the hovel for Christmas. Why or why didn't I think of this a month ago???

Anyway, here are some snowy photos of the view from my garden to put you all in the Christmas spirit. Think of me with my sledge of presents under the starry sky. I had better watch out as with my stomach's profile I could easily be mistaken for Father Christmas.....

One more for you - I took this two nights ago as I took the first toboggan load up. Yes, that's the moon.....

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

In which I am invited to not one, but two parties....

Great Excitement at the hovel. Apparently, every year there is a party for those of us foolish to live in the middle of the forest and around a reservoir. This is held in the local village, in the glamorous venue of the education centre. Cue fluorescent lighting, strange acoustics and no heating..... This will be a first for me. Last year, having only lived here a measly 8 months, I was not eligble for an invitation, but this year I have made the list.

I feel touched to have been included, and faintly horrified on the basis that it might be one of those hideous sorts of parties where everyone mills about not being quite sure who to talk to and wondering if they dare risk eating the stale egg and cress sandwich curling up in the corner next to the sausage roll which has never seen a sausage in it's life.

However, I am very conscious of the fact that if you snub these things you in turn will be snubbed for ever, so I am going. Next question. What to wear?

I mean, my clothing of choice usually involves multiple jumpers and jeans but I know how the Welsh love to dress up. What if I turn up in jeans and they are offended that I haven't made any effort. Equally if I dust off the tiara and they are all wearing jeans I shall look like a complete idiot. It's a dilemma. I am thinking tiara with jeans might be the way forward. Any thoughts out there?

Also, do I take wine or mince pies or something? What is the etiquette on these things???

That is not my only clothing dilemma for the week. I have been asked to a party on Saturday night and the dress code is 'the twelve days of christmas'. Having checked the verses of this particular carol I see that there is a 50% chance that I shall have to go dressed as some kind of bird, there is the option of being a pear tree I suppose, or 5 gold rings. I can't go as one of the 'Ladies Dancing' as I have two left feet, no coordination and people will just think I am having an epileptic fit. Neither do I long to go as a milk maid but unless I am missing something my options are limited.

As some of you may know, I loathe and detest costume parties. I always, always get them wrong and make either too much effort or not enough. I need help. Step by step instructions on how to make a costume using nothing but what might be found around the house would be a good start. Anybody have any ideas????

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Are you in need of a happiness fix?

Well, if you are I suggest you try this; (sorry - can't get the links to work but cut and paste it - it will be worth it....)

I defy you not to at least smile.... If you need more of the same then this one in all its glory has got to work. I particularly like the old ladies with their umbrella....

Happy Tuesday everyone....

Sunday, 12 December 2010

In the words of the Terminator

I know, it's been an awfully long time. There are all sorts of exciting reasons I could give for this but very few of them would actually be true. The shameful truth is that something had to give, and it was the blog.

Fighting off a recession single handed (yep, that's me - the lone musketeer) when you are self employed is no laughing matter. Choosing to live on the side of a mountain in the middle of nowhere when all the work is 200 miles away also complicates things.

I meant to get all technologically updated so that it wouldn't matter where I was but the whole attempt was a disaster and I managed to delete one e mail account and lock myself out of the other one.

I am now sitting in the hovel, fairy lights strewn around the door in a tocken gesture towards Christmas and waiting for a load of logs to be delivered. I am suspicious of the green world I see around me this week and don't think it is going to last. In fact negotiating my road is a task worth of Mr Fiennes as it is a sheet glacier some two inches thick from top to bottom. Yesterday I made it three quarters of the way up before elegantly sliding all the way back down hill. I was not to be beaten though and turned the car and reversed out the half a mile or so instead.

Various things have shifted on a cellular level in the lives of the family. To my horror Chutney Mary has moved home and now lives an alarming 12 miles or so away. The box of frogs has married her prince which meant a summer of endless wedding discussions and me the only voice for elopment in the room.....

So, this is just a short snippet but I promise not to leave it so long. In the words of the Terminator, I'll be back.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Seven things you don't need to know, but now do...

Sorry, I've been a little bit rubbish about posting this year. Work seems to have sucked the life out of me and has meant that I can't blog whilst pretending to work in the day as there has been too much actual work to do. In addition I have been seizing any spare moments to try and sort out the house and garden. Since this involves small tasks like moving seven tonnes of top soil by hand around the garden, learning to build dry stone walls and trying to get the vegetable garden planted up it hasn't left much time for anything else.

The lovely Not Enough Mud has tagged me with this pretty picture:

and tasked me with telling you seven things about myself that you might not know. She has set the bar pretty high as She has a Saint for an ancestor, owns a Blue Peter Badge and other rather initimidatingly marvellous things. I shall not be daunted though and will try and tell you seven things you actually want to know. Here goes...

1: I won a holiday to South America and went to Bolivia and Peru and saw Macchu Picchu (which it appears I still can't spell).

2: I blush. Really easily and at the slightest provocation. I thought I would grow out of this but I haven't. Damn.

3: I wanted to be a film or television producer. I did a lot of theatre production at University and loved it but when I got into the real world it turned out that I didn't know 'the right people' in order to get a foot in the door. To this day I wonder how my life would have turned out if I had got into that industry.

4: I camped my way around East Africa when I was twenty or so. By far away the most beautiful country I went to was Rwanda (it was just before the horrors that were to take over that country). The extraordinary thing about it was that the people there were the most visibly happy of any I met in all my travels. The hatred was well hidden.

5: I am not mad about spiders. Ever since I saw Arachnaphobia I have a secret worry that normal, harmless English spiders have had sluttish sex with horribly poisonous spiders and that they are going to kill me.

6: Someone once told me I reminded him of Drew Barrymore. I loved that. Sadly it has never happened again though my sister once said that I reminded her of Aunt Sally from Worzel Gummidge.

7: I envy married people the fact that they had a wedding list and so all their cutlery and china and stuff matches. How pathetically materialistic can you get????

Now. Work calls - I have to go to London and need to put on my Drew Barrymore kit and find important bits of paper that could be anywhere.....

Monday, 15 March 2010

Car Crash Dating.

As of this moment I'm officially single and not even bothering anymore to try and change that. Friday night has broken me. This might be the worse one yet. I am a wreck, a broken woman, a date hater and I am never, ever, ever going to one of those parties again. You want to hear all the details? Of course you do. Brace Yourselves. If I had to go through it, then so do you.

So. First I'll confess. I failed to acquire a push up bra. I did do all the hair washing, the primping, the make up, the scent. I was a goddess, prepared to do battle. I was even on time, well I was, until my mother insisted that I needed to come by and change a spotlight bulb for her, at that point I was fashionably late.

The deal was you turned up at the pub at 7.30. All of you would gather in the bar and introduce yourselves before being sat down to dinner at eight. I turned up at 7.45 having failed to bring directions and the pub being in the middle of nowhere in a sprawling village with no lights or sense of anyone actually living there. It took a while to find the place. Heart beating slightly fast at the prospect of real single people being inside I pushed open the door.

Stepping into the warmth of the bar I was greeted by the 'hostess'. Clipboard in hand she ticked me off (the list, not verbally) and reminded me that I needed to buy my own drinks apart from the wine at dinner. Darn. Forgot to bring cash.

I headed to the bar and decided to really go fo it and order water (I know - dashing isn't it?). There are two men at the bar talking to each other. They pay me no attention so I assume they are locals, not willing victims for the slaughter to follow. I head for the 'lounge bar' where I can hear some subdued conversation. I wondered if I had the wrong room. Where were the thirtysomethings? The room had a mixed bag of terrified and or / bored looking men, over made up women and some more relaxed looking 'retirement age' bachelors. Giving myself a stern warning not to judge, I went in.

Nobody spoke to me. I introduced myself (bold hussy behaviour). They stood around in small groups, not really talking to each other at all and clutching their drinks. Some of the men were busy bonding but in classic British male behaviour they were pretending the girls weren't there at all. This was not good. Despite the average age being around the late forties none of them seeemed to have acquired the art of conversation. This might be why they were all single? I chickened out and headed back for the bar. I was going to need more water to get through this.

The two men were still there chatting. They turned out to be friends who had come together to the date night hell but they didn't seem that bothered by actually getting involved in it. We spent a quarter of an hour or so chatting. Well. I asked them questions and they regaled me with stories, tales of derring do and made each other laugh a lot. They were neighbouring farmers. One of them has fifteen dogs, the other looked as if he had had too much botox (very strange over stretched skin on his face) which is an odd look for a hill farmer. They never even asked me my name during all this. Perhaps I should have worn that push up bra?

Noticing silence from the lounge next door we suddenly realised that possibly everyone had gone through to dinner without us and leapt to our feet, galvanised by a British anxiety of being late / rude. Sure enough, like cattle herded into the abbatoir, they were all in the dining room. There were several tables, all with seating arrangements. The boys were to move with each course so that everyone would get to meet everyone else. What a hideous prospect.

Seeing my place name near the door, I sat down at a table laid for eight, at which there were only six place names. Apparently, there were people who looked through the window at the company and ran away rather than coming in. Why didn't I do that?

To my left was a round faced, ruddy cheeked boy / man who was bringing the average age down by about twenty years. To my right an older man. Opposite were two more girls and another man. I sat down and introduced myself to Boy/Man. I soon found out that he was only there because his girl friend (not girlfriend) wanted to come and didn't want to come on her own. He was a farm manager and when I asked what he liked about the job, he answered (with a little too much enthusiasm) 'I like tractors'. Right. My tractor conversation is limited. I persevered. It turned out he also liked combine harvesters, and ploughs, and basically all machinery. He was a boy with a dream job where he played all day with large machinery. He didn't need or want a girlfriend. He wanted the new Massey Ferguson.

Throughout our conversation I was constantly aware of the opposite side of the table. The girl opposite boy/man wasn't saying a thing and the man opposite me, and next to her, was making her look overly chatty. They sat and avoided looking at each other and the silence between them really was deafening. I should defend the girl. She had really lucked out with her 'starter man'. I think he deserves his own paragraph actually. Here goes:

I'll sketch him out for you. Probably the shortest man in the room, he was permanently stoop shouldered. This was good as it showed off his pattered, knitted cardigan which was buttoned up to the top. All the way to the neck sort of top. He didn't seem to like to look up that much, which was also good as it gave me a perfect view of his combed forward hair with its coating of brylcream (or maybe engine grease). Most disconcerting of all though was the fact that he was to spend his entire time unconsciously trying to touch his nose with his tongue. Honestly. I'm not making this up. You couldn't make it up. Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone whilst opposite you there is a man trying to touch his nose with his tongue. You can't. It's disgustingly mesmerising. You want to ask him to stop but it feels rude. Taking pity on the poor girl next to him, who he had failed to talk to and who hadn't (sensibly) tried to talk to him, I asked her what she did.

She turned out to be an ex occupational therapist who was currently writing three books. The 'most literary one' (and I quote directly) was set in the 1970's and was about a farmers wife who becomes a porn star. Really? Truly? This girl is who you would see if you looked up the word 'meek' in the dictionary and there was a picture illustration. She wasn't going to say boo to a puppy, let alone a wolf and she was writing the great literary novel of our times about Farmer Giles's porn star wife? Tongue to Nose man speeded up his tongue to nose action. Eeerugh.

Feeling faintly queasy, and having got the author to talk to the boy/man tractor driver, I turned to my right as the starters arrived. Chicken Liver Pate with one lone piece of bread. Why do they do that in pubs? Give you a great block of pate and a tiny piece of bread so that you can't actually eat any of it? Actually it turned out to be a good thing as the first bite revealed that it was possibly pureed pedigree chum, not chicken liver pate. Toying with the artfully arranged raw onion and red pepper garnish I studied my companion.

Salt and peppered dark hair, tallish, normalish - very 'ishy' in all. Sadly more wishy than dishy though. On the plus side: no cardigan. Phew. Having introduced ourselves, I asked him what he did. 'I'm a leading expert in agronomy' he replied. I know roughly what that is - something do do with crop production and outputs. He dropped in that he had just been in canada and New Zealand. I expressed awed amazement at his cosmopolitan life. He pulled out his phone to show me photos of New Zealand, and of his ex girlfriend in New Zealand. I looked gripped and wondered what the hell I was doing there.

Further lecturing from my new best friend revealed that he had the solutions for the agricultural slump at his fingertips, if only the world would listen to him. It also revealed that he was essentially a travelling fertiliser salesman who spent his time persecuting farmers into buying stuff they didn't want. I avoided thinking to myself 'hmm, he sells crap for a living'. He carried on telling me all about his exciting life. Other than my name, he still knew nothing about me, nor seemed interested in finding out anything. I heard all about the ex girlfriend, the special needs of maize crops, and how tenant farmers are the future and farm owners are spawn of the devil. I started wondering whether I could force down more of the Pedigree Chum pate in order to induce a vomiting attack and a perfect excuse to leave.

I was saved from the pate and the agronomist by clipboard girl, who announced in a falsely cheery voice that 'it was time to move please gentlemen'. Thank god.

My new companions sat down. To my right was a sprightly, grey haired man with an interesting taste in Mrs Merton style glasses (you know the ones - really pointy corners). To my left was a duplicate of salt and pepper man from course one. I blinked. Had he just swapped sides? No - this one had on a different coloured pair of corduroys and it turned out, had a really exciting job. We began with the 'so how far have you had to come tonight' opening bid. Not too far which boded well, in theory. A single man who lived within twenty miles. I didn't know there were any. He then told me that he commuted four hours a day to get to his job. I put on my awed and amazed face and asked if his job was worth it. Fool. I am a fool.

'Ohhhh yesss.' he replied. 'I'm really lucky. I mean, I have my ideal job. How many people can say that?' I agreed. He was lucky. Intrigued by such enthusiasm I asked for more details.

'I work for East Cheshire council. I'm in charge of'... Wait for it.... 'ROAD WIDTHS'. OH MY GOD.

I didn't have to put on a stunned expression. It was there already. Pleased with the effect his announcement had had on me, he carried on. It turned out that he did all the research back through 'historical council documentation' into what widths roads should be. It also emerged that he had a 'real passion' which was for (sound the drum roll) bridlepaths. Bridlepaths it seemed, were more of a hobby for him. An amusing past time. Of course they were. So many of us aspire to amusing hobbies and he had snagged the best one. Damn him.

Gripped as I was by his conversation, I hadn't noticed the main course arriving. It was steak and there was good reason for the steak knives. You needed a chainsaw to get into them. The side dish was 'mixed vegetables'. I don't actually know what they were as they were topped off with red cabbage which had dyed them all to the same shade of purple as the cabbage.

I'll confess that by now I was panicking. Was this what I had paid forty hard earned english pounds for? I couldn't drown my sorrows in my one free glass of red wine because A) it had burnt the inside of my mouth with the first sip and B) I was driving. I started to feel like a hunted animal and looked longingly out of the window at my car.

I realised I couldn't do this. Bridlepath man was telling me with great enthusiasm about a knotty right of way problem that he had solved to the detriment of all parties. Over the table, the porn writer was trailing her scarf through the vegetables as she leaned in to give a glimpse of her push up bra. Opposite me, botox farmer had joined us and was roaring with laughter at his own joke. In desperation, I turned to Mr Merton on my right. He turned out to be a very nice widower who disliked 'all the brassicas' and had seen porn writer in her dressing gown earlier on (they were staying at the same place) which might explain why he spent most of our conversation gazing longingly over my congealed steak at her.

I'd love to tell you more about my pudding companions but I will admit right now that I panicked, and ran for it. The prospect of two more dinner companions and black forest cheesecake was too much to bear. I used Chutney Mary's imminent arrival at my house as an excuse and I fled the scene.

No more internet arranged dating for me, ever again. I officially give up.

Now, does anyone have a failing maize crop or a bridlepath dispute? I know just the men to help you out.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Oh God. It's dating season again.

It's that time of year again, when I launch myself on the stormy waters of the dating world. This year I have chosen a new dating site. This one organises singles 'parties' and outings. It's a good idea. I'm going to skip the whole online chat bit and go straight to the source and actually meet people. Hopefully this will get around the whole issue of thinking that I have met someone nice and normal and sane online only to discover that they are not what they pretended to be when we finally meet.

You see, I have decided that the whole internet dating thing does not work. The problem is that people lie so much. They seem perfectly nice online and then when you meet them they are, in my experience, loons. Men who live with their mothers (there have been two of them), men who ask me my marriage plans the first time they meet me, men who can't speak to a woman when they actually meet her. You get the gist of it. It has not been a good experience.

Honestly, I was thinking I wouldn't bother but the other day someone asked when I last kissed anyone and I was ashamed to realise that it was a figure that ended with the word 'years'. This seems like some horrible kind of failure on my part. I mean who, other than career nuns, goes years without kissing anyone (or any of the things that follow kissing for that matter)? I don't miss it particularly but I feel I should try to do something about it. So, here I am, trying.

The big party is on Friday night of this week. It is in a pub some twenty miles away and the idea is that there will be about forty people - even boys and girls - and we have supper and get to meet each other in relaxed circumstances.

I don't feel particularly relaxed about it. I feel like bottling the whole thing and not going. I've paid for my ticket though and I don't have enough money to just throw it away on dinners that I don't go to.

A friend has told me to wear a push up bra, a low cut top, and just go for it. Easier said than done. I want to go and hide in a corner. I can't imagine who else will be there but I won't be surprised if it isn't a lot of men whose favourite reading material is Farmers Weekly and a lot of girls whose make up and hair products will weigh more than the clothes they are wearing. I can't compete with that. I'm not going to miraculously lose a stone by Friday, and I'm not sure I will have time to buy a push up bra by then either.

My life at the moment seems to consist of being in the car for hours on end and packing and unpacking suitcases. I have not had two consecutive days at home for a while now and until next week there is little prospect of that changing. This weekend is the latest nephew's christening. This means that I have Chutney Mary and her children coming to stay with me. As an unofficial OCD sufferer she has already rung me three times to discuss arrangements for this state visit. Naturally, I have done nothing about it at all and will be rushing around in a panic on Friday trying to get ready for their arrival. This leaves even less time for the installation of the push up bra and locating my hairbrush and makeup.

Wish me luck. It's going to be a rough weekend. If I survive the date night, I still have to make it through the Christening weekend and the state visit.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Tap, tap, tap at the window.....

Sunday night. The weather outside is bitter and so I was very happily sitting doing a jigsaw in front of the fire. The Loyal Hound lay curled in his basket, dreaming of rabbits and twitching with the thrill of the chase. Outside the temperature was dropping to an icy -5 and the compacted snow on the road meant that there would be no going anywhere for me that night. The weekend had been pleasing though. A dinner party on the Friday night, DIY and long walks on Saturday followed by tea with friends and then Sunday had been spent stripping yet more woodchip and making a hideous mess of everything I had tidied the day before. I had waited for the sun to soften the snow on the road and had slid my car to the end of the road so that I could get out for work the next day. All was well in my little Welsh world.

So, you have the scene in your head? Isolated from the world there is me, doing my jigsaw. The television murmuring away in the background. The hound snoring and twitching in the corner. The fire crackling quietly away to itself. Into this idyll comes a gentle 'tap, tap, tap' at the window.

Not expecting this, I almost wondered if I had imagined the sound but glancing up I saw a pale face at the window. My heart leapt. The face moved back from the window. I resisted the urge to shut the curtains and pretend I hadn't seen anything and, assuming it was my neighbour (it was only a brief glimpse that I got of the face so I wasn't sure), I went to the front door to see what he wanted.

Round the side of the house came a man. Small and unthreatening he looked exhausted by life. Dressed in what you might call 'office' trousers, ordinary shoes and just an anorak to keep out the cold he might have been dropped in by Martians he was so unsuitably clothed for deepest, rural wales. He was pale and his hair stuck out from his head as though it had never seen a brush. His general shabby air made him ideal to be typecast as the worn out and unglamorous PI.

Without so much as an apology for frightening the living daylights out of me, or an introduction, he said baldly. 'My car is stuck'. Not 'Could you help me' I noted.

"Where is it stuck?" I asked. Though I was pretty sure I knew where. There is a car park for walkers down the track from me. The access to it is down a short slope and only that afternoon it had taken four of us half an hour to get a car up the hill. No great surprise then when he said 'at the car park'.

I enquired if he had tried to get my neighbour. In a low voice that I could scarcely catch, he said that he couldn't get him to answer the door. Pulling on a coat, hat, gloves and boots and grabbing a torch I locked up and followed him out into the night. Well, I couldn't leave him there to freeze could I?

The neighbour was at home so leaving him to get straw (for grip on the icy road) and other handy bits and bobs I went to look at the car with the PI. I wasn't feeling hopeful about the whole thing. Unless he had a four wheel drive there was little hope we could get him up the icy track.

It's about a five minute walk to the car park. The air was biting at any exposed skin and I wondered how he wasn't shivering convulsively. I asked his name. Asked again. 'Roy' he finally answered. Then I asked him what he was doing up here. I mean he wasn't dressed for a walk or for fishing which are the two main reasons people come here. 'Where had he come from' I added.

'From Rhyl. I came down at about five o'clock'. I was dumbfounded. I've always wondered if people can be dumbfounded and now I can tell you with conviction that they can. This shrimp of a man had come down a track covered in several inches of snow, snow that was compacted to a lethal icy sheen on the road. Even coming down in daytime would have been risky but to come down as it was getting dark and the frost was setting in was ridiculous. 'Did he have a towbar' I asked. He didn't know. 'What about a snow shovel. Better shoes. Gloves?' Frankly, anything that would be sensible to have with him if he was going to risk a road like that. Unapologetically he said no. He seemed to feel no sense of responsibility for getting himself into the situation he was in. As a result, I was feeling very little sympathy, and what little I did have was chilling with every whispered word he uttered.

I mean. No-one in a four wheel drive would have tried that road at 5pm on a freezing night. Certainly not on their own. Would you drive down a forest track thick with snow and ice, with no certainty that anybody lived there (you are unlikely to find houses down these roads)? Nobody would. I do live here and I wouldn't drive down it in that state and I get a lot of practice driving on snow and ice.

Getting crosser and crosser with him by the minute I stop talking to him and in silence we reach his car. It had slid off the road into a ditch in his efforts to get it out of the car park and nobody in their right mind would think that it could be pushed off the sloping ditch without the help of a towrope (which he didn't have) and another vehicle. Why didn't he just say that? Why make me (and my neighbour who was following us down) walk down there to view the car with him?

I thought longingly of my fire, the jigsaw, my Sunday evening and shivered under the starlight. Curtly I said to him 'we can't push this out of the ditch with just three of us and even if we could, we'd never get you up the hill'. I wished I could be kinder about it but he seemed to expect me to work miracles for him as a matter of course and it made me angry. Anyway, I knew what I was talking about after the efforts of the afternoon when the snow was softer and not hardened by the frost. He was going nowhere until morning. This left another dilemma. What to do with him.

My neighbour and I decided to take him back to his house. I had already decided he wasn't coming anywhere near mine. I would go back to mine and see if I could find anyone prepared to come down and pull him out. It was a fruitless effort. Not even a tractor was going to risk getting stuck. I headed back over to my neighbour's house to break the news to them.

The shrimp was sitting in a chair by the gas fire. He wasn't speaking or even getting involved in the conversation about how to rescue him. I wanted to hit him. There we were, doing our best to help and he couldn't have been less interested. Even when we asked him what he wanted to do, he would just shrug. He obviously felt it was our responsibility to rescue him.

Vexed beyond belief by this stage I said the only thing possible was that he walked to the top of the road to meet a taxi we could book for him. They could take him to a pub and he could sort out his own rescue in the morning. No comment on this plan from the PI. Exasperated, I then said that another option was that he could try the RAC. Was he a member? 'Yes' came the answer but not with any enthusiasm for actually ringing them. I wasn't hopeful they could help anyway. How would they get down the hill, and back up it again anyway? We'd end up with more stuck people. My neighbour said he was welcome to stay the night with him if he wanted to - an offer above and beyond the call of duty. Not a word of thanks for that offer. Just a shrug of the shoulders.

Normally, I would have offered to walk anyone in that situation up to the road to make sure they got to the top safely, but I was sick of him. Having curtly pointed out that he couldn't expect anyone to risk their vehicle coming down a road he had no business coming down himself, or words to that effect, I left him with my neighbour and returned to my jigsaw.

A couple of days later I saw my neighbour who said that the drip had got a taxi and disappeared into the night without a word of thanks.

The whole thing was extraordinary in the extreme. It seems like a dream now, or perhaps a film seen a long time ago and not quite remembered. The tap, tap, tap at the window. The silent, translucent man in his city clothes, the frozen night and the icy lake. Everything else aside it gives me a greater appreciation of The Good Samaritan. I felt extremely uncharitable and resentful about the whole thing and by the end was set against being helpful.

It does go to show though. If the PI had been friendly and appreciative, I would have felt totally differently about the whole thing. You get what you give seems to be the lesson in all this.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Sobbing with rage

I met with the builder one evening last week. I had some queries about the bill for the work he had done and wanted to run through them before I paid him. He gave me 20minutes notice that he was coming round so I scarcely had time to find my paperwork before he was there.

My queries were simple. 'Why is the bill nearly double the estimate'. I had done my maths and my homework. I knew exactly what I had asked for as extras and I figured it would be a 20% increase on the original quote. You can imagine my horror when it was more like 70%.

I had tried to bring this up before but to no avail. My builder does not like to talk about money. Not at all. He likes to be given money without complaint. End of story.

Now, essentially, the builders did a good job, and at a good price. Even the inflated price was still a good price. But I resent being told something will cost X and then, once the work is completed, being told that actually is was Y + a few zeros.... I think that an estimate should be accurate within about 20%. I'm naive like that it seems.

Not a fan of paperwork, the invoice was a simple one sided page. On it was the original cost plus the extras which were lumped into two categories. Plastering and Joinery. I had already asked how the plastering had trebled in price when we had not done triple the amount of work. The builder produced his time sheet for 'time spent plastering'. Just one glance and I knew it wasn't accurate but what was I to do? he is the only builder for miles, also a neighbour, and I couldn't call him a liar to his face (quite happy to do so here though). I showed him the spreadsheet I had done which showed what was allowed for and what was extra. He went red and he went on the attack.

'Nobody else would have done this work for the price we did it' he spluttered.
'That's not the point' I replied 'you estimated for the work at the price you chose and that's why I went with you, not someone else'.
There was more spluttering and more along the same lines of what a bargain they were, how hard they worked, and that the cost is what it was. All this underlined with a sort of accusatory note that I was to blame for this and shouldn't be questioning him.

The thing is that in my line of work I run a lot of building jobs and I have never had this problem before. Then again I haven't had to deal with welsh builders before either.

The builder's son, who was there too, tried to calm him down and let me speak my piece, but to no avail. 'I've got men to pay, mortgage payments, children to feed' were all thrown into the mix. I felt myself flushing under the onslaught. I knew I was being steamrollered. I also knew that if I were a man I would not be in this position. If I were a man, or had rented a man for the evening, he would have a sane conversation about it and we would come to a compromise. I know this because other couples I know have used him and that is what has happened. 'He's very reasonable' the husbands say. Not this night he wasn't. My builder hates dealing with women and I was suffering because of it. I simply couldn't get him to listen.

To my intense rage and humiliation I felt my eyes well up and my throat tighten. These were tears of frustration and rage and though I could stop them welling over it was going to be obvious that they were there. I was fulfilling all his stereotypes and I was also being bullied into paying a bill that I didn't fully understand.

Several days later I am still bitter about it. I feel I have somehow failed myself. It is not the money (though now my emergency 'rainy day' savings have been horribly depleted which I hadn't wanted). It is the failure to communicate. That night, I felt that being single was not a good thing. I felt lonely.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Anyone for Marmalade?

So, like a good bear, come the end of January I wriggled my nose, curled my toes and then stretched languourously before deciding it might be time to get up. This was such an exhausting decision that I had to go back to bed to ponder it more thoroughly.

Of course I did also have to get out of bed in order to do some work, eat a great deal of food, very little of which was my five a day rations, and to watch rubbish on television.

By last weekend I emerged tousle headed and determined to stay awake for the whole weekend. As I had someone staying it seemed like a good hostess type thing to do. Be awake. It is now some months since I have had a free weekend so I was rather grumpy about the whole thing, particularly since my guest is renowned for waking very early. No lazy mornings for me then.

It was therefore ironic that when I dragged myself from my bed at 8.30 on Sunday morning there was not a peep to be heard from the spare bedroom. Admittedly vast quantities of wine had been shipped the night before, and I had some left a very tantalising quantity of books by the bed for midnight and dawn reading material but still... I cleared up from the night before, and laid breakfast. The Loyal Hound and I went for a long walk. We read the remnants of the Saturday paper. We tried not to feel bitter about the fact that we could have still been asleep. Then, like a vision on the road to Damascus, my eye fell upon a plastic bag that one of the supper guests from the night before had brought me. Marmalade oranges. Aaaha. My mission was clear. I must use this time to make marmalade.

I would generally consider myself to be an accomplished cook. I will try most things and have recently merrily made puff pastry, cooked fillet steak for 17 and made a tart that would have been put in pride of place in the window of Patisserie Valerie. How tricky could marmalade possibly be?

Four days later, as I clean up the last of the chaos that one batch of marmalade caused I realise the error of my ways. Making Marmalade it seems, is like travelling to the arctic. You should not set about it unprepared.

Several hours (well, it felt like hours) of squeezing, chopping and weighing later I had the contents in a pan simmering away. The kitchen was a sticky mess of juice, escaped pips and fruit pulp. At this moment my houseguest emerged from her room. Turned out she had woken at four and picked up one of the books I had left for her. unable to put it down she had read it until she finished it then collapsed in a state of exhaustion and slept until 10.30... Sorry. I digress.

So, lucky her comes down for breakfast to find me covered in bits of orange, the kitchen covered in bits of orange and the marmalade simmering on the stove. No sign of any breakfast for her or anything like that. She took it well.

We decided a walk was the way forwards so I put the pan in the oven to carry on doing it's thing and off we went. Upon our return I found that the muslin bag of pulp and pips had gently floated to the top of the pan, like a corpse in a crime drama, and had then scorched itself. MMm. Nice added flavour. I carried on regardless.

My guest, who had a long journey ahead of her and was probably afraid of becoming covered in marmalade, left after an early lunch and I decided to finish making said marmalade. At this point I discover that I didn't have quite as much sugar as I had assumed. What I had was thrown in, along with the coffee sugar that was welded to the bottom of the pot. The marmalade came to the boil and I dumped in the thermometer. Glancing at it, it did seem strange that it was already at a temperature that was nearing the top of the marker. Naturally I did not investigate any further for a good few minutes at which point I discover that the bulb on the thermometer had smashed.

The question is, did it smash in the marmalade, or in the drawer??? What the hell. It was probably in the drawer and as it wasn't a mercury thermometer I was unlikely to have poisoned the batch too badly.

At this point I start hunting for jars to discover that I have been ruthlessly throwing empty jars away and have scarcely any left. A quick sweep around the kitchen turned up a few 'nearly empties' which were ruthlessly scraped clean and washed. It was then time to decant the wretched stuff.

Using a handy plastic jug I then proceeded to spread marmalade all over the kitchen. It dripped on the oven, it slimed down the side of the boiler. It splatted on the floor where I promptly trod on it and spread it all over the kitchen. As I discovered later that day it also dripped on the chair, where I then proceeded to sit on it. Very little of it seemed to actually make it into the jars.

The end result was chaos. The marmalade that made it into the pots looks good but I am too nervous to try it in case I get a bit of glass bulb or thermometer liquid flavour. Then there is the nice undertone of schorched muslin to watch out for. It looks good. But as we know, looks aren't everything. See, here it is:

It wasn't worth it. I'm sticking to jams, jellies and puff pastry as the easier option. Shop marmalade will be just fine thank you. It's not worth risking life and limb for this. The only question left is this: Who wants a pot of marmalade? I have several looking for good homes......

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Struggling to start the New Year

I am really struggling to get into the swing of the new year. I can't seem to get my head around the fact that it is January and I need to be all proactive and filled with New Year's resolutions. Instead I seem to be struggling to get up in the morning, let alone earn a living, clean the house, brush my hair and do all those other things that we should tackle with savoir faire and enthusiasm. Is it just me?

I normally like January. I like getting Christmas out of the way and having a clean slate that I can scribble all over indecisively.

I blame the snow. It has given me a strange extended holiday from the world and now I can't seem to reconnect. Instead my urge to hibernate has emerged and is constantly snarling at me that I should be eating fattening things and sleeping through the bad weather. As a result of this I am barely distinguishable from this:

So to all those wannabe hibernators out there. You are not alone.

Monday, 11 January 2010

In, Out, In, Out - shake it all about.

I made it out, I made it back in again. Now I am sitting watching the snow fall and plotting how I pack for three days of work meetings in just one small bag that I can carry, whilst wearing suitable clothes that I can walk out in this afternoon. Not only do I need clothes but also work stuff. I may have to do two trips to the car which is a real bore. I think that minimal changes are the way forwards and I shall have to risk smelling by the time Thursday comes around...

It is bloody snowing AGAIN. Another two inches overnight and more as I watch. It is also drifting which will make the road over the hill fun to traverse. If one more person tells me 'it is thawing now' I shall come down off my mountain like an enraged yeti and stuff snow in their mouth until they eat their words....

Friday, 8 January 2010

Wolf at the door (well, panther apparently...)

Three friends took great pleasure in ringing me yesterday to tell me that the local paper has headlined the fact that PANTHER TRACKS were seen in the snow just 1/4 a mile away from my house.... Oh joy. Not only do I have snow to deal with and icicles taller than me that plunge off the house at intermittent points, but now there is supposedly a 'third generation big cat' roaming the woods around my house. Could life become trickier? Will the chewed bones of the loyal hound and I be discovered in the spring?

Luckily I got online and read the article where in very small print at the end of it Chester Zoo suggested that rather than a panther, the tracks could be that of an otter. Normally this would comfort me but having seen where the tracks where I'm not convinced that anything other than a cat could have walked there. The tracks were on the top of the fall side of the dam which is some 80 feet high and a gradient that makes me feel sick looking over it. I guess they must be otters who don't suffer from vertigo.... Please let them be otters.

So, now I am walking out and about in my strimmer glasses and wielding the carving knife in case of a surprise otter / panther attack. It makes going outside more interesting I suppose.

I made a break for freedom yesterday. The Loyal Hound and I walked the half mile or so through the snow and were picked up by a friend with a 4 x 4 and we went to the nearest town. The excitement. The bright lights, the people! It was almost too much for me. We went to the supermarket and I chose all my shopping on a weight basis as I would have to carry it back. So, I now have mushrooms, spinach and maltesers to see me through the next couple of days and to give some variety to the diet of porridge. Exciting n'est pas?

My neighbour fought his way back home yesterday as well. He had been out the day of the blizzard and hadn't managed to make it back until now. We walked through the woods together. Me laden with groceries and him towing a gas bottle and a sack of pony food for the horses. He then very kindly shovelled a path through the snow to my gate which I had not got round to yet (I was going with the wading through the stuff idea). There is so much snow I can't actually open the gate but now I do have a path to it so it is all progress. I have dug myself a path around the house and to the woodshed so it feels positively civilized here now as I can go out in just boots if I stick to the paths. It's all progress.

My next task is to come up with some kind of a plan for the weekend. I am supposed to be going away to stay with friends and feel it would be rather wimpish to cancel because of the snow. But, I am not keen on the idea of lugging a suitcase off the hill. I wonder if I should try a 'wear all my clothes at once' number and walk them off, then hope that I can get my car started once I get to it. If I leave in the daylight this shouldn't be too bad. I mean I'll look madder than usual wearing my party clothes with my rubber trousers but that can't be helped. It's either that or I spend the next few hours making a rucksack out of curtains and coal sacks. Suggestions on a postcard please...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Mad woman on a mountain

I know, it's been a long time since I was here. I didn't die or anything. Life just escaped me for a while. Builders, Christmas, a crushed finger, snow. The usual excuses. Now I am marooned and there are no excuses not to return. There is a possibility that overnight the hovel, loyal hound and I were whisked off to Switzerland. The only reason I know this isn't the case is that there is no chair lift or gluwhein in sight. Instead there is snow. nothing but snow. So much snow that I have had to shovel a path to my woodshed. You want to see a picture? ok - here's one for you...

I should point out that I took this photo before it started snowing yesterday, when another 7" fell.....

I know that many are excited about the snow but I am on my third week of being snowed in and am thoroughly bored now. I had to evacuate the week before Christmas and ended up spending a fortnight over Christmas with my parents and family. It was about 12 days too long in my book. Carless, and with a house only 7 miles away that I couldn't get to, I was rapidly entering a state of madness. Chutney Mary and the nephews were not too bad but the Box of Frogs had brought her new man home for Christmas and they were lucky to escape with their lives as I was ready to commit foul and dastardly Midsummer Moider style acts after day 2. By day 9 I could barely look either of them in the eye without snarling. Friendly aren't I?

On Sunday I made it home in a combination of four wheel drive vehicles, toboggans and foot slogging and the relief at being back in my own house delicious.

So what happened whilst I was away from cyberspace? The crushed finger was an exciting interlude. I'll set the scene. The builders had finished and after spending three weeks stripping woodchip off the walls and then two weeks painting I was nearly finished. All that was needed was a bit more painting and the carpets to be delivered and laid.

The carpet arrived in a 25 metre x 4 metre roll. Unfortunately the carpet layers didn't arrive. The delivery man was determined to lift nothing more than a piece of paper so my batty neighbour, his ex girlfriend and the postman were roped in. We hauled the carpet onto a ladder and struggled to pull it out of the van into the barn. As the ladder came off the van, the weight kicked in. Everybody apart from me dropped the ladder and my finger was left, trapped between it and the floor. Much cursing and swearing ensued. Then pain. a lot of pain. This being me, I didn't go to the doctor on the basis of 'what would he do anyway?'. By Thursday I gave up and went to see him. He promptly said 'Aaaah yes. You have crushed the bones in your fingertip and the nail needs to come out. Come back tomorrow'. Clutching my arm to my chest I went off and licked my wounds for 24 hours. When I returned he injected my finger with local anaesthetic and then, WITHOUT WAITING FOR IT TO WORK he pulled my finger nail out with a pair of pliers. The Spanish Inquisition had nothing on this man.

Cue shrieks of pain from me and gasps of horror from the nurse who had me pinned to the table. The doctor gave me a scathing look and said 'pull yourself together'. I resisted punching him with my good hand and then shrieked some more as he re crushed all the bones in the finger. ('just checking to see if they are broken - they are!') I'm never going to a doctor again.

Two weeks later the finger felt better but I had torn all the muscles in my shoulder from holding the finger up to my chest (as instructed by the doctor). Why not give me a sling? Apparently this was not worth doing. It would be much better to make me spend over a hundred much needed pounds at the physiotherapist thank you.

This incident put another delay on my life. No painting, no typing and no sleep as the finger / shoulder worked hard to keep me awake. This was a little bit gutting. Having lived on a building site for six weeks all I had been looking forward to was the nice bit at the end when I put the furniture back, cleaned like a lunatic and painted. Instead everything had to be done one handed and at a snail's pace. I could have wept (actually, at one point, I did). This really was a time when I was Single and only just surviving. I longed to have someone else here who could help.

I am now entering a state of cabin fever and rely on all of you to keep me in touch with the world. There are people out there aren't there???? I am living on porridge and cigarettes and am running low on both so tomorrow I will fight through 3/4 mile of snow and see if I can find someone with a four wheel drive to give me a lift to the shops and back. The road over the mountain is not for the faint of heart. The drifts are 8' high the road has been reduced from a wide two lane tarmac ribbon to a single lane of icy slush between the drifts.

I have already brought in two wheelbarrows of logs and dug the loyal hound out of a drift that he misjudged. The reservoir is frozen over and snowed on and looks beautiful. In some ways it is a good thing there is nobody up here at the moment. I must look like a madwoman. When it is snowing hard my stylish outdoor wear consists of a pair of boots with rubber trousers over them to stop the snow filling my wellingtons (actually I have to wear that delightful part of the ensemble all the time now as the snow is too deep to walk in without the trousers). Top half? Coat, gloves, russian style hat with ear flaps and yesterday I was reduced to wearing my strimmer glasses as I couldn't look up into the snow without them. I am the mad woman on the mountain.....

internet stats
Rent DVD Movies