Thursday, 29 January 2015

Trousers

Many of our regular customers in the shop wear what is loosely termed "Country Attire."  This may consist of a filthy pair of John Deere overalls, or ancient Wellington boots over waterproof trousers, or rigger boots and moleskins.  A lot of them wear shooting breeches, as they are involved with one of the local shoots.  Many customers are keepers, or beaters, or even guns on the shoots, so it makes sense.

Last weekend I was at work, serving a very elegant lady.  She was in raptures over the local honey, and the fact that we sell part-baked baguettes.  As I packed her stuff and took her money we chatted about this and that.  Whilst this was happening, one of the regular customers came in, and I handed him his newspaper from beneath the counter.  He smiled and said thank you and walked away.

I apologised to the lady for having interrupted our conversation, but realised she was staring in wide-eyed amazement at the departing customer, who was walking back to his car.

"Are you alright?" I asked her.

"I'm fine," she said, then she laughed.  "Did you see his TROUSERS?"

I glanced out of the window at the chap, who was sporting a fine pair of tweed breeks, which probably cost a fortune.

"Um.  Yes." I looked at her, she was still laughing.

"I didn't think anyone actually wore clothes like that!"  She was genuinely amused.

I asked her where she was from.

London.

Mmmmhmmmm.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Communicado

Ah, technology.

Once more I am able to converse on the telephone. Once more, I can surf the myriad wonderful shores of the Internet. Once more I can dick about on Facebook.  Once more, we discover that life is not like Star Trek.

Last Saturday, about teatime, I was sitting on the comfy sofa, dealing with some mindless nonsense on my iPad, eBay, possibly, when the gloomy message "You are not connected to the Internet" popped up in the middle of my screen.  I tried refreshing the screen.

Nope.

I went into Settings and tried to reconnect to the relevant WiFi thingy.

Nope.

I turned it off and on again.   The last resort.

Nope.  Well, bollocks.

On further investigation (going upstairs and glaring at the blue lights on the BT Homehub box) it was clear that my Internet connection was broken.  Mr WithaY emerged from his study, blinking in the light, and asked if there was a problem with the phone, as his Internet wasn't working.  A second investigation revealed that the OTHER BT Homehub box (yes, yes, yes, we have two, long story, probably going to get rid of one this year) wasn't working either.

The handset on the phone in the hall displayed the message "Check Line Cord" which we know from experience means Serious Issues With The Phone.  As we live in the Village Of No Mobile Reception, we couldn't ring BT to let them know, so left it till the next day, hoping that the phone line might have magically sorted itself out overnight.

I went to work on Sunday morning, and was not particularly surprised when a neighbour from further up the road called in to ask if our phone worked.  The shop phone did, but I told him our home phone was out of order.

"So's ours! And all the neighbours' on either side! AND the phone box!" he told me.  He'd already been on the (mobile) phone to BT to report the fault, which meant finding a spot at the top of the hill by the church where there's intermittent reception, and then spending almost £10 on his emergency pay as you go mobile whilst BT kept him on hold. He wasn't happy.

One of the more endearing quirks of reporting a fault to BT is their insistence that you listen to their instructions about resolving faults at your end.  They ought to call it It's All Your Faults.  They insist that you check that your phone isn't unplugged, or the dog hasn't eaten your WiFi box, or the house hasn't burned down while you weren't concentrating, and only then will they agree to send out an engineer.  Even then, you have to agree to pay a huge fee (almost £200!) if they find that it's Your Fault.

Anyhoo, the fault had been raised with BT, so I rang them as well, told them that our phones were also affected, and agreed to hand over a huge sack of cash if it turned out not to be their problem.  On leaving work, I spotted a BT engineer doing something at the base of the telephone pole on the corner. I wandered over to see.

Me:  Hello.  Have you come to fix all our phones?

Engineer:  Hello.  Yes.

Me:  So what's the problem?

Engineer:  Well.  Look.

The engineer gestured at the thick black cable that runs up the length of the phone pole.  It had been neatly cut in half about a foot from the ground.  A myriad of small wires poked out of the two severed ends.

Me:  Ah.

Engineer: (wearily) Yep, this is me for the next couple of hours.

He declined the offer of a cup of tea, so I left him to it.  By the time it was dark, his van had gone, and so had he, and the broken cable was all patched back up.  However, the phones still weren't working.

I went to work on Monday morning.  To my non-astonishment, a neighbour came in to ask if our phone worked.  I told her it did, and asked if her's was out of order.

"Not exactly," she told me.  "My number is now in Jean's house.  And Jean's number is ringing in my house."

Ah.

As more people came into the shop, it became clear that a terrible, terrible thing had happened to our phones.  We all had each others' numbers, but nobody knew who had which, or where they were calling.  I tried calling both our numbers from the shop phone but they just rang endlessly so I gave up.

Once again, BT were called.  Once again I had to agree to give them all my money if the fault was mine.  I explained that at least 12 houses were affected, and that it was most likely that the problem rested with the massive severed cable that had been sellotaped back together inaccurately.

Early on Monday morning, a BT engineer appeared at my house.  I explained the situation at length.

Me:  BT have run line tests and said my phone is fine, but look - there's no dial tone."  My voice might have gone a bit squeaky as I waved the dead handset about.

Engineer:  (backing away slightly) Ok...so...your phone is dead.  And yet we have a good line signal.  (He looked at his electronic handset thingy, then back at my dead phone.)

Me:  YES.  My phone number works, just not in my house!

Engineer: Ok.  I'll get on with this then.  (More fiddling with his tricorder) Ah, your phone is ringing at a Mr Sanders' house.  Do you know him?

Me: (coldly) No.

(He went back out to his van, possibly to have an aspirin.)

An hour or so later, both our phones were working, and we had Internet access once more.  Hurrah.  The engineer stood on the doorstep chatting cheerfully as we said our goodbyes.

Me: And will you be going to all the other houses now to sort them out too?

Engineer:  Um.  What other houses?

I told him about all the neighbours' phone issues, and the phone box.  He was appalled.

Engineer:  I only have two call-outs for today, and neither of them are in this village!

Me:  Well, there are at least a dozen houses with this problem.  And the phone box.

Engineer:  So why haven't they reported them?

Me: No phones! No Internet!  No mobile reception!

When I went to work that afternoon, there was a huge BT cherrypicker truck with a bloke deedily reattaching wires at the top of the phone pole.  It was there quite a while.

In other news, I am now working full-time in the village shop.  I really like it.  There's a shift pattern which suits me well, as you do four days on, two days off, so your days off vary from week to week, and even on the days you work you either have a morning or an afternoon to yourself.

The first couple of late shifts I did were nerve-racking, as you have to lock everything and set alarms and so on, but once I got the hang of it, it was fine.  It's sociable and friendly, and apart from my feet hurting at the end of a shift - there's nowhere to sit for most of the time - I like it very much.  I daresay my feet will adapt.

A customer came in the other day, bought a few bits and pieces, and then gave me a handful of change to pay for it.  As he dropped the money into my hand I realised it was sticky. Very, very sticky.

Me:  Ewww! What's all over this money? Why is it so sticky?

Customer: (who was very, very Welsh)  Oh, sorry love,  That's just orange juice.

Me:  Really.

Customer:  Yeah. Had a bit of an accident in my cab, see.  Sorry about that.

Me:  Orange juice.  Hmmm.

Customer:  Yeah, it is, honest.  Go on! Smell it!

Pleuk.







Thursday, 8 January 2015

Glorious victory. And inglorious ailments.

Hello, happy 2015 etcetera etcetera etcetera.  To be fair, I have very little clue what day it is, never mind what year.  This is down to the usual Christmas/New Year bewilderment that happens every year, but also because this year, for a change, we all got really ill over the holidays.

I don't know why I refer to them as "the holidays," given that Mr WithaY and I no longer work a standard Monday to Friday pattern.  Every day we're not working could be described as a "holiday."

Anyhoo. We had all kinds of plans for Christmas, all sorts of parties and events we were planning on going to, or hosting.  Day trips, even.

Mr WithaY and I went to the Bath Christmas market, where we bought gee-gaws and trinkets and trumpery*.  These included:


  • A wooden trivet made of slices of wood all set in some sort of resin, which looks like an arty photograph.  I love it.  
  • Some beautifully soft grey and blue lambswool fingerless mittens which I wear almost constantly outside, 
  • A stained glass Christmas tree decoration from a very young, very silent, Belarusian nun.  
  • A wreath made from dried apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks and (I think) Scotch Bonnet chillies, which now hangs in the front porch.  
We shopped for food, we made sure there was Champagne for Christmas Day, we moved furniture to ensure the tree would fit in the sitting room.  The decorations went up, the house looked festive, we were ready.

Things started well with several members of the extended family arriving for the weekend before Christmas, much jollity and dog-walking, and a tremendous curry where we all sat at a great big long table and ate a vast selection of lovely food.  The remainder of the family arrived the next day and there was more hilarity, dog-walking, exchanging of gifts and a buffet.  We do like a buffet in our family.  Mostly because you can have three slices of ham if you want to, AND a sausage roll AND some celery AND a bit of cheese.

The majority of the family went to their respective homes again, leaving just Mr WithaY and I, and my lovely Mum here for the Christmas period.  The first few days were perfect. We went out a bit, drank lots of tea, ate lots of delicious home-made food, watched some Christmas TV, and looked forward to the Big Day.  I went to work on Christmas Eve, Mr WithaY and Mum stayed in and watched a DVD together.

By the time I finished work at 6pm, I was feeling very odd.  Dizzy. Hot and cold.  Headachy.  I got home, and the others were feeling much the same.  And that, dear readers, was that.  We all went down with the flu as if felled by hammers, and for the next three or four days hardly moved.

Mr WithaY and I, whilst feeling dreadful, were able to eat a little, and even make cups of tea and so on, but poor Mum just got worse and worse, to the point where she ended up staying with us for an extra week, and was then only taken home on New Years Day to go straight into hospital. Thankfully, after a week of top-notch care, she has returned home and seems to be much better. but it was a horrible time for all of us.

Mr WithaY and I have both been left with horrible racking coughs, and intermittent high temperatures, but we are both much better than we were.  I have no energy, and even walking the dog around the village, or pushing a shopping trolley round the supermarket leaves me shaking and exhausted, but hopefully in a few days that will pass too.

The good news is that I have lost a stone, for the first time ever over Christmas, and am definitely less podgy than I was.  A few days of eating normally will probably put paid to that, but it's nice to begin a New Year feeling like I am already on the right track.

 Other news:  Prior to the Great Flu Outbreak, I was the proud winner of this:



The Stonehenge volunteers had their Christmas party, and held a Great British Bake-Off competition, where people were invited to submit cakes for JUDGEMENT.


I made this, a coffee cake with home-made apricot jam in the middle, and butterscotch chocolate ganache icing. Mr WithaY added the Neolithic deer drawing:


And it won!  I assumed, when Mr WithaY came into the pub to tell me (I was at the work Christmas meal, so wasn't at the Stonehenge event, clashing dates, sadly) that there had only been one or two entries, and we'd all won a cup.

Oh, but no.  No.

There were apparently about 30 entries, and the judges did it all very seriously, tasting everything and making their decision very carefully.

AND I WON!

Hurrah!  Here's the glorious cup in situ, dominating the room:



I am hoping I get to keep it forever, rather than having to return it next year.   That reminds me, I must add it to our insurance.

So.  The flu.  A quiet and very worrying Christmas.  A lingering annoying cough.  No other news.

Here's a lovely picture of the dog that my Middle Sis took on one of our family walks.  I really, really like it.  It shows you exactly what a friendly, sweet-natured girl she is.  And the dog is nice too.



Here's to a good New Year, and that nobody gets the flu again.


Oh, and once again there was no Dinotopia on TV.  Outrageous.









*you have to talk like that in Bath. It's the LAW.



Friday, 21 November 2014

Tidy

I've been having a bit of a clear-out this week, partly in despair at the enormous tottering mountains of magazines, paperwork and books in every corner of the house, but mostly in a desperate effort to make the annual pre-Christmas house-cleaning less arduous in a few weeks.

It started more or less by accident yesterday, when I was sorting out laundry. I ought to draw a critical path analysis diagram to illustrate the path of progress I took.

Step 1:  Sort out a load of laundry and put it in the washing machine.  Decide to tidy up my Heap of Shame in the corner.

Step 2:  Pick up assorted items of clothing on the floor, sort through and either hang up or place in laundry basket.  Stand back and admire empty spot where Heap of Shame previously lived.  Decide to hoover the bedroom.

Step 3:  Fetch hoover, realise that Mr WithaY's Heap of Shame threatens to overwhelm his half of the bedroom.  Suggest* he sorts it out.

Step 4:  Decide to clean window frames of black filth and mould while he sorts out the Heap.   Fetch cleaning wipes from the bathroom.  Clean bathroom sink, bath and shower with cleaning wipes, as they're all a bit grubby now you look at them.

Step 5:  Return to bedroom.  Clean all black filth from window frames.  Decide to dust window ledges, as they are grey and fluffy rather than white and shiny.

Step 6:  Fetch duster from study.  Find furniture polish cleaning wipes in box with duster.  Realise desk is very grubby.  Clean with furniture polish wipes.  Move dressmakers form out of study onto landing to be put back in the loft later.

Step 7:  Mr WithaY, taking a break from sorting his Heap, scrambles up into the loft to put the dressmakers form away.  Both stand back and admire the empty spot in the study where it used to be.

Step 8:    Return to bedroom.  Dust window ledges.  Realise every other flat surface in the bedroom is also grey and fluffy. Dust everything else.  Raise huge clouds of dust.  Re-dust window ledges as a result.  Finally, with Mr WithaY's Heap of Shame cleared, hoover the bedroom floor.

Step 9:  Hoover the landing, study, spare bedroom (in a cursory manner, then shut the door on it), and finally the bathroom.  Oh, and then the top half of the stairs.

As you see, this endless displacement activity type of cleaning goes on in an indefinite loop, until you run out of cleaning wipes or the hoover needs emptying.  In this example, it ended with Mr WithaY making us a cup of tea, thus cunningly breaking the cycle.

This morning I was planning to get all the ironing done. My ironing routine is simple, but effective.  I put the TV in the bedroom on, find something fairly unchallenging to watch (Frasier, Star Trek, Big Bang Theory, as examples) and then stand there for an hour or two, turning a basket full of scrumpled tatty-looking rags into several neat piles of pressed folded clothes.  It's deeply satisfying, in a low-grade way.

I was thwarted by the weather.  (First world problems klaxon here.)

The satellite link to the upstairs TV is badly affected by the weather. If it rains, even a little bit, the signal breaks up and the programme becomes unwatchable.  Clearly, I cannot be expected to iron without the amusing exploits of American actors to keep me occupied, so I have to put the iron back down with an exasperated sigh, and go and do something else.  And here we are.

One thing I could do is go and sort out Mr WithaY's dressing table.  I was browsing through a gift catalogue which arrived with a weekend newspaper, trying to find something that wasn't related to golf or coffee** and I spotted a Gentleman's Tidy.  Something like this, but made in faux leather rather than wood.

I seriously considered ordering it as a Christmas present, and then I thought a bit harder about what tends to occupy Mr WithaY's dressing table.

Among the usual litter of aftershave bottles, toiletries, cufflink boxes and a clothes brush, yesterday there were:

Several pairs of clean pants, neatly folded and waiting to be put away in a drawer
A plastic fork
A huge heap of old receipts and scraps of paper, none of them necessary for tax purposes
A coin sorter (almost empty)
Several coins
String
Cord (not the same as string)
A book about neolithic cooking
Hazelnuts, foraged and then forgotten about, in the manner of an absent-minded squirrel

I don't think there is a Gentleman's Tidy in existence which is designed to cope with that little lot.

Back to the drawing board.

Also, how do they sort out their laundry on Star Trek, eh?  I've seen evidence of a bar, a barber and beauty parlour, several places to eat, even showers, but never any laundry facilities.  I like to imagine that deep in the bowels of the Starship Enterprise is a dry-cleaners, manned by a grouchy Ferengi.








*Shout down stairs "Can you please come and move all your clothes, it's a pigsty up here."

**Slim pickings, I can tell you.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Style matters

Today I am pondering the nature of Time.

This is mostly in the context of a party we are heading off to in a bit, up there in Cheltenham.  Coo er gosh posh eh?  A dear friend is having a Significant Birthday this week, and we have been invited along to help him celebrate.  When the invitation arrived, I looked at the clever vintage-stylee design, and the large, highly visible Date of Birth thereon.

Me:  "I can't believe he's 50!  Already!  it only seems a couple of years since we all went to his 40th birthday!  Remember that evening?  That Chinese restaurant in Gloucester?  What a laugh."

Mr WithaY:  Read the date again.

Me:  1954.

Mr WithaY:  And 2014 minus 1954 is....?

Me:  (uncertainly, what with my terrible Maths Blindness affliction)  Um...50?

Mr WithaY:  No.  60.  He's 60.  It's TWENTY YEARS since we went to his 40th birthday.

Me:  But I still have the handbag I took to that party!

So, we are off to a birthday party for a friend who is, incredibly, 60 .  The lithe bugger started long-distance running a year or two ago and is fitter and healthier than he has been in all the time I've known him.  He posts photos on Facebook of him running 10k races, and 25k races, and wearing medals from races, and he looks less knackered than I do after I've hoovered the stairs.

This morning, Mr WithaY has been preparing himself for the event.  He's been rummaging in his wardrobe, selecting garments, then rejecting them, then picking them up again to see the effect with a different waistcoat.  He has, and I am not joking, just been in a quandary as to which pocket watch he ought to wear.
I suggested he forgo the pocket watch, and wear a wristwatch like any sane human, but apparently if you wear a waistcoat, you have to wear a watch chain, and if you wear a watch chain, you have to wear a pocket watch. Well duh.

Mr WithaY has two modes for clothes. He has Work Mode, which involves multiple layers of fleece, Goretex, moleskin, gaiters and heavy boots, with a complicated belt arrangement which has knives, a firelighting kit and his phone attached to it, and he has Going Out Mode, which involves cravats, waistcoats, 1930s trousers, or possibly overcoats, and the same heavy boots (minus gaiters.)  I'm pretty sure that if I didn't put my foot down, he'd wear a monocle.  Maybe two, as he's short-sighted.

To make matters worse, today he has been having to make additional holes in his belt, as he has lost so much weight due to being a manly outdoor type*, so he's smugly looking forward to showing off his svelte shape in front of our friends later.

Next week we're going shopping to buy him some sensible shoes, as all his shoes look like Ray Mears has been tromping across Africa in them.  I haven't told him yet. I'll pretend we're popping into Salisbury for a mooch round the market and lunch at Wagamama, then drag him to a shoe shop.  Bwahahahahaha.

I'm wearing a new skirt and a pretty top, and some lipstick, in order to fulfil the dress code of "smart casual" which is the most hellish of all dress codes. I can do smart - I have ballgowns, and tiaras and evening gloves and feather boas - and I can do casual - look, I am doing that right now - but Smart Casual is a nasty mixture in the middle.  Will I be too casual?  Will I be overdressed?  Will anyone care?

Thankfully, the answer to that last question is a resounding "no," because these are very old friends who for 20 years only really saw me in a field, dressed as a Seventeenth Century musketeer.  Their expectations are low.

In other news, we have had a bit of a health scare with the dog.  A peculiar lump appeared on one of her paws, just above the dewclaw, so I did what you should never do, and Googled "weird lumps on Labradors."  Immediately, inevitably, I became convinced she had terminal Death Paw Cancer Lumps, so we took her to the vet the next day for a check-up.  The vet took a biopsy and added to the alarm by telling us it could either be a cyst (not too bad) or a tumour (GAAAAH WHAT DID YOU SAY??) but that she wouldn't know till after the results came back.

A stressful few days followed, with us playing telephone tag with the vet, trying to get the results. Things were not helped by them leaving a message saying "It's not massively bad, can you ring us please?"

What the hell does "not massively bad" mean?    We only need to amputate one foot?  She could live at least another six months?  Brrr.

Anyhoo, eventually I spoke to the vet, who told me it was most likely a cyst-type thing as a result of an irritation like a bite or a sting or a thorn, and it should go away by itself in six to eight weeks. We have to take her back for a check up in a fortnight though, just to make sure.

The most encouraging thing was that they didn't find any cancer cells, which is what they were looking for.



Here she is, being all stressed out by the situation.

*And not eating 5 custard doughnuts a day whilst sat on his arse at a desk






Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Holiday report

Hello.

I've been on holiday. Not for the entire time since the last post on here, sadly, but recently enough for me still to want to tell people about it.  Where? Why, to Tenerife, dear reader.  That volcanic island not far off the west coast of Africa, where the sun always* shines, the sea is a crystal blue**, the beaches are pure white*** sand, and there is song**** and laughter in the air.

It's been a difficult year in some ways, this past 12 months. We lost poor old Father in law WithaY, who is still missed, despite his almost unfailing grumpiness.  I had a fairly significant operation in January, from which I have almost completely recovered now, bar a bit of lingering tenderness and some bizarre scars.  Oh, and we've had to do quite a lot of structural/repair stuff to the house, garden and garage which has been as tiresome and complex as these things usually are.

On the plus side, I still have a job I enjoy, we have a rain-proof garage, and a much prettier front garden, and have enjoyed some of the best summer weather ever.  Oh, and we have new neighbours.  That may not sound like a big deal, but our previous neighbours were a bit of a trial at times, and it is something of a relief to know they have moved on.

But Tenerife.  Let me tell you all about it.

We flew from Bristol, a great little airport, where there are enough shops and cafes to make you feel like you are Somewhere Big, but small enough that you can relax a bit and not feel completely threatened by the place.  Unlike Heathrow, the bastard.

The flight is 4 hours, just long enough to start getting uncomfortable in your teeny tiny aeroplane seat, and if you want a drink of water or a cup of tea, you have to buy it.  Bah.  I want a return to the days when you were offered a glass of orange squash from a tray, and a barley-sugar for your ears.

There was a minute or two of disconcerting confusion after landing, trying to find the transport to our hotel, but the friendly and efficient (I sound like a cheap brochure, sorry) Thomson holidays chap pointed us to the taxi minibus that had our name on it, and off we went.  Mr WithaY and I had been toying with the idea of hiring a car while we were on the island, but the short drive to the hotel persuaded us that we were neither brave enough nor affluent enough to risk the almost-certain death/car accident that seemed to lurk around every corner. Every single car we saw while we were there looked as though it had recently competed in a demolition derby.

The hotel we stayed in is called the Europe Villa Cortes, and I heartily recommend it to the house.  It's right on the seafront, and is built in an unusual, low-level rambling Mexican style around a large central courtyard. It looks like this:



Mmmmm.  I spent much of my holiday on a lounger in this very spot, relaxing under a palm tree in the shade, occasionally popping in for a swim.  There is a waterfall in the pool, which I enjoyed standing under (when I felt brave enough, it was an unheated pool.)



I saw, for the first time that I can remember, dates growing on palm trees.  They are beautiful!




I took those pictures from the balcony of our room, rather than from atop another, taller, palm tree.

The hotel is decorated throughout in a Mexican style, but with Spanish touches.  I loved the lights wrapped around the trunks of the trees around the courtyard, the many small bowls of fresh flowers, floating in water in intricate patterns, and even the rubber water lilies in a fountain. It was all so strange, and so foreign, and so very, very pleasant.












The house artist seems to have modelled their style on Beryl Cook's. There were fat naked ladies, fat saints, fat picadors and best of all, fat ponies on almost every wall. And skeletons on the lift doors.

The food was (predictably, by now, I expect) excellent. Here is a breakfast omelette, made to order, and garnished with guacamole, fresh flowers, and a tortilla.  We also had fizzy wine with breakfast.  Such decadence. I felt like I was in an episode of Poirot.



Mr WithaY added extra bacon and tomatoes, because clearly a few fresh flowers are not enough to sustain a man who intends to spend a day snoozing on a sunlounger by the pool.

Apart from waddling contentedly around the hotel, what did we do?

We went here.  Proudly billed as the most spectacular water park in Europe, I have to say, it was jolly good fun.  Mr WithaY went on every single ride. I went on a few, but still far more than I thought I was going to.

We arrived mid-morning, having been involved in a truly alarming bus queue scuffle, which involved two Spanish blokes almost coming to blows, and several women screaming and waving their babies in the air, found a locker, locked away all our stuff (sunblock, hats, sunglasses, bottles of water - you know, all the stuff that keeps you from being burned to a crisp in the boiling sun) because there were signs all over the place making it very clear that if you went on any of the rides in  hat, sunglasses, wearing a watch, carrying a camera etc etc etc you MIGHT BE KILLED.  I may be misremembering a few details, but it was something like that. Anyway, they were most emphatic about not wearing sunglasses.

Siam Park, so called because the King Of Siam visited Tenerife in about 1913.  Etcetera etcetera etcetera.






It's very cleverly landscaped, covering most of the side of a large hill, and is laid out to ensure you hear terrified screaming from almost every single point you visit.






This is the Tower of Power, a 92 feet high slide which shoots you down the front of the temple-like structure above, and through a shark tank, before spitting you out into the pool at the end.  I declined to have a go. Mr WithaY leapt up the many, many stairs with a glad cry, waited at the top for ages, and was then plummeted down again in about 2 seconds.

More to my taste was the Lazy River ride, a long, meandering waterway with a few "rapids", a waterfall, and some bubble jets, that you floated around on a huge rubber tyre thing, splayed out in the sun like a pale, damp starfish.  Perfect.  I went on that five or six times, while Mr WithaY was flinging himself down near-vertical Tubes Of Death.

We had also booked a trip one evening to go to the top of Mount Teide to watch the sunset, have dinner and then do some stargazing, but due to ridiculous admin errors on the part of the holiday company and Mr WithaY and I, that never happened, sadly.

We DID go whale-watching.  We saw many pilot whales, including mothers and babies, which were lovely.  Unfortunately, though, I am (always, ALWAYS, when will I learn) seasick, so the only photos I took were of the early part of the trip as we left the island.  There are no photos of frolicking whales, as I was too busy barfing over the side of the boat, occasionally pausing to say "Oh, they're adorable!" before being plunged back into my world of misery.





What else?  The food was superb. I drank many cocktails. Mr WithaY drank a lot of good sherry. We enjoyed chilling by the pool, walking along the seafront, looking at the blue, blue sky and palm trees, exclaiming at the sheer number of shops selling electronic items and duty-free perfume.  All the usual holiday stuff.

In short, if you are going to Tenerife, I can recommend the hotel.  There's not much to do on the island (not the bit we were in, at least) other than eat, drink and sunbathe, so having a hotel with plenty of top-quality amenities was brilliant.  One the days when it rained like the end of the world (inevitable on a WithaY holiday) we found books in the hotel library, ensconced ourselves in comfy chairs in the piano bar and spent the day looking out at the terrible weather, drinking hot chocolate and reading trashy books I'd never have bought for myself.

 And now it's November, and it gets dark at 4.30pm, and the weather has turned cold.  I'm glad to be back.






*Except when we were there, when 5 people were drowned in flash floods
**Except when we were there, when it crashed relentlessly onto the beach in a white-foamed rage
***Only the ones imported from the Sahara.  The remainder are composed of razor-sharp volcanic rocks
****Flamenco. Or, memorably, Mariachi music.



Thursday, 22 May 2014

Magnums

Hello....hello....anyone there? Yes, sorry. It's been ages, hasn't it? I wish I had a really good reason for not being more frequent with the posting, but the sad truth is that I just seem to have lost the ability to write stuff down. As a result, this might be really dull. If it is, sorry. Again.

I'm mostly fully recovered from my surgery in January, although I went to the doctor a few weeks ago as I was anxious that I was still very tired, and very sore.  She said "When did you have your operation?" I told her, early January.  She said "Well, yes, but don't forget that there's a good six-month recovery period, it's all perfectly normal."

Six months?  But the hospital literature (and the surgeon) told me a six to eight week recovery period, I said.

The doctor explained patiently that the six WEEK recovery period is from the effects of the general anaesthetic and the actual mechanics of the surgery, the six MONTH recovery period is from the total procedure. She also made the point that just because it was all done via keyhole surgery, and thus left me with several teeny little external scars, there's been a lot done internally, and I probably have hundreds of stitches which all need to heal up, and muscles which take ages to repair and so on. Pleuk.  I had some blood tests and am "perfectly normal" which is nice to know.

So. I'm pretty much ok, although I'm still unable to climb hills without it making me very sore and exhausted the next day.  It's fortunate that we live in the middle of a large area with plenty of dog-walking opportunities which don't involve strenuous hill-climbing. I have discovered a new skill in falling in the mud in the water-meadows as a result.  There are several beautiful water meadows nearby, and I love to take the dog down there, as long as there are no cows in the fields.  She gets to race around like a maniac, and I stroll through the flowery countryside, watching herons and egrets and buzzards, and sometimes having the shit scared out of me by almost treading on a partridge or a duck lurking in the undergrowth.

There is (as the name implies) quite a boggy basis to the water-meadows.  If you walk along the semi-defined paths it's mostly alright.  Sometimes it's a bit wet underfoot, but if you're wearing wellies there's no problem.  However, if (for example) you see a friend walking along a different path and decide to strike out across the middle of the meadows in order to catch up with them for a chat, there is a real risk that you will put your foot down on what seems to be solid ground, sink in to the top of your Wellington boot, fail to pull your booted foot out of the mud, and end up standing on a tussock in your socks, hauling at the stuck boot with both hands while your dog licks your face joyfully and your friend is beside herself with laughter.

That aside, it really is a lovely walk.



Other news: I have volunteered to be a helper at Stonehenge.  The new visitors centre is open, and the Neolithic houses that Mr WithaY was involved in building are due to be opened to the public very soon, and they want people to come and assist with the visitors.  So I sent in an application, was invited to a "this is what it's all about" morning, then a full training day, and I am planning to start in the next couple of weeks.

I get an English Heritage fleece and everything.

The new visitor centre is spectacular. I'd only seen it from the main road and had decided I disliked it, but once you get close to it, and see how it fits in with the wider landscape you appreciate how cleverly it's been designed.

People have been complaining about the increased admission prices, which I had wondered about too, but apparently Stonehenge almost solely supports the rest of English Heritage financially.  Also, I think a lot of people don't realise that the monument covers more than just the ring of stones.  If all you look at is that, as part of a rushed coach tour of the entire South of England in a day, then yes, you're going to feel short-changed. But if you come for the day, walk around all of the site, check out the Neolithic houses, go through all the exhibitions and galleries, and really get a feel for the sheer scale of the place, I think you'd feel like you'd had your money's worth.

Avebury is part of the same site, which I hadn't been aware of.  They've built a model of the area where you can see all the various barrows, the cursus, stone monuments and so on, all linked together over miles and miles of the countryside, and it is astonishing.

So. Go and take a look. And if you see me there, say hello.

I've also picked up a part-time job in the garage/shop in the village.  It's rather nice, I see loads of people, hear all the gossip, and have learned a great deal about the buying habits of the sole business traveller.  Magnums, Red Bull and Haribo sweets.  That's what blokes travelling around for work seem to live on.  Farmers live on pasties, Lucozade and Mars bars.  Women buy wine.  Kids buy Caleppo ice lollies when they get home from school in the afternoon, but middle-aged blokes in company cars buy Magnums and Red Bull.

One of our neighbours came in and bought an ice lolly, and told me he planned to walk home via the river, where he would sit on the bridge while he ate it.  How charming.

Me:  That sounds idyllic!  I hope you enjoy it.

Him:  I will.  Mind you, the other day the wind caught my Magnum and blew it into the river.

Me: .......

Him:  I went in after it!

Apparently it was still in its wrapper, so he squelched home triumphant, soaked to the knees, enjoying his ice cream.


Monday, 24 March 2014

Canally retentive

I've been away on a canal boating holiday! A very short one. Alright, a weekend. Well, a day and a night and a half a day.  It was very nice too, and despite the freezing wind which whipped around us intermittently, the weather was glorious.

Our lovely mates Bill and Jayne have bought a narrowboat, and invited us to come and admire it, so early on Saturday morning we set off for Oxfordshire.  The sun shone, the roads weren't too snarled-up with traffic, and we arrived almost exactly on time, to be greeted by our mates, offering cups of tea.  Marvellous.

As well as the four adult humans on board, there was a charming dog. We'd sent ours off to have a holiday with her family, and thus avoid the possibility of two excited dogs falling onto the canals.  Anyway, this is the lovely dog who lives on the boat with his owners:


He's a Bavarian Mountain Hound, and a more relaxed dog you'd be hard-pushed to find.

This is the boat, complete with gorgeous hand-painted bargeware bits and bobs:





We went from the boatyard, down the canal to Cropredy, where we went to the pub.  The Red Lion, as well as serving beer, selling excellent cheesy chips and housing a beautiful golden retriever called Shandy, has a guitar shop.  I had a chat with the guitar man, who also runs the pub, and he told me Rickenbackers are buggers to play. Yeah, I knew that.

Oh, they also had a funky clock on the wall:



A stroll around Cropredy, then back to the boat for drinks, pre-supper snacks, and then a mighty fine supper cooked by Jayne.

An evening of chatting, laughing, catching up on 30 years of friendship, then wrestling with the spare bed to allow us to get to sleep, followed by an early morning tea and Jaffa Cake-fest.  A leisurely stroll to the local shop, a look around the Cropredy battle-site memorial, and back up the canal to the mooring.





This little sign took my fancy.  You walk through the Hell Hole to get away from the church.



 The view up to the pub from the canal bridge.


Making way back towards a lock.  The pointy bit you see there is the front.  Sorry if I'm getting too technical.

I liked being in the locks, and I particularly liked this one; the gates look like the entrance to Mordor. In my head.



We passed this sad wreck, seemingly a victim of the storms, where I was intrigued by the musical instruments and amps left on board.  Just across the canal from it was a fallen willow tree, blocking the thoroughfare (is that the right term? I'm not sure) which had fallen across the canal and meant everyone had to risk bumping into the sunken boat to get past it.



As a favour to the canal-dwelling community, it was decided that on the way back down the canal Mr WithaY should wait in the front of the boat with a long trident/rake thingy, and a bill-hook, and when we got close enough to the fallen willow, he would hack away enough of the branches to clear the channel for other boaters.

What a great idea.  You can see the tree there on the left, making it difficult to pass the sunken boat safely.




We got close to the fallen tree, our stalwart captain held the boat in position, and Mr WithaY leant out of the boat with the bill-hook, lopping off the longer branches.  Most of them were so dry and brittle that they snapped at a touch, making his task easier.

Most of them.

Almost as soon as our captain cheerfully shouted "Don't drop the bill-hook in the water, mate!" Mr WithaY hacked at a branch that was NOT dry and brittle. No.  It was green and lush, full of bounce and vim.  So much bounce and vim, in fact, that on contact the bill-hook bounced off with some violence, causing Mr WithaY's hand to release his grip on the handle, and it dropped into the canal with a gentle "sploosh."

Dear readers, there was some bad language.

Fortunately, our sensible (and experienced) boat-owners had a large magnet on a length of cord, and after a little bit of fishing, the bill-hook was recovered, none the worse for wear.

The remainder of the journey to the boat yard was completed with the bill-hook and trident securely stowed away, in no danger of falling in the water.

This is the boat yard, where they had HUGE chickens roaming around outside.  I look forward to seeing it again on a less chilly afternoon.



In other news:  I am pretty much fully recovered now, and am able to drive, carry stuff, lift things (carefully) and walk the dog again, so I am much happier.

I've rediscovered my desire to sew, and have been cutting out all the bits to make a shirt.  Today I went down to the excellent Hansons Fabrics in Sturminster Newton and had a good old poke about.  Tomorrow I shall start actually sewing all the bits together, and by the weekend I plan to have a funky new shirt finished.

It's all go here.








Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Spud U Like

I'm mostly better now, thank you.  Still getting a few twinges when I do something unwise, like e.g. lift a polythene box full of packs of sugar off the floor to get into another box underneath, or take the dog for a walk and have her tow me through the village like a water-skier, but otherwise I am about 98% fighting fit.

In the 8 weeks - almost 9 actually - since I had my op, the outside world has started to become Spring-like. There are snowdrops and crocuses in flower in the garden, and daffodils in bud. I assume they're daffodils. They might be irises.  Or hyacinths.  I'm not sure.  The mole made a brief appearance in the front lawn, much to our delight*, but seems to have buggered off again.

To mark the "new beginning" feeling, this weekend we are doing a catering job for some neighbours, which I am very much looking forward to.  And yes, we have asked one of our excellent helpers to come along and lend a hand so I don't end up overdoing anything.

So. Other than recuperating, and some low-key socialising, what have I been up to?

Well.  This:



Mr WithaY and I went along to a willow heart-making class in a nearby village, and I made the above work of grace and beauty.  It took me two hours, and hasn't fallen apart yet.  When I get round to it, I will secure it to the fence at the bottom of the back garden so all may admire it.

And how did we hear about this willow-weaving class, you ask.  Well, by attending THIS event:



Which I found out about on Twitter.  I love social media.  The potato day was held in the Cheese and Grain venue, which hosts all manner of events.


Sci- Fi!  Anti-Fracking Protests!  The Wurzels!  Ah, the West Country.  Everything you want, and quite alot of stuff you'd prefer not to have to look at but can never unsee.

So here's some of the highlights of potato day:



And here are the throngs of visitors, eagerly eyeing up tubers:


The vantage point is from the little meeting room upstairs, where we went to listen to a chap talk about foraging.  It was next door to another meeting room, with this stern note taped across the window:


It was a little distracting, listening to the chap talk about the types of plants which could be found locally and were good to eat, with the enthusiastic clomping of trainee burlesque dancers going on in the next room.

What else?  Oh, I had my hair cut off!  I was fed up with feeling frumpy and old and tired, partly due to post-op malaise, I suspect, so I went to the excellent Toni and Guy in Salisbury who did me a funky modern cropped choppy look, which I love.  It's funny, a mate** posted a photo of me on Facebook which he took when I was a student, 25-odd years ago, and I HAVE THE SAME HAIRSTYLE.  Just goes to show.  What goes around comes around.

Only now there's some grey in it. Bah. And gah.

I have decided to try and be a bit less lackadaisical with posting on here too.  I used to get so much genuine pleasure from interacting with people, and just the simple act of writing stuff down was cathartic.  So I will make more of an effort to be here more frequently.  Can't promise photos of potatoes every time, though.








*well, to my amusement and Mr WithaY's speechless rage.

**Hello Martin!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Recuperation

I'm bored.  Bored bored bored bored bored.  This is a clear sign that I am on the road to recovery, but it's frustrating to think I am only about halfway through the first stage of "take it easy" recuperation.

I'm having my stitches out this afternoon, which I am both pleased about and horrified by. Part of me wants to see the "wounds" as they are delightfully termed by medical people, part of me wants them to remain forever concealed under waterproof dressings.

Brrrr.

I'm still freakishly tired most of the time, and have been doing that thing that very small children and puppies do where they just fall asleep in the middle of whatever is going on at that moment.  Fortunately, most of what I am doing involves sitting on the sofa half-heartedly watching TV, reading a book or dicking about on my phone. It would be rather more alarming if I were, say, a brain surgeon or an offshore undersea welder.

It's great that I am feeling more like doing things, but it is frustrating because I think "Oh, I'll just do some ironing," or "I'll clean the bathroom windows," and then I think again and realise that no, no, I won't.  Not for a couple more weeks.

Mr WithaY is being hugely helpful, and our lovely neighbours are popping in with books, sweeties and chat, all of which are much appreciated.  On Saturday Youngest Sis and her husband came up to visit, bringing our slightly belated Christmas presents, which was lovely.  We sat and chatted, ate lunch, chatted some more, opened our presents and drank tea, while the dog went BANANAS with her Christmas gift:





She gnawed it till the squeak stopped working, and then contented herself with rolling around on her back, holding it between her paws and playing with it.

Hopefully later this week I will be able to go out for a walk with her and Mr WithaY, at least partway round the village.  I can't tell if my legs are wobbly because I am still so tired, or because I have hardly used them for 10 days.

I'm missing being able to cook anything much.  I might order a box of marmalade oranges and pop them in the freezer to make some more Seville marmalade when I can heave pans about again.  I'm also planning to make fruit jellies; I always loved them as a child and recently found some interesting recipes to try.  I think I ought to wait a few more weeks before I start experimenting with boiling sugar though.  Safety first.