Saturday, 30 June 2007

Off out...

...very soon. Going up to London to help Middle Sis celebrate her 40th.

It's still pissing down here, so the motorways will be a delight. We're stopping off at a supermarket on the way to get some stuff for the party. Fizz for the many, many children, probably some gin for me, beer for Mr WithaY and the other chaps, plus anything else that takes our fancy.

Had a very nice evening at home last night. Mr WithaY was a bit traumatised after his 2 day trip to London for work, what with the car bombs being found in the same area he and our mate Richard had been wandering round in that evening. As if London wasn't stressful enough without fucking nail bombs.

So we decided to stay home, have a lovely supper (cooked by me, domestic goddess that I am), watched an unexpectedly enjoyable film on TV and just chilled out.

Oh, and I had a very successful guitar lesson, which was great fun.

Hmmm...some Antipodean woman has just knocked on the door looking for someone who she thinks lives in the village. It ain't us.

Well, time to get dressed and prepare for the rigours of the trip. And the rigours of the party. Heh.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Cat fire

For no particular reason I just remembered the story of my Youngest Sister's cat at Christmas.

Elvis (the cat) is quite old now, and likes to snooze on top of the TV where it's warm and comfy and there is a reduced risk of children standing on him.

There were several small candles on top of the TV that the children had brought home from the church service on Christmas Eve. The cat, either through age and failing eyesight or just feline defiance, ignored the candles and made his way to his usual snooze spot.

The candles were alight, by the way.

Sure enough, after a few minutes, there was a smell of burning fur. Youngest Sis was in the kitchen making tea for all, the children were sitting watching a Christmas film on TV, my Mum was sitting on the sofa holding the baby. And the cat was on fire on top of the TV.

Apparently everyone just sat looking at the cat, sleek black fur blazing cheerfully, still snoozing, till Mum panicked, calling to my sister "The cat's on fire! The cat's on fire!" whereupon Youngest Sis came running in with a damp tea towel and put him out.

Heh. Put the cat out. Just realised why that's funny.

Apparently he had a strange semi-bald brown patch for a few weeks till his fur grew back. And he still snoozes on top of the TV.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007


Just got back from a late night mercy dash to Sainsbury's in Winchester (as I am stopping at my bestest mate's house for a couple of days). As we walked into the shop a rather cute bloke caught my eye.

I'm 41, leering at young men is compulsory now. Another few years and I get to poke them with my umbrella and tell them they're "strapping" while they squirm and try to get away.

Anyway, my wandering eye was first caught by his rather splendid legs and big boots, then by the armful of shopping he was trying to carry:

Several packs of kitchen roll
A box of tissues
A Pot Noodle.

So. A Bloke's Night In for him, I reckon. I laughed for pretty much the rest of the time I was in the shop.

Been up at a huge vehicle show thing today. By which I mean a huge show, at which vehicles were the star, not a show for huge vehicles. Although some of them were pretty huge.

Had to be at work for 7.30am to get the coach, we got back to the site at about 5.30 this evening, so it's been a long day for me. But by staying at my mate's I save an enormous amount of travelling which is great.

While we were there, many of the exhibitors handed out freebies - mouse mats, pens, keyrings, some nice bits and pieces. As we all waited for the bus at the end of the afternoon we compared our loot.

It began to rain, so one of the girls said "Ooh, I'll put my coat on" and rummaged around in her bag, pulling out a very smart packaway raincoat thing. As she was putting it on, on of the guys said "Is it a gizzit?"

"No" she said. "It's got sleeves."

*Gizzit - an abbreviation of the term "Give us it" ie a freebie, American readers

Tuesday, 26 June 2007


Took me almost 2 hours to get home last night. There was an accident on the A303 so the police diverted everyone onto the "back" road across Salisbury Plain. Fine. But that then led to a nose-to-tail 20mph queue of traffic lumbering along small roads which were not designed for huge trucks.

I finally hit a tailback at a junction which I knew must be at least 4 miles long, so I did a 3-point-turn in the road and legged it along a different set of tiny lanes to get back onto the main road, and cleverly avoid the worst of the jams.

Well, that was the plan.

Sadly the main road was in just as bad a state, what with floodwater and more accidents, so it took me just as long to get home as it would have done if I'd sat in the tailback.

One entertaining aspect was watching the traffic heading home from Glastonbury, looking as though it had been rallying. Several of the cars were completely covered, the only clean bit being where the windscreen wipers had cleared the mud away. The drivers looked shell shocked. It seems there were queues for 8 hours for some of the people trying to get off the site. Bloody nightmare.

Been watching the news with increasing disbelief...villages evacuated, bridges collaping, people drowning in drains...this is the kind of thing that happens on the other side of the world, not here. And it's June! I mean, 6 weeks ago we were being warned about the possibility of water shortages and drought, now entire communities are watching their neighbourhoods being deluged. It's bizarre.

And I'm off to stand in a field in Bedfordshire for the next two days. Hoo-bloody-rah.

Monday, 25 June 2007


Oh yeah - I have this thing where I wake up screaming from time to time. Sometimes I just scream in my sleep without waking up, which is even less fun.

Any advice on how to stop scaring the shit out of myself/Mr WithaY/other residents of a hotel/mates who are putting me up for the night?

Inclement weather

I don't think it's stopped raining since Thursday night. That makes getting on for four solid days of rain. No wonder the roads are in such a state.

Driving to work this morning was distinctly scary. There are big patches of standing water everywhere, visibility on the dual carriageway was almost non-existent due to spray, and the verges on the more remote bits of the trip are starting to collapse onto the roads, promising roadblocks later in the week if we're lucky.

One of my colleagues was telling us about a nasty near-miss he encountered earlier today. A car in front of him hit a patch of water on the motorway, aquaplaned across a couple of lanes and smashed another car into the central reservation. My colleague was ok, but pretty shaken up, as you'd expect, having all that happen in front of him.

I am very glad I have a 4x4 with big old half-and-half chunky tyres. If I take it carefully I can pretty much get through anything. Within reason. Well, through mud and puddles, anyway.

Other than the weather, little of note has been going on in the WithaY household. Mr WithaY was supposed to go shooting on Saturday but it got called off. And why was this, you wonder?

Inclement weather? No.
Range too muddy? No.
Lack of access due to waterlogged roads? No.

The range apparently caught fire. Yes, really.

They've started using chopped up tyres as the backstop rather than the more traditional packed sand. Much cheaper. Great idea. But...

1) You can no longer rake out the brass cartridges to recycle them, as you can with sand. So, it's cheaper, but there's no recycling.

2) The bits of rubber end up getting scattered across the surrounding area which happens to be a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest, American readers), so all the little rare creatures end up trying to eat them, or nest in them, or mate with them. I am guessing on that last one, not being a naturalist by profession.

3) And, lastly, and most excitingly, the bloody stuff is flammable. Unlike sand. And, when high-velocity rounds come winging into it, they can set it alight. Fantastic.

So poor Mr WithaY spend a slightly disappointed Saturday at home, in between ferrying me back and forth to the glass repair place, it being too wet to have them come and fix the car outside my house.

We watched Hot Fuzz on DVD on Saturday night. I enjoyed it more the second time around than I did at the cinema, oddly. Maybe because it felt more fitted to a small screen, lower expectations and all that. Last night we started watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy again. Got halfway through the first one before deciding we were too tired to see it all the way through.

Is it only me that wants to give Frodo a good slap every time he goes off into his "Oh no, I'm being summoned by the Dark Lord" fluttery-eye thing? Just STOP wearing the bloody ring! It's not difficult. You have ONE instruction you idiot hobbit, bloody well follow it. Gah.

It's not really a chick-flick, is it?

Still, the new Shrek is out any day now, which I am looking forward to. I love good animation. Maybe that's why I like Second Life so much, now I come to think about it. I'm hoping Channel 4 repeat their Studio Ghibli season soon. I missed some of them last time round. Bloody work. Getting in the way of my valuable leisure time.

Other news: What can I get my Middle Sis for her 40th birthday? I gave her a fab present earlier in the year but I can't turn up at her party without something with a bow on it. Maybe a tortoise? I hear they make great pets. Plus I could stick the bow straight onto the shell, saving on wrapping paper.

Although...Mr WithaY's life-threatening vomit-fest earlier on the year was most likely down to tortoise-handling. I reckon, anyway. So maybe not.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Glass IV - This Time It's Personal

Hurrah! I have a new windscreen! With no cracks in it, or anything. It's so CLEAN! Not like my old one.

Other news: None. The new windscreen dominates my thoughts every waking moment. Heh.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Pickle shirt

Saw a bloke in London yesterday wearing a T-shirt that said "Pickles are cucumbers soaked in EVIL".

Made me laugh.

Thursday, 21 June 2007


Been up in London all day today. I hate it. With a passion. I mean, the city itself is great: the buildings, the theatres, the museums and galleries, the river, the parks, the unexpected beauty of the place. Everything else about London can fuck off though.

The people. So many. So bizarre and hip looking. So many languages. So few manners.

The traffic. The TRAFFIC! It's insane! My colleague and I had to scamper out of the path of a taxi which deliberately swerved towards us as we crossed a road. Bastard.

And of course we got horribly lost. We'd been told "It's really easy to find" about the office we were heading for.

No it fucking isn't.

We came out of Tottenham Court Road station, turned the wrong way and walked miles down Oxford Street before pleading weakly with a very nice policeman to help us get to where we needed to be. Thank you kind copper, if you're reading this. He laughed at us for a bit then gave clear and accurate advice as to how to get where we needed to be.

We followed his directions, found the office, only 10 minutes late, had a very successful meeting and then (at the suggestion of our colleague) walked all the way across the West End to a different office to meet someone else who might be helpful. And that took over 40 minutes, because we got really lost again.

We went down Shaftesbury Avenue. Back up Shaftesbury Avenue. Up and down the Strand. Through Chinatown (I think). Past Trafalgar Square. Past Horseguards. Saw the National Gallery from almost all possible angles apart from the birds-eye view. It was an education.

My feet are killing me. I thought long and hard about which shoes to wear, and decided on heels because it was a formal meeting. Bloody fool that I am. Should have worn my big stompy boots or trainers or something sensible for walking in. Wellies maybe. Heh.

And getting there is such a pain in the arse. To London, I mean. Mr WithaY kindly dropped me at the station so I didn't need to fret about parking. However, I'd not been there more than 5 minutes when the announcement came that my train had been cancelled. And me with no car to drive to the next station, or back home, or to the office, as has happened before.

A "technical problem" apparently. Oh, great.

So that leaves all these people stood on the platform with their very own Technical Problem - that of getting from A to B without using a fucking train. Gah.

Well, the long and the short of it was that we all hopped on the next train regardless of its destination and forced the driver to go to London at gunpoint, then abandoned the train in a multi-storey car park and torched it.

Well, no we didn't.

But we should have. We all hopped on the next train and changed at Salisbury, slightly later than planned, and a lot grumpier. I met my colleague as arranged, and our journey continued more or less uneventfully. But shit like that happens every bloody time I have to use the train. And when it costs the best part of a hundred quid for a ticket, it really isn't good enough.

Other news. 24,000 people at Stonehenge for the Solstice celebration. Saw a few of them on the train - they looked like people who'd been up all night smoking dope. There was a group of three lads, probably late teens, who had clearly all been wearing "Alice Cooper" stylee eye makeup. In the fun-filled party atmosphere among 24,000 like minded souls it probably looked fab. On a grubby, crowded South West train at 9 in the morning it looked both crap and hilarious.

Ah well. A day off tomorrow. And I really feel like I need it.

Another thing - why do all the escalators on the London Underground have adverts for cheap flights to places you would love to visit? It's like torture...Canada, Hawaii, Bermuda, Mauritius, New Zealand....yes, thanks for telling me I could get there for £200. However, I'd much rather flog across London and then spend 3 hours on a train to get home.


Wednesday, 20 June 2007

I've seen the future...

...and it's piebald.

On my way to Bath yesterday I was stuck in a long queue of traffic. Not a huge shock, as Bath is always a complete nightmare to get across, especially in the afternoons. This hold-up however was on the A36, in the middle of nowhere. And what caused it?

A horse and cart.

Fair enough, I suppose. Glastonbury this weekend, Stonehenge about to get the annual hippy invasion, bound to be a few odd vehicles on the roads.

But no. This cart was not driven by hippies or druids or bloody star children.

It contained what appeared to be a local famer and his mate. Loads of stuff in the back, looked like they'd been shopping, most likely at the nearby Mole Valley Farmers. Probably buying rat traps and enormous industrial-sized boxes of washing powder. Maybe some sheep ointment. And a new pair of odd-coloured corduroy trousers. I love that shop.

It was a refreshing little inclusion in a long and otherwise dull drive.

The presentation went very well, by the way. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have compared the current financial approvals process to an Arthurian Quest:

"Bring me the head of the Black Knight, and then, and only then, shall the first committee review your submission. If you please them, they will set you another mighty task. Succeed, and you may submit your second iteration for review. Fail, and you shall be cast into the outer darkness FOREVER. Mwahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa."

Apart from that, it was constructive and positive. Got loads more work to do as a result, but it will all help us get to where we want to be. And my boss was pleased, so that was good.

The trip home was a bloody nightmare. Left Bath at quarter past five, got home at quarter to seven. Dead Maids Hill was closed, I assume living up to its name, and so everyone got diverted off the main road.

I love it when that happens. The police block the road, stick a "Diversion" sign up to guide you into a maze of tiny lanes - cars, caravans, huge European articulated trucks with no clue about the fucking Highway Code - then effectively tell you to fuck off and find your own way home.

Do they only have the one "Diversion" sign in Wiltshire?

Aha, no. They have hundreds, but it seems they are all stacked at the side of the roads around Stonehenge (where the demons dwell) for tomorrow's big Solstice event.

Druids. Bastards.

Aaaanyway, reverting back to my original point...this morning as I was driving in I encountered another horse and cart. A different one, driven by an elegant elderly lady with a couple of long dogs running alongside. Obviously on her way to town, presumably to go shopping as she had a load of bags and baskets in there with her.

Makes sense I suppose. If you don't have far to go why use a car? Got a field? Stick a couple of horses in it and get a cart. Do they have to pay road tax? No fuel costs, just vet bills and horse food. If I had a shorter commute I might think about it. I could store it in the bicycle rack until hometime. Heh. If I didn't hate and fear all of horsekind.

Off to London tomorrow for a meeting. On the train. No fighting through the post-sunrise throng for me. And I am taking a day off on Friday because I have some stuff to do locally, and have no desire to join the long slow crocodile of Glastonbury-bound traffic that is bound to fill every road for miles around. I shall watch it on the local news and be smug that I am not involved.

The weather forecast is appalling. I have spent too many long, long weekends wallowing in mud on campsites to want to do it again anytime soon.

Mr WithaY is off shooting on Saturday. I, however, am going to sit with my nose pressed to the window, waiting for the windscreen repair guys to turn up.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

American Cheese

Am currently sitting at my desk eating a rather depressing prawn sandwich, trying not to panic about my Huge Important Presentation this afternoon.

I realised at 4am that I had forgotten to send my presentation to the Very Senior and Important Person I am going through it with this afternoon, so now he'll think I'm a fuckwit before I even start. Gah.

I will stay in the office for another hour or so then fight my way across the South West to be in Bath for 4pm for my meeting. And I look like shit because I was awake at 4am, panicking. Which was helpful.

It'll take more than a bit of lipstick to sort this out. Even my Emergency Last Resort Virgin Vie Sparkly Lipstick.

This is so not the lifestyle I envisaged when I was young.

A few years ago I registered on Friends Reunited, and a few of my old school mates got in touch. It was lovely to hear from them, about their lives, their children, their achievements and their troubles. That was great. Hello Caroline, Sophia, Kim, Kate, Charlotte.

Well, not the troubles part, but you know what I mean.

However, I had a real mid-life crisis when one of them commented in an email "I can't believe what you do for a living. I always thought you'd be a writer." And for the first time in many, many years I looked at myself and thought "Well shit. I always thought I'd be a writer too."

Maybe that's why I started blogging. It makes me feel as though I can still do it. I can still affect other people a bit. Tell them stuff they maybe didn't know. Engage them for a while.

I try now and again to put a story together, but it is hard work. Blogging is much easier in comparison. The more I read of other peoples' stuff the more I realise how much talent is out there. Still, at least it keeps me entertained.

Heard from my lovely Youngest Sis that she didn't get through her bike test this morning. Arse. Still, it means I hang onto my Queen of Smugness crown as I passed mine first time, and Mr WithaY didn't. And now neither did she.

I have been looking at bikes on eBay, and wondering about biting the bullet and investing in something large and funky. I still fancy a Kawasaki Z, or maybe a Zephyr, but having drooled all over Bill the Spill's Harley when he was up here I am also leaning towards the USA a little.

When Mr WithaY and I were in the States a few years ago our mate Joe took us to the local HD dealership in New Hampshire. We almost had kittens, running from bike to bike going "Look at THIS one!" and squealing excitedly.

All the cool Harley riders were very contemptuous. Till they found out we were English, then they were merely amused and slightly pitying, especially when we told them how much Harleys cost over here.

Then we spent an hour seriously trying to work out if it was cost-effective to get a couple shipped over to the UK. It was, but we couldn't afford it. However. Now we could.

I might go and visit Joe and Nancy again...heh. I still feel like I need a holiday and I adore New England. We are lucky enough to have kind friends there who let us stay with them when we come over, and don't object too much when we eat them out of house and home for a couple of weeks.

If anyone is ever in New Hampshire, go to Nancy's excellent cheese shop and deli - C'Est Cheese. She stocks fab interesting cheese which you can't find in the supermarkets.

I was horrified by the cheese section in the supermarket in Harwich. Or was it Hingham? Or Sandwich? Anyway, a small Cape Cod town. Not Provincetown though.

God I loved it there. Mr WithaY was a bit phased by it all, but only because he was getting eyed up by the cute local guys. Heh. I have some fab pictures of me on one of the hammocks on the beachfront. I want to go back. Today. I want to sit on the beach at Nauset. *sigh*

Anyway. Cheese counter outrage. They had two types of cheese, in huge square blocks, both bright yellow and deeply unappealing. However, their fruit counter kicked some serious arse. And you could buy hot clam chowder from a giant vat which is always a good thing in a supermarket.

Our mate on the Cape told us a story about her next door neighbour having to move house. Not as in "put everything in a van and go elsewhere". No, this was "pick up complete house and put it somewhere else entirely".

They had ordered a load of heating oil, which was to be delivered while they were at their other house in Boston. The delivery driver stuck the hose nozzle into what he thought was the right orifice in the house and began to pump hundreds of gallons of heating oil into the tank.

Only he didn't. Somehow, he missed the right oil tank hole and simply pumped the entire contents of his truck into their cellar (basement, American readers). The driver only realised what had happened when his truck was empty.

I like to imagine him standing there, watching his oil gauge dropping to zero, scratching his head thinking "Wow. This is a really big tank."

The oil company put their hands up and paid to have the house picked up, moved across the garden, all the oil pumped back out of the cellar, the earth removed and replaced with uncontaminated stuff and all the water table tests conducted at their expense. According to our mate's neighbours it was Hell On Toast for 6 months.

One of the few downsides to living where we do is that everyone has a septic tank in the garden. (No mains drainage, see). Fine, as long as they keep working. Every once in a while you have to get the nice man with the big sucky truck to come out and empty it. (Company motto on the back of his truck: "You dump it, we pump it." Really.) And when that happens, oh boy do you want to be somewhere else.

I was driving through the village on my way to work this morning when the unholy "tank emptying" stench filled the car.

When there's a 30mph speed limit, and people walking their dogs in the road, you can't just put your foot down and flee, screaming "Aaaaaiiieeeeee" however much you want to.

I drove the rest of the way hoping my suit didn't retain the stench. Still, if it did, my meeting will be brief. Heh.

Sunday, 17 June 2007


Have had a quiet day today, as am a bit tired and fragile after last night. We had a very pleasant evening with some lovely mates from the village coming over for supper. It wasn't an especially late night but I didn't sleep well, so feel a bit hungover today.

Nothing to do with all the booze, obviously.

I made profiteroles. And, though I say so myself, they were bloody marvellous. In fact, the whole meal was pretty great. Mr WithaY utilised the stinky gift fish to make a superb chowder as a starter, then we had sea bass with salad, then the glorious profiteroles, then a ton of cheese with port.

What greedy pigs we are.

Other than that, I have been catching up on domestic stuff. The spare room is now back to habitability, and looks marvellous.

It was deeply satisfying, if a bit sad, restocking the book case, and ordering all the books by author, ranking them by size and genre as well.

Yes, I know.

But if anyone asks me now where to find one of my PJ O'Rourke books I can tell them precisely. On the "modern" shelf, in the "amusing" section. Between Tony Hawks and Bill Bryson.

We watched "Minority Report" on DVD this evening. I'd forgotten what a good film it is. It even made me forget how annoying Tom Cruise is.

I found a bit of a bargain at the supermarket - a triple DVD for six quid, containing "Minority Report", I Robot" and "Independence Day". All amusing enough for Sunday afternoons in, I think.

Other news: Am a bit stressed about a big presentation I have to give tomorrow...found out on Friday that my boss' boss will be there as well. No pressure.

Ah well. If they sack me for being shite I have more time to read other peoples' blogs.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Pub night

Went over to the village pub last night after feeding Mr WithaY a truly delicious supper (I AM a domestic goddess after all, I just need a muse). It was a truly hilarious evening.

Billy the squaddie was in, who is always huge value for money. He and his mate were discussing whether or not to go into "town" (and I use the term reluctantly) or to bin it and stay in. They were trying to decide whether it might be worth going out on the pull or just having a "blokes night in".

The definition of a blokes night in is apparently "Pot Noodle and wanking". I almost snorted gin out of my nose at that one.

There were some unseemly challenges being made around closing time. One of them involved Billy the squaddie giving a kiss to one of the local lads. He is a nice enough lad but not doing too well with the ladies, it seems. Billy obviously thought he'd found a way to help him "get to know" girls a it better.

He then challenged one of the gorgeous bar birds to then kiss said local lad as well, once Billy had finished with him.

"If I can do it, you can do it" he claimed.

She watched the whole "bloke on bloke" scene in horror, realising she was going to have to kiss the poor guy as well.

She stood by her word and kissed him, but then rather ruined the effect by rushing over to the fireplace and spitting in it (classy pub, our local). Billy told her that the kiss had not been nearly enthusiastic enough, so she came back and gave the poor lad another one. She fled the scene afterwards, coming back sucking greedily on a fag (cigarette, panicking American readers).

Mr WithaY kept his word and brought me back some Arbroath Smokies. Fish. Not just any fish, but stinky fish. Tied up with string. I imagine his luggage filled the hold of the aircraft with an unholy stink. Heh. Let's hope so anyway.

I wish I had been less insistent as a young woman that he was NOT to buy me jewellery (I had huge scruples about being bought stuff - what a fool!). All that has happened is his gift-giving urges have been transferred into the "odd foodstuff" arena rather than the "expensive bauble" arena.


Friday, 15 June 2007

No one thing

Have had a constructive morning in the office, with a cheerful impromptu team meeting over a drink of hot chocolate, which is always a bonus.

Drove to work in a complete daze, which I only realized when I got to the site and hadn't got my pass out of my bag (plan ahead, that's my motto). The chap on the gate watched me rummaging in my bag for a while, then quite obviously just gave up and waved at me to carry on through. I ignored his waving and sat there until I had found my pass, determined to show it to him.

And it was at that point I realised that I didn't remember much of the drive in. No idea why, as I slept quite well and feel less gloomy and despondant than I have done for a few days.

I had a couple of colleagues a few years ago who ran a "Bizarrest Pass" contest. Each week they both had to try and get into work by waving something at the security blokes that was NOT their pass.

They used library cards, credit cards, driving licenses, bits of paper, you get the picture. The winner was declared on the day that one of them was waved through after presenting a bit of toast with Marmite on.

That was a great office to work in. I still have photos of our "Thickie of the Week" sign we used to award to whoever had done the stupidest thing that week. We told our boss it was a teambuilding thing.

He was ok with that, but when we also created the "Finger of Blame" - a cardboard hand, pointing a finger at whoever was being blamed by the rest of the team - he got a bit suspicous and told us to take it down. He didn't like the sign on the filing cabinet that said "Toy Cupboard" either. Tch.

I put the curtains back up in the spare room last night, and will dust and polish all the furniture when I get home, and restock the Gothic bookcase. It looks great in there. Kevin the decorator is a prince among men.

My WithaY sent me a text saying he'll be home by "eightish - in time for the pub". Excellent.

I am sat at my desk, and was just wondering what the odd smell in the office is. I realised that it is now pissing down with rain and I can smell wet concrete from the road outside. It's been so long that I'd forgotten what it smells like.

Mmmm. Summer.

Thursday, 14 June 2007


Got home from work this evening, and not only has the marvellous Kevin the decorator finished all the painting, but he had also put the rug down, put the furniture back and reassembled the bed.

How great is he? Bloody great.

All I need to do is put the curtains back up and make up the bed and the room is finished. I could weep for joy.

To be honest, I could weep full stop, but I am going to go to bed in a minute and see if a good night's sleep will make me feel a bit less woeful in the morning.

And the lovely Mr WithaY returns from his Grand Tour of Scotland tomorrow so I hope we can have a nice weekend together. Got mates coming over for dinner on Saturday night so I need to start planning what we'll feed them.

Bit the bullet and went to the bloody supermarket after work. Gah. But, done for a bit so am smug now.

Inappropriate furniture

In the office today, a long and slow journey in this morning making me feel fractious. I caught myself taking unnecessary risks which I don't generally do, to the extent that I got flashed at (with headlights, not in a "mistaken identity on a train" way) by two different vans.

Hm. I need to stop doing that.

I'm still a bit low but suspect it may be because I am quite lonely with the lovely Mr WithaY being away. Working at home means I don't speak to anyone, Kevin the decorator excepted.

He was beavering away and didn't need me standing there going "Mmmm....that colour looks nice. What are you doing next? Want to see my presentation? Fancy a cup of tea? What are you doing this weekend? Is that paint dry already?" at him intermittently throughout the day.

I have high hopes that when I get home tonight he will have finished the spare room and I can reassemble the bed (a ridiculous four-poster which is completely unsuitable for the room but we love it anyway), move all the hundreds of books back into the equally unsuitable "Gothic" book case and clear the rest of the upstairs of spare-room-related crud.

Well, other than that, work is busy. We are making good progress on our Huge Important Deadline which is encouraging. Shit has been hitting fans all morning though, and I fear I may be called on to deploy a bucket and mop at some point.

I am listening to my iPod at my desk as I do this (in my lunchbreak, taxpaying grumblers). I love the appropriateness of the selections. So far I've had two Leonard Cohen tracks (just what I need on a "feeling a bit low" day), the Smiths, Freedy Johnson, and now it's Rush doing 2112. Again, a cheery little number.

I think I have a mood sensitive iPod. When I'm a bit punchy and chirpy it gives me Guns & Roses and AC/DC. When I'm thinking hard it provides Neil Young and Alisha's Attic, today it finds me gloomy songs. I shall have to write to Apple and commend them on their brain scanning software.

Had an interesting guitar lesson last night. Not a huge amount of playing but a lot of talking which can be just as helpful. And I learned "Everybody (Needs Somebody)". I don't sound very much like a member of the Blues Brothers fabulous rhythm and blues review, but I will get there.

My guitar teacher is brilliant. I was doing the chords for "Badge" and he just went off on this fantastic solo. I sit there doing the rhythm guitar bit watching him in awe. I will practice my "Badge" intro and riffy bits later as well. I keep forgetting how it starts. Once I get going I am fine, but it takes me ages to remember where to begin. (Clue to self - on the fretboard).

I find it interesting how my musical tastes have evolved as I have got better at playing. I used to listen to Eric Clapton in a kind of "yeah, nice enough" way. Now I absolutely love his stuff. And Neil Young. I've always adored Tom Petty but now worship his technique as well.

Other news. I have to go shopping tonight. I hate it. I get this real "death of hope" feeling on entering a supermarket.

Never mind the smell of fresh bread, marketing gurus, do something about my desire to die as soon I get through your doors. I fear that one day I will be found, slumped over the exotic fruit counter, dead from supermarket inertia.

Things in the WithaY house are a bit desperate though.

The fridge is empty, there's no bread, no fruit (except the obligatory Eddie Izzard Stalinist Orange) , not even anything in the freezer except freaky shot-studded game. And I am not cooking that.

Mr WithaY goes away for a couple of weeks and I revert back to being a student. It's just crap really.

Well, better get on with my essay. Presentation. Whatever it is I am doing today. I need a holiday.

Doesn't 2112 go on? 19 minutes and still going strong. Blimey.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007


I phoned my lovely Mum earlier as it's been too long since I last spoke to her. She's not too well, which is a worry, and sounded very low which is not like her. We cheered each other up though, which is what Mums and eldest (and favourite*) daughters are for.

It doesn't help that she's worried sick about my (soon to be ex) brother-in-law's increasingly unpleasant behaviour.

Aah, families.

I used to have horrible dreams years ago when Middle Sis was in the police in Brighton. She was attacked a few times in the course of her duties; I can still remember the sick feeling I got whenever Brighton was on the news....what's happened? Is she involved? Is she alright?

Anyway. After one of these attacks, I began having a recurring dream where I would go to the house of the man who attacked her (not that I ever knew who it was), and shoot him in the belly with a 12-bore, much in the stylee of Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday, walking away and leaving him dying in the doorway.

He always wore a grubby vest. No idea why.

The bloke, not Val Kilmer.

In my defence, I would then drive to Brighton nick and hand myself and the gun in. Law-abiding, even in sleep.

Well, apart from murdering people.

This was almost 20 years ago and I still remember the dream. It's scary when you realise how much goes on in your head when you're asleep.

On a more cheerful note, I have emailed my presentation to my boss. Hopefully he'll be pleased.

*in my head

Tired. And emotional.

Working at home again today. Was upset and still awake at 2am, then woke up again at 5. So feel tired today. Luckily I have plenty to do, and had a chat with my lovely boss on the phone this morning to arrange some work stuff for the next few days.

Kevin the decorator has finished the ceiling in the spare room, put the first coat of paint on all the woodwork, and done the first coat of paint on the walls. Pale blue, if you were wondering. It might be finished tomorrow which gives me time to get the floor cleaned, the rug back down (no carpet yet) and rebuild the furniture before Mr WithaY gets home on Friday night.

I have been drafting another mega presentation which I have to give to a Very Important Person next week, and before that at a pre-meeting meeting, so I need to get a copy to my boss by the end of today so he can "edit for tone".

Trouble is, I keep looking at it and thinking "this is unbearably boring" which doesn 't bode well for my audience. I need to inject some passion into it. Then it will be EXCITING and DYNAMIC and NOT SHIT.

I wish I was on the other side of the world. *sigh*

Still, my gorgeous guitar teacher is coming over later and I will enjoy playing with him. In a manner of speaking.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Glass III - The Return

Well, was at home all day today, waiting for the glass repair men to turn up and do my windscreen. Clear skies, light breezes, perfect glass repairing weather.

Kevin the painter and I were getting quite excited by the time the glass repair van arrived, bang on time. The helpful chap I met on Saturday was there, along with another young man who was the "fitter".

The office chap had to come out because it's a two man job and there were no other fitters available. Not from their team, or from any other teams in the whole West Country, apparently.

Anyway, putting that aside, I stood there smiling broadly as they looked at my car. The office chap started poking about with the rubber trim around the windscreen.

"Oh." Pause. "Oh dear." Pause. "I didn't order any new trim. Um." He had the grace to shuffle his feet a bit and look awkward.

I looked at him, then at the trim, then at the fitter, then back at the trim, then at him again, then back at the trim. It was a bit like a Clara Bow film.

"So, let me guess" I said. "You can't fit it today without the new trim?" He shook his head sadly.

"So when can you do it? Tomorrow? Friday? I could arrange to be here on Friday." He shook his head again, even more sadly.

There followed a lengthy and complicated discussion involving my whereabouts over the next fortnight ("No, I'm in Bath that day, no, London that day, no, sorry, Bath again that day, no have to be in the office all those days etc). To be fair, they were trying to fit around my timetable, but it all got very exhausting.

The long and the short of it is that I am now booked in for Saturday 23rd June. I assume June, anyway. I'd better check that.

They are coming HERE.

With the right windscreen.

With the new trim.

With two fitters.

Maybe I should write them a list.

I'm getting quite attached to the broken windscreen now. I shall have to take it out somewhere for our anniversary.

Other news. Fuck all really.

A bit of crap relationship stuff on Second Life. I shall have to stop playing, it is supposed to be fun but I feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time patching things up at the moment. Still, it's just a game, eh?

Kevin the painter is making splendid progress on the house. He has finished the bathroom, which looks fab, and has made a cracking start on the spare room. The ceiling has a coat of white paint, he's fixed the light fitting, the walls are all sanded and the holes filled, and all the woodwork's been prepped.

By Swansea the boy moves fast.

And no, I am not sharing his details. He has more than enough work in our village without us sharing him with Outsiders. A local tradesman for local people.

Mr WithaY rang and left a message to say he was now in Elgin, as part of his work-related Grand Tour of Scotland. I hope he brings me back a stick of rock.

Better go and eat I suppose. I am in no danger of fading away but I don't want to wake up at 4am ravenous.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Training stuff

In my rant about the whole car fiasco yesterday, I neglected to post some of the highlights from my week away.

First: Seeing all the guys on the course again, and having the time to catch up each others' news and lives a bit. Very nice, I hope we stay in touch. Well, at least the guys in my group, who are all completely great.

And yes, they have the address of my blog so I daren't be rude about them.

Other stuff: The drumming thing. I mentioned this in brief, but it deserves a bit more explanation. On the course programme for Thursday evening it said ominously "Drumming with Umbanda". I googled Umbanda. I found their website. I looked at what I found in blank dismay.

You can do the same...

I have never considered myself the kind of person who does percussion for fun. Or for anything, really. The last time I used any kind of formal percussion instrument was at primary school, where I think I was an unskilled and unenthusiastic triangle player.

I play guitar, I make jokes about drummers.

Q: What do you call a guy who hangs out with a group of musicians?

A: A drummer.


And being British and therefore hugely repressed, I was dreading the whole thing.

However. Come the evening in question, we had successfully completed a huge complicated team exercise which had left everyone in a pretty good mood, and there was the promise of free booze and a barbecue after the drumming, so things were looking up.

It was being held in The Fernery (and isn't that a great name?) so we trooped in there, spotted the booze and all latched on like drowning men onto a barrel. Amazingly, after a few glasses of wine, the vast assortment of drums, shaky things, clangy things, whacky things and scrapy things all looked less daunting.

It was hilarious. Being a bit pissed helped, obviously, but the guys running the session were brilliant, and everyone joined in.

And as a footnote to that, while we were all sitting having our barbecue afterwards, we could hear another group doing their drumming session. They sounded shit. We mocked them at length amongst ourselves, even finding out from our course tutor who they were. Turned out they were a group of Germans from some Big German Company.

A little later, a couple of chaps wandered into our field of vision, both looking in some indefinable way, well, German. One of our group (a sweet, mild-mannered lady) bellowed at them:

"Hey! Are you from Big German Company?"

They stopped, looking rather startled and replied politely "Why yes, we are."

"You're CRAP!" she shouted.

There may have been a degree of pointing as well.

The rest of us dissolved in laughter, whilst trying to explain to the bemused polite German chaps that she was referring to their drumming efforts, not to the whole German nation. Well, we assume that's what she meant.

Heh. Glorious.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Glass II - The Revenge

I got up really early today, in a state of mild anticipation.

Not because I was pleased to be home (although I am), not because I was looking forward to a day of leisure in gorgeous sunny Wiltshire (although I was). No, I was heading off to the glamorous metropolis that is Frome (look on a map, American readers) to get a new windscreen for my car.

They had told me that I needed to be there for 8.30, so I was up and out of the house by 8am. Which after my mammoth 3 hour flog down the motorway systems of Southern and Western England on Friday afternoon, I did not feel like doing. There was a degree of grumbling.

Anyhoo, I got to the glass place at about 8.45 after a diverting jaunt around Frome town centre. I swear, that place is like a maze. You have to visit every corner of the bloody town before you can leave.

Try it one day. Go to Frome and try and drive from one side to the other, say from the College to the big Asda (or as it is hilariously known in the WithaY household, Chavda) and see what happens. You'll be doing laps before you know it.

But I digress.

I parked up, went into reception, smiling hopefully and was greeted by a lovely affable young man. He knew all about my appointment, and things seemed to be going remarkably well. Until...

"Is that your car there?" he said, pointing at the only car parked outside the entire place.

"The one with the huge crack in the windscreen? Yes, that's mine."

"Oh." Pause. "Oh dear." Pause. "Is that the new type of windscreen for that model?"

I refrained from replying "I don't fucking know! I'm not a fucking windscreen specialist, like I assumed you were!" No, instead I was very calm and polite.

"Why yes, I believe it is. The insurance company confirmed that when I booked my car in (eleven days ago you slow slow SLOW glass replacement firm)." I didn't say the bit in brackets. That was in my head.

So, the long and the short of it was that they had managed to get the wrong windscreen in, despite me having confirmed with the insurance company AND the glass place over the phone that my car is the model with the NEW windscreen.

I am now having them come to my house on Tuesday to fit the new windscreen. Unless it's raining, in which case they won't.

This could go on indefinitely.

Oh yeah, the chap also went to some lengths to assure me how completely safe the windscreen in, but ruined it a bit by commenting "Of course, the crack will continue to creep down the screen." Fucking great.

As my morning was shot to bits, I went to the supermarket, got a huge pile of glorious summer fruit, some fresh croissants and the Saturday Telegraph and came home again.

The course was good. I was tired by Friday, well, we all were, but it was really worth while.

We had an evening session with a drumming group on Thursday night which I had been very wary of. In the end it was hilarious. The cooler full of beer and wine we were all scarfing back might have helped. Boy, do some of our group not have rhythm. It was an experience.

Jim called round this afternoon to pick up a few bits and bobs, it was nice to see him. And Mr WithaY is back from his diving trip later tonight after a week away. So hurrah!

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Celebrity in training

I am at the end of Day 2 of my training course, here in Hertfordshire. I think that's where I am, anyway. I am still catching up on my sleep after yesterday's stupidly early start.

I had to be here for 10am yesterday, and didn't fancy staying in a hotel or something up here on my own the night before, like I did last time. So, I stopped over at my lovely bestest mate's house, which is 50 miles closer to here than my place. I worked out that it would take me about 2 and a half to 3 hours to get here, assuming the traffic wasn't too hideous.

Well, we were very stupid and stayed up far too late, and then I woke up at 4.30, lay there for a bit wondering if I should sleep more, then gave up, got up, and was out of the house by 5.30. In the morning. IN THE MORNING!

And of course, because it was so early, the traffic was less hellish than I had anticipated, so I got here at 7.30. Mind you, I had to listen to my fab "Mostly AC/DC" compilation CD in the car with the air con turned up high totry and stay awake at several points on the M25. Not good.

I checked in at reception, where the nice lady said "Ooh, you do look tired dear....go and have some breakfast." How thoughtful.

Tell you what; by 10pm that night I was half dead.

The course is interesting so far. We did radio and TV interviews today, with feedback from our peers, as well as the involvement of local Points West anchorman and (it turns out) excellent communications guru Chris Vacher. He was brilliant.

But now it's late and I'm tired. So I will try to be more interesting tomorrow.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Chaos theory

I am at my desk for the first time in what feels like ages (Friday last week, in reality.) I am having a frankly mental morning, as I am out of the office from this afternoon until next Monday and it seems as though the world and his dog all want to have "just five minutes" to tell me stuff, ask me stuff and try to give me more work to do.

I am dealing with this by listening to the people who want to tell me stuff, answering the people who ask me stuff and completely ignoring the poor fools who are trying to give me more work. Seems to be a sound approach so far.

The Grand Office Move continues to cause ructions for a lot of the team. Me and my colleague are all right (Jack), because we are unaffected as yet, but the rest of the guys are disgruntled. They came in this morning to find that the accommodation is very cramped, they've been put in the corner they explicitly asked NOT to be in, the lockable cupboards and desk pedestals don't, and most of the chairs are broken. Understandably, they are hacked off.

It is frustrating because there is nothing I can do about it, really. The building Facilities Manager is involved. She is the only person who can get them different furniture, all I could do would be to raise the ante by asking piercing questions in a Lady Bracknell voice. Which I don't believe would be very helpful.

This morning leaving the house was a complete nightmare. For some reason everything felt hugely complicated. In hindsight of course, it wasn't really, but at the time it seemed that way.

Jim and I said our goodbyes last night (he's not a morning person); he plans to move out on Tuesday to go and stay with our mates in Gloucestershire until he can get some work and find a house.

He's been shafted by the change of direction on this HIPS thing. He was lining up work from the beginning of this month but now it won't happen till August, and only 18% of the market will be affected so his projected income has been slashed dramatically. He's planning on finding some temporary job in the interim to keep him afloat until the Government gets its bloody act together.

The decorator should be coming in this week, but he is not sure when exactly, so I have cleared the bathroom out, left the right paint in there (a charming ochre colour, slightly paler than what is in there at the moment) with a little note with my mobile number on it, and am hoping for the best. It all depends on when he finishes his "outdoor job", which will depend on the weather. If it rains, he'll be with me earlier.

I watered all the plants and moved them off the windowledge so hopefully they won't die while I'm away.

I had to make sure all the bins were emptied, the compost bucket thingy was emptied and all the perishable food was out of the fridge, or I'll be coming home on Friday to a hideous stench-filled pit. I also had to make sure I switched everything off that needed to be off, as Jim is not good at this, and would probably leave everything on rather than risk turning off the wrong thing. Fair enough, I suppose.

I drove in to the office with that "what have I forgotten" feeling. I daresay it will become apparent in due course.

Oh, and I managed to wang Mr WithaY's Landrover into our garage door yesterday. I don't think it's very damaged, but it is definitely not quite right. The door, I mean. The Landrover is fine, I didn;t even dislodge any of the accreted crud off the bull bars.

I was shuffling the cars about on the drive, which entailed driving his onto the road, leaving it there, driving mine off the drive, putting Mr WithaY's back on the drive, then putting mine on behind it. His car has a much longer bonnet than mine, plus the bull bars and I misjudged the distance between his car and the garage. There was a resounding "thung" noise, the door got nastily skewed and I sat there thinking "bollocks".

Ah well. Maybe I can fix it before he gets home. I think we have a sledgehammer somewhere.

Sunday, 3 June 2007


I have been up less than half an hour, and it is quarter to one in the afternoon. Indeed, I am sitting here typing this in my dressing gown and slippers, cup of tea at hand.

Mr WithaY has been gone just over 24 hours and I am already turning into Miss Havisham.

I was up ridiculously late playing Second Life last night, which goes some way to explaining the enormity of my lie-in. However, I think I have worked out why the game is so compelling. I once heard someone talking about "intermittent reward" being truly addictive.

The example they used was fishing. When you go fishing there is no guarantee that you will catch anything. Sometimes you can be out all day and not get anything. Other days you can come home with pockets stuffed full of turbot. (I speak figuratively, Mr WithaY has only once brought a turbot home from a fishing trip and it was too big to go in his pocket.)

Anyhoo, Second Life is entirely unpredictable. Some days you sign in, none of your mates are around, nothing seems to be going on, so you meep about aimlessly, a bit bored, hoping something fun will happen. It doesn't, so eventually you call it quits and go and do something more useful and three-dimensional instead.

No reward for playing.

Other times, you sign in, ALL your mates are there, there's loads of great stuff happening and you have a fab time, ending up staying online till the wee small hours, (which is maybe not such a good idea.) You get a huge reward from playing, so come back the next time hoping for the same thing.

But you can't predict it, so it is addictive.

Actually, I think the dog behaviourist we took our mental "angry" dog to told us much the same thing. Don't always give the dog a food treat, sometimes just praise him when he's been good. Otherwise he comes to expect the food treat and stops behaving because he is used to the reward always being there.

But the best part of all this is that I can now tell people that I am not just a sad old roleplay game addict, but that instead, I have an addictive personality and the intermittent reward culture of Second Life has reeled me in. Much like a turbot.

Ah well. Time for a shower, then to pack my stuff for next week, then sort out the ridiculously complex logisitics involved in getting the painter into the house and Jim out of it while I am away.

Good job we have great neighbours who are around nearly all the time - I will give one of them a top hat and a tailcoat and get them to act as a doorman for me.