Thursday, 29 May 2008

Cars. Again

Not mine or Mr WithaY's for a pleasant change.

No, my lovely guitar teacher's. He told me his was playing up, to the extent that he needs a new one. I asked what the problem was and he sent me a scary link to a load of stuff about the problem.

Apparently Peugeot 206s have a known fault where they can lose all power whilst you are driving along minding your own business.

So, picture the're tootling along in the outside lane on the M4 doing 70 and suddenly all your power cuts out. No power steering, no lights, no decent brakes.

Bloody terrifying.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008


I just found a fixed penalty notice on my car!

It was parked outside on the pavement, and the police must have come along and slapped a bloody ticket on it. They could have knocked on the door and told me to shift it and I would have.

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have seen any police in this village. But today, obviously, it is time to show the taxpayer where our money goes.


Culinary disappointment

Bloody hell it's cold. And I don't think it's because I have recently come back from the warmer end of Europe.

There was a Scout camp in the meadow behind the house over the weekend. Poor little sods. I don't think it stopped raining once all weekend.

I have been having a few culinary disasters of late. I was in a real bakey mood on Sunday so decided to make a cake, and, at Mr WithaY's request, it was to be a fruit cake.

I found a recipe I'd not used before and set to, mixing and so on. All went well, it baked for the required two and a half hours, and looked magnificent when it came out of the oven.

Sadly, however, when we tried a slice with a cup of tea later on, it was unbearably sweet. Most disappointing.

I also made some more cupcakes, with a cream cheese topping recipe I found in the Saturday Telegraph*. This was very runny, and when I put it on the cakes it didn't seem to set properly, making them a bit hazardous to eat. And it was very sweet as well, so if I make it again I will cut down on ther sugar in it.

Another thing I decided to make on Monday was grapefruit curd. I have made lemon curd very successfully over the years, and we had some accidental grapefruits** sitting there, so I decided to make up a batch before we went out. Instead of taking the recipe's 20 minutes to set, it took and hour and a half. I was not pleased.

So. All rather disheartening. Never mind.

*It seems cupcakes are achingly fashionable. Once again I am a barometer of popular culture.

**I thought they were oranges.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Holiday snaps

Yes, I know. Now settle down and stop grumbling.

I know it is cultural imperialism to mock foreign languages, but really. I ask you. Maltese. It's impossible.


Apparently it is a mixture of Arabic, Italian, Spanish and English. And they have extra letters in their alphabet. It sounds very odd, because it's completely incomprehensible and then there's a completely English phrase in the middle of it like "Ok then, see you later" or "big football match tonight" or "here's the bus now".

Very unsettling, you're never quite sure if the person is talking to you or not, and the temptation is to respond to the English bits.

As is my wont, I took photos of signs that took my fancy.

This one was at the airport, just a little bit along from where someone was using an angle grinder, sending huge fountains of sparks all over the arrivals hall. Perhaps they were cutting up contraband chicken.

no chickens

This one was in the museum. And I thought our Imperial/Metric confusion was bad.

weights and measures

I liked this one very much.

"No, sorry, you can't park here."

"But I have fish to hawk!"

"Oh, I beg your pardon, please, be my guest."

fish hawkers

This one was in the prison museum, to stop numpties defacing the old graffiti on the walls, left by generations of prisoners. But I do like the idea of being surveilled. It sounds so mysterious.


This one is of the dive boat sailing away, leaving me marooned on Comino like a queasy Ben Gunn.


And this one is of my feet, after I realised I had burnt them whilst barfing over the side of said dive boat.

burnt feet

This is a small stone model of a nougat vendor. The obvious choice of subject for a stonemason with time on his hands.

nougat vendor

And if you can get this on a triple word score in Scrabble, you're laughing.


There. I might do some more if I can be arsed. You know, scenery and that.

Saturday, 24 May 2008



Did you miss me? It was fab. Sun, palm trees, cocktails and great food. What more could you ask? Oh, and museums and castles. Perfect.

If I can ever get my camera to talk to my PC (unlikely, thanks to Vista, bastards) I will upload some photos.

And just in case we were a bit depressed about having to come home, we got upgraded to First Class for the return flight! Hurrah!

Air Malta, highly recommended.

Will fill you in on the details later, but I need to go shopping as we have no food in the house. Poor starving waifs that we are.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008


Am still in Malta, in case you were wondering. Where I have managed to get bizarre and disturbing sunburn. I look like I am wearing a pair of shiny red shoes, and one (only one) bright red armbrace, like a camp gladiator.

How did I manage that, I hear you ask. With my bionic ears.

Well, yesterday we went out on a boat trip. Mr WithaY was scuba diving and had very kindly arranged for me to come with the dive group to look at the little island of Comino, a little way off Gozo. Look on a map.

All went well as we set sail from Gozo, sun sparkling off the iridescent blue sea, etcetera etcetera etcetera.

We got the the first dive site, where the boat anchored itself, about 100 yards from the shore. All the divers started getting kitted up. This in itself would have been entertainment enough for me, but I was realising with growing dismay that this was where we were staying.

On the boat. Not on the island.

In what was, frankly, rather lumpy water. The boat was rocking side to side, end to end and I think also straight up and down*. I sat and watched the happy divers all leap into the water, and tried to ignore my growing queasiness.

I managed to ignore it for half an hour or so by lying to myself that I was sleeping, as I thought, in the shade, with my head in my arms, leaning on the rail. That time-tested tactic eventually failed me, and I was sick as a dog.

Several times. It was most dramatic. Luckily, not onto any of the divers as they swam about under the boat.

Anyhoo, once they all got back in the boat we sailed off to another bit of Comino and got off the boat (I was first) to eat our packed lunches. I asked the boat driver if I could wait on land while they did the second dive, and he agreed to come back and pick me up in a couple of hours.

So instead of a second hideous bout of mal de mare, I spent a pleasant afternoon watching small fish, crabs, lizards and dragonflies in a rocky cove.

But unfortunately, because I felt so ill in the morning, I stupidly neglected to take my customary anti-sunburn precautions. Tch.

Still having a lovely holiday though.

*I may have hallucinated that part.

Sunday, 18 May 2008


That's what Malta has been over the last 1500 years, it seems.

We went to Victoria today and did a cultural trip round a wide variety of museums - the Archaeology Museum, the Folklore Museum, the Prison Museum and the natural History Museum.

One of them (can't remember which, sorry) has a timeline showing who had invaded Malta and when. You name them, they were here. Romans, Greeks, Turks, Normans, Spaniards, more Turks, Knights of St John, more Turks. Lord, it was complicated.

All of which were great, but rather paled into insignificance besides the Citadel, where they are housed. I took many photos. There were many steps and columns. It was most tranquil.

Apart from that, have been swimming, played in the jacuzzi, annoyed some Germans (result!) by switching on all the cascades, water jets and other toys in the pool, and saw two different types of lizard.

A full and rich day.

This hotel is great. We had vodka martinis before dinner. WIth three (yes, three) olives. Mmmmm. Booze.

And Portsmouth are the FA champions. My nephew will be pleased.

Saturday, 17 May 2008


Guess where I am? Not in Wiltshire, for a start.

No, I am in Malta, on the island of Gozo to be exact, in a v fantastic hotel. It is lovely. I may never come back. Especially as I can get internet access.

There are palm trees, the sun is shining, the food is delicious and the people are lovely. The place is incredible. Our room is bigger than the flat I lived in as a student. Seriously.

We had a looooong day travelling yesterday, well, from Thursday really, as we drove up to a hotel near Heathrow, and our flight was on Friday morning. But, all things considered, it was a very straightforward trip. Even the security at the airport wasn't too horrible. And all out luggage arrived here with us. Yay.

We flew to Malta, then got picked up by a taxi at the airport and driven at hair-raising speed across the island to the Gozo ferry, had a lovely sunshiny crossing to Gozo, then another taxi across this island to our hotel.

Maltese driving - it's an eye-opener alright.

Our driver overtook anything and everything, on blind bends, going up steep hills, on the wrong side of the road, on name it, he did it. As did all the other drivers. Horns was deployed continually, nobody used their indicators once as far as I saw, and yet everyone managed to stay on the road and relatively undamaged.

I don't think we'll be hiring a car while we're here.

We have had the world's best breakfast* and are going to go and meet the dive people in a little while, as Mr WithaY has a few days diving booked. I am going to check out the spa at the hotel and see about getting a massage maybe, and a pedicure (I have this funky new nail varnish to try out). And then, to the pool, to watch the plam trees sway in the breeze and listen to Def Leppard on my iPod.

I am having a great time.

*They had everything. You could, if you wanted, have had poached eggs, waffles with chocolate sauce, porridge, cheese, dried banana and baked beans. Garnished with an iced doughnut.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008


I am now a stabbing statistic.

Admittedly, by my own hand. Indeed, through my own hand. Don't hands bleed a lot? Hurts like, well, like something that has had a big knife stuck in it.

How did it happen?

Obviously through my own carelessness and stupidity. I was taking the stone out of an avocado (if you've ever had a near miss doing this, I bet you're wincing already) and was stupidly holding the half an avocado in my left hand as I stuck the tip of a huge fuck-off kitchen knife into the stone with my right hand.

And of course, the knife slipped. Who'd have thought that could happen, on a slippery, round, hard avocado stone? *tch*

The tip of the huge, pointy, sharp knife, stuck straight into the fleshy part of my hand, just above the thumb, and made quite a neat, deep hole. Which bled. And bled. And bled some more.

It has now stopped bleeding (cold water, pressure, elevation, the Girl Guides were good for something after all) and now has a large plaster stuck over it.

Hope I can drive tomorrow without bleeding again.

What an idiot.

Blue, blue, electric blue

Well, the sun is not quite as bright as it was but it's still a lovely day. Makes such a difference when the weather is good. Does to me, anyway.

Am sat in the office more or less on my own at the moment. The rest of the team all sit on the other side of the big open-plan office, so I am here like a sad Billy no-mates.

We are currently packing everything into huge crates prior to our move to the other end of the building later in the week. I need to get my stuff crated up by lunchtime on Thursday, and move all my bits and bobs to the new desk by then as well, because I will be away after that for a week and a bit.

The building is mostly empty and very untidy and rather depressing as a result, what with all the empty desks and cupboards, and huge trolleys full of junk to be either sent for recycling, thrown away or moved to a new home. And we are trying to carry on with the day job in amongst it all.

Can't wait for my holiday.

In honour of the impending WithaY travels, I treated myself to some new nail varnish (Jessica's "Out All Night") in a fetching shade of electric teal/blue, which is a bit alarming. I might restrict it to toes only. I keep catching glimpses of my fingernails and going "Wow, that is bright."

Will look fab by the pool.

Sunday, 11 May 2008


Just taught myself to play the rather excellent Take That* song of the same name.

And boy am I pleased.

*I know, I know. But you just try singing it. It's brilliant.

Cakey pig

Just got back from the supermarket.

We went in Mr WithaY's Landrover and apart from the plant life, it is really much improved. He refuses to clean out all the moss, grass, dandelions and other British native flora growing in the carpet on the grounds that it is "habitat". Habitat my arse.

Anyhoo. We went to stock up on all the stuff we have run out of, but I also stocked up on sugar sprinkles*, glace cherries, mini chocolate buttons and food colouring. I am going to make more cupcakes to take into work, as my team are still (still!) complaining that I didn't take cakes in on my birthday. Which was in January.

Not that they bear grudges or anything.

Another glorious day here too. It makes such a difference when the weather is good. For a start I got all the laundry washed and dried over one day, rather than having it hanging around for a week, depressing me.

Annoyingly, every pair of summer shoes I have worn over the last few days has rubbed my feet to bits**. None of them are new. What's going on with that? Have my feet gone all soft and feeble over the winter? Do I need some sort of foot training regime to toughen them up for the rigours of summer shoes? Was all that effort spent in keeping them soft and supple merely time wasted as they now have to form a hard crust over them to stop my shoes wearing them down to the bone?

Any podiatrists (sp?) out there, please do let me know.

Ooh yes, other news: The entire series of Absolutely is now available on DVD.


If you haven't ever seen it, you really should. It's very funny. Mr WithaY and I still do our "Gwynith and Denzil" impressions from time to time***.

*If I ever start writing "adult" fiction, that will be my nom de plume I think.

**In many different places, obviously, so I now look like a Medieval foot-leper.

***We don't get out much.

Saturday, 10 May 2008


Another week gone - life is starting to flash by. Probably just my age.

It's been an odd week too, I have been out of the office for much of it, either in Bath or Bristol, so it has felt a bit disjointed. And the weather has been incredible - warm, sunny, gentle breezes, perfect. Even the journeys on the train were relatively enjoyable.

Went into the office on Friday which was all a bit depressing - most of our colleagues have now moved to the Bristol office so the place was all but deserted, with huge packing boxes everywhere. We move to the other end of the building next Friday so this week we need to get all our stuff packed as well.

Whilst doing the day job. Arse. I bet we have no working phones by about Thursday. And then I get moved onto the new improved IT system at the end of the month. We have been advised to save everything we possibly can onto CD because the migration so far has had mixed success.

This worries me.

Big achievement this week - I have learned how to make cupcakes. I found a recipe on Nigella's website, and it works brilliantly:

4oz self-raising flour
4oz sugar
4 oz butter
2 eggs
vanilla essence
milk to make it the right consistency (a few tablespoons, add it slowly)

Mix everything together, adding the milk at the end, carefully put the mix into 12 baking cases, place in oven, make icing, wait.

Bake in the oven at Gas mark 6 for 15-20 minutes, allow to cool a little, add icing and decorations. Makes 12.

They are really nice.

Other news: Mr WithaY has finally got his Landrover back from Barry the Fish, and it seems to be working properly. Long may that continue.

So, we are a 2-car family again. Shame diesel is now costing us £1.23 a litre so we can't afford to go anywhere any more.

I still miss Badgerdaddy. *sigh* Still, nice that people are chipping in on this blog, thanks to all who have done so.

I'll try to be a bit less crap and slow to post this week. Sozz.

Monday, 5 May 2008


Apart from the iTunes fiasco, what else has been happening in our neck of the woods? You know you want to know.

I went to see my lovely Mum on Saturday and had a really nice day with her, including a great lunch at Pizza Express and a wander around the shops. Including Marks and Spencer, where I met the least helpful checkout assistant ever, I think.

The scene: A busy Saturday afternoon checkout queue, several people waiting to pay for their stuff.

Checkout person: That's £2.26 please.

Me: Here (handing over a tenner) Sorry, I don't have anything smaller. Would you like the 6 pence as well?

Her: Ooh, yes please. (Hands me back £2.74 in change)

Me: Um. I gave you a tenner.

Her: Ooh, you did, hang on. (Rummages in till, starts getting a bit red-faced and flustered)

Till: beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

Her: Here you are (handing me the same change again)

Me: Um. No. I need another five pounds I think.

(Supervisor shimmies across and stands behind the checkout lady but doesn't actually help in any way)

Her:'s your change (handing me the same change for the third time)

Me: No, sorry, I gave you ten pounds, look, here's the receipt. (Holding out the change she keeps giving me and the receipt, which she snatched off me and glared at.)

Supervisor looked at me and did that "Tch, here we go again" face. Still did nothing to help.


Her: Oh, what am I doing?

Me: (Helpfully) You're just getting my change.

Her: YES! I know that! (Stuffing the correct change into my hand and turning her back on me)

Me: Thank you. (Leaving the shop, laughing immoderately)

I have never really forgiven M&S for not keeping me on as a Saturday assistant when I was 16. Apparently I am "not Marks and Spencer material." Good job too, it seems.

Other news: Went to see Iron Man at Salisbury cinema. Most entertaining. Jeff Bridges was unrecognisable, and surprisingly scary. And I now know what all the fuss about Gwynnie's shoes was about. Oh my word.

Ate a fab Thai meal afterwards which was bloody lovely. Mr WithaY made the mistake of replying "Ooh, quite hot please" when the teeny Thai waitress asked how hot he wanted his soup. He had at least 3 huge chillies floating about in it. Mmmm, tangy.

Prior to that, we wandered round the shops and picked up some bits for our forthcoming holiday, and had a huge afternoon tea at the Red Lion, as we hadn't had lunch. How civilised.

Today has been a blur of domestic activity, lots of washing, cleaning, hoovering*, tidying, sorting and making a rice pudding.

Ooh yes, also, car news. Mr WithaY took his Landrover to our mate Barry the Fish, as it is still not right even though he's has another £800 worth of work done on it. Barry the Fish drove it round with his head hanging out the window and diagnosed the problem in about 3 minutes.

He has a special Landover stethoscope for finding out which bit is broken. And it worked. So, new rear wheel bearings to be fitted this week, and with any luck it will all be fine.

Fingers crossed.

*With the Dyson

Music, not the food of love

Guess what I am doing today?

I am reloading all my music onto my new PC because I have completely failed to manage to copy it from the laptop. I didn't give up immediately, of course.

I first spent many hours messing about transferring files from one iTunes music library to another, and then going "Oh bollocks!" at it when the new library failed to find the files and play them. So, as the vast majority of stuff on my iPod is from CDs I own, I just decided to give up and start from scratch.

I suppose I can burn the songs I bought onto a CD and load it onto the new machine?

Gah. I am yet again disapoointed by how little my life resembles Star Trek.

Oh BOLLOCKS. I just discovered that all the albums I loaded on this morning have been deleted again. When I say "have been deleted" I mean I deleted them. Thinking I was getting rid of stuff that was not working.

So. Back to square 1.

Good job I have already done loads of useful stuff today or I'd feel like I was wasting my life doing this.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Friday, 2 May 2008

Go fish

Busy day today.

Had a hectic morning at work, after a nice evening last night eating Chinese with my bestest mate, catching up on each others' news and wandering round looking at bats.

At one point we were looking at the river, standing on a rather lovely arched stone bridge. It was getting dark, and what with all the bats and all, it was looking a bit spooky.

I said "Wouldn't it be scary if a huge bat came crawling up the bridge towards us...would you help me flee to safety?"

He said "No. I only bring you along as monster bait."


Anyhoo. Work. Had a new team member start today so we had a meeting to get him up to speed on what we are all doing, and to try to get the project plan updated.

We use a really old version of MS Project at work and hardly anyone knows how to use it properly. I looked into getting us all some training so we could, you know, run our project properly. The software version we use is so old that nobody provides training for it any more. We could, however, get trained up in a version we don't have.

I declined that offer, on the grounds that it was rubbish.

Baled out of work fairly early to go to Salisbury to get my hair cut, having stupidly forgotten that it is the Friday before a Bank Holiday, and the roads would therefore be hell on toast. Got there eventually and am now less straggly and dishevelled looking.

Which is nice.

Off to see my lovely Mum tomorrow while Mr WithaY goes sea-fishing. He is under strict instructions to bring back:

a) Lobsters
b) Scallops
c) A turbot

I daresay he will come home bright red and covered in salt, with tales of people hooking each others' ears and losing their glasses/wallets/false teeth over the side of the boat.