Tuesday, 30 December 2008

No news

Wow, long break. I suppose spending the best part of a week eating and watching TV isn't really terribly inspiring in terms of blogworthy adventures.

Christmas was pleasant. We ate a lot, possibly our own weight in turkey and ham, and watched more tv than seems feasible. Most relaxing.

It is fearsomely cold here at the moment. Yes, I know all the North Americans out there will be snorting with mirth at the idea, but to us a day which doesn't get over 0 degrees Centigrade is a Very Cold Day.

Am still trying to get over my disappointment at the lack of Dinotopia on the TV so far. Outrageous.

And tomorrow we are off to Homebase to buy replacement lighting. I'll keep you posted. Try to contain your excitement.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008


Got my parcel! Yay! It arrived as I was writing a cheque for the Log Man (who delivered our logs 2 days early, great stuff) and making sausage rolls and talking to my lovely Mum and wrapping presents.

It's all go here.

Father in Law WithaY is moving into the nursing home today too, so will be (hopefully at least) starting to be settled in for Christmas. We can pop over and see him often, each time saving us a couple of hours driving, marvellous.


Time to start thinking about lunch. And that.

Monday, 22 December 2008


Parcel people came while I was out.

I expect to see my order being returned to the Stygian haze of the Amazon warehouse very soon.


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Going postal

Oh yeah - if you are ever planning to send me a package, don't use City Link. They are bloody hopeless, on current evidence.

I have a package supposedly on its way from Amazon, who are usually absolutely no trouble at all.

I came home from work on Tuesday night to find a card through the door saying that City Link had tried to deliver my package, but had failed because there was nobody home to sign for it. All the other things I have had delivered from Amazon over the years have been left without a signature, but apparently this package is extra special.

Why? Who knows. It's not a Faberge egg, sadly.

So. I took the card to work with me on Wednesday and called the appropriate depot, bloody miles away in Bristol. They said "Your package is out on the van today, to be delivered." I explained that that would be no use, as I was in London. They said "Oh."

After a thoughtful pause, we agreed that my package would be delivered on Friday, when I would be home to sign for it, and take delivery into my own fair hands. And have a retina scan and full rectal probe if required*.

All day long I waited sadly, like a spaniel who had been left behind while everyone else went out for a long walk in the country.

By 7pm it was plain that my parcel was not in fact going to be delivered. This morning (Saturday) I called the City Link depot. The one in Bristol. The lady who (eventually) answered the phone was very pleasant, and apologised for the "confusion".

Um, no. You told me it would be delivered. It wasn't. That's not confusion, it's a cock-up. YOUR cock-up, to be precise**.

But anyway.

I asked them to deliver my package on Monday, and leave it at the Post Office over the road, as various other companies have done for us over the years, including Amazon.

"Oh no, we can't do that. You have to call the sender and ask them."

Alright then. Can we have it delivered to the house on Monday and just leave it outside?

"No, sorry, the sender needs to agree to that. You have to phone them and ask."

But it will be delivered on Monday, at least?

"No, you need to tell the sender, as it has failed to be delivered three times now."

But it wasn't even attempted to be delivered on Friday! The magical third time, apparently. I was in. All bloody day. Waiting. No parcel. Nothing.


She gave me the phone number of the sender (Amazon....do try and keep up) and I left a tetchy message on their answerphone. We shall see if my package appears on Monday.

*You never know your luck.
**I didn't say that out loud. Wish I had though.

Horsing around

Where have I been? What have I been doing to keep me away from my blog? Was it something truly magnificent and thrilling to justify so long an absence?

In short, no. I was in London on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and as I tend to get home late, cram dinner down and lie exhausted on the sofa, watching undemanding TV till bedtime, I tend not to blog on the days I'm in town.

Thursday was an extra specially late night home, as we had our work Christmas lunch. We went to the Thai restaurant just off Trafalgar Square, in Norway House (I think) and had a damn fine meal. Very traditional, Thai food. Heh. I shared the vegetarian menu with my vegan colleague, and it was lovely.

Afterwards we went to the Ship and Shovel and did a quiz, mostly about work, which meant I was able to add very little in terms of real value, but I did draw beautiful stars all over the answer sheet, which hopefully earned us some credit.

All this excitement meant I caught a later train than usual, and joy of joys, it was pretty empty as it left Waterloo. Yay. Loads of spare seats, lots of leg room.

But no...wait...what's this? We stop at Clapham and hordes of small children pile aboard. Arse!

There were at least 400 of them in my carriage. They made enough noise for that many anyway. The responsible adults with them sat down at one end of the carriage, and the children, little girls aged from about 5 to 12 dispersed themselves all over the place. They started off well enough, but within 15 minutes were shrieking, whispering loudly and having a fake hair-pulling fight. The air was rapidly filled with high-pitched machine-gun giggling, loud weeping and fragments of snacks*.

Marvellous. I turned up my iPod and tried to pretend I was on a beach somewhere.

Arrived at my station at about 8pm-ish, and took great delight in getting off the train first so I could flee the car park before all the small children did (yes, they got off at my stop).

Overheard one of the responsible adults say to one of the shrieking moppets, who was carrying a huge toy pony/zebra thing under her arm, "Oh, we'll have to phone daddy and tell him we're bringing home another pony!" I'd like to think they were talking about toys, but I think not.

Went straight from there to a party in the village, which was lovely, but I was so tired I only stayed for an hour or so. What a lightweight. Mind you, getting up at 6am three days in a row is knackering. I am still walking at least one of the journeys between Waterloo and Victoria each day, which is a good 30 minute walk. So being a bit tired is to be expected.

We have been preparing a variety of meat-related foodstuffs for the meatfest tonight. But to ensure all the food groups are represented, I have made a chocolate cake for pudding.

Other news: Looks like father in law WithaY will be moving into the care home in the next village before Christmas, which is marvellous news. Will save us a huge amount of driving, to start with.

We've put our Christmas lights up in the front garden and so far West Wiltshire still has electricity, so that's encouraging.

I'm off work now till January the 5th. The longest break I've had from work (not counting 3 weeks when I had bronchitis) since last Christmas. And lord, I feel like I need it.

*Seemed to be fig roll biscuits from where I was sitting. Nice and sticky on the table tops.

Monday, 15 December 2008

I got the power

Well, I have now, anyway.

Picture the scene....Last night, Mr WithaY and I settled ourselves down on the comfy sofas after eating a large curry (home made, and delicious). We'd put the Christmas tree up, and were admiring the twinkling lights, and all the little decorations we always forget we have, and we were starting to feel a bit more festive than we have of late.

I made poor Mr WithaY sit through Will Ferrell in "Elf" as we put the tree up, which was on tv. It was mildly entertaining, and helped with the increase in festive feeling.

So, peace and harmony reigned. Aaah lovely. We were chilling out and planning an early night.

And then, with no warning, all the lights went out.

My first thought was that our twinkly Christmas tree lights had blown a fuse somewhere, but when we looked out of the window, the whole street was in darkness. The pub, the garage, the neighbours. Dark, dark, dark.


'Tis the season to be subject to prolonged and annoying power cuts once again!

Now I feel Christmassy!

We got power back by about 10pm, when a nice man from the power company came round to make sure all was working once more. In the meantime, to amuse myself while we sat in the rather romantic candlelit sitting room, I played my acoustic guitar. I enjoyed myself, anyway.

Anyhoo, it meant we got to bed a lot later than we'd planned, so I changed my working in London days, and will go in on Wednesday, and am working at home today instead.

Other news: The flood in next door's meadow receded as quickly as it appeared, thankfully. Gave me quite a scare though, seeing the river come up so fast.

We went to see father in law WithaY on Sunday and he is looking much better, and is actually quite positive about things. The hospital staff down there have been brilliant; it looks like he might be getting a place in a nursing home in the next village down from us, five minutes away. Which would be excellent.

He asked us to clear out his freezer. So we did. Oh. My. Word. The things we found in there!

Eels! Pigs trotters! Unidentified jellified brown stuff in margerine tubs!

It was a real voyage of discovery. We filled a couple of black bin bags with stuff to throw out, and the rest is now in our freezer. In fact, we are planning a meatfest dinner party next weekend to help diminish the WithaY meat mountain.

Which will be nice.

Saturday, 13 December 2008


Next door's meadow is flooded. Something that has not happened in the almost 8 years we have lived here. The water is probably about 100 yards away from our house, which is scary.

The forecast says no more rain until next Tuesday, but it was torrential on Friday night, so it will take a while to drain into the river, I suppose.

I have moved my guitar upstairs for safety.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Red red wine

The things you see on the train.

Last night, on the way home, I managed to bag a seat at one of the "four seats round a table" spots. A prime spot as long as you don't have a daddy longlegs opposite you. No, I checked carefully. The chap opposite was broad, but not tall, a good combination usually.

He smiled politely as I sat down opposite him, next to a woman who was studying a stack of work papers. The other seat next to the chap, by the window, was unoccupied. The chap opposite me arranged a newspaper, a heap of napkins, a large baguette, a plastic glass and a small bottle of red wine on the table, preparing for a picnic on the journey.

He seemed very happy, but brightened up visibly as a slim, pretty young lady made her way along the aisle towards us.

"Room for a little one here!" he boomed, patting the seat beside him.

She kept walking.

The woman next to me read all her papers, then started working on her laptop. She was a lawyer, and now I know all about the case she was working on*.

The chap opposite and I played footsie on and off, both of us trying to be polite and accommodating, but also both trying to be marginally less uncomfortable. He had long legs for such a short bloke. Or so I thought, till I looked under the table and saw that I was in fact fighting for floorspace with his briefcase. So I pushed it slowly and discreetly under his seat with my foot and relaxed again. Heh.

He worked his way through the bottle of wine, intermittently reading his paper and dozing. How nice, I thought. How very civilised. Until he rummaged around in his bag and produced another bottle. Greedy bugger! At the very least he could have had a few more plastic cups. Gah.

As the train emptied, I was able to move across the aisle, smiling at him in a "I need more space, I'm not going because you didn't offer me any wine" way. He smiled back in a "I'm really quite pissed now, I have had a lot of wine and baguette, lucky me, eh?" kind of way.

At Basingstoke, two very sweet, dolled-up young ladies came and sat opposite me. They were on their way to a Christmas party. I know because I was eavesdropping on their conversation, despite wearing my iPod. There was a bit of a clue in the plastic stemware and box of wine they were carrying. They sat and drank their wine, giggling and gossiping. I now know how much they earn, and how much they dislike one of their colleagues**.

At Salisbury they tripped off the train, still drinking their wine and giggling, off for a grand night out. Bless.

I arrived home and had time to change out of my suit and into my slippers*** before our lovely mates arrived for dinner. Mr WithaY has decided we need to party our way back to glory. I'm all for that.

As a gift, they presented me with The Farmers Calendar.

It is brilliant, and I urge you all to get your own. I particularly like Mr August, who has struck a pointed-toe ballet dancer style pose, naked in a hop field.

Other news: Went to the dental hygienist this morning. I have wonderful teeth, and she is deeply envious. Yay me. However, at one point she was scraping off some calcified crud from my back teeth, making me cringe.

"Sorry" she said. "I know it feels weird, but this is the best part of the job (scrape scrape scrrrrrraaaaaape) It's so satisfying."

I like her. If it didn't cost me 50 quid a time, I'd go every week.

*Good job I'm semi-discreet, eh?
**See above
***I did wear other clothes as well. It wasn't that sort of party.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Walking back to happiness

Things have been a little stressful of late. Poor Father-in-law WithaY is now back in hospital, and we are trying to establish what happens next. There is no easy answer.

Still, at least we know he is safe and warm and clean and fed, which is good.

Other news: There was a fire alarm at work yesterday, which was interesting. The alarm went off and the Disembodied Tannoy Voice told us all to remain at our desks until told what to do. From where I sit, I could see hordes of people leaving the building, and hordes of firemen coming in. Not a comforting sight.

After several repetitions of the DTV telling us to stay put, the announcement was cut short abruptly in the middle and we were told to evacuate the building immediately, without panic, and no running. So we did, and went and stood out in the shopping centre for 45 minutes. Luckily we had all had the sense to put our coats on.

Indeed, I had packed my rucksack and was ready to go home if the fire raged too far out of control.

Disappointingly, the fire turned out to be a false alarm and we were allowed* back in.

As part of my ongoing attempts to improve my health generally, I walked from Waterloo to Victoria yesterday morning. It was a glorious day, my train was already almost 20 minutes late (signalling problems) so I thought I'd enjoy some winter sunshine and stroll to Westminster, then get the Tube from there. By the time I got to Westminster Tube, I thought I might as well carry on and walk the rest of the way. So I did. Yay me.

It was so refreshing that I thought I'd do the same walk in reverse at home time. I got as far as Westminster Abbey where my right knee clicked painfully, and has been hurting like billy-o ever since.

Managed to walk all the way, but was limping by the time I got to the train, and then was crammed into a seat with insufficient legroom** which didn't help. At least I had a seat. Some poor buggers had to stand all the way from Waterloo to Basingstoke. Which is a long way.

Made cupcakes*** this afternoon as a mate of Mr WithaY was calling in. It was quite nice, taking a late lunch and making cakes. Made me feel like I ought to live in the 1950s.

Right. Time for my guitar lesson now. Haven't practiced much this last two weeks, so will be in the naughty corner I think.

*Forced by our keen management

**ie: all of them

***and very nice they were too. With butter icing and sprinkles on.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Ice ice baby

Went out a little while ago to move the cars around so I can scoot off at the crack of dawn tomorrow, and my car has a sheet of ice on the INSIDE of the windscreen.

That's not good.

And it's foggy.


Saturday, 6 December 2008

Not tired of life yet

It's been sunny here for two days in a row. That's more than the weather managed all bloody summer I think.

Was in London on Thursday, when it was NOT sunny. No, it rained. All day, as far as I could tell, and in Biblical proportion. I walked from Victoria station to my office, where I saw a man with extremely elegant shoes completely fail to spot the huge, wide, deep puddle, and wade right through it. He seemed to be occupied with his phone or his iPod or some such toy, and wasn't looking where he was going. So it was kind of self-inflicted. He went the rest of the way doing that one-foot-shake walk. Heh.

I took the lovely Z's advice and checked out the list of Tube stations it is quicker to walk between. Waterloo and Embankment, apparently. I decided to test this, and on the way home I got off the Tube at Embankment, then walked across the river to Waterloo.

Not only did it take if not quite less time, then certainly not much more, it was a nice little bit of exercise (those stairs up onto the bridge!) and it was lovely seeing the city all lit up. I will take my camera and do some pictures next week if I remember.

There was a Christmas fair going on along the South Bank, with stands selling German Food (and why is everything German so much more Christmassy? Answers please) and various other attractions. I didn't stand and look properly as I was in a bit of a hurry to get my train. The South American band who busk under the bridge were playing Christmas songs, rather than the music of the ancient Aztecs, which was lovely to walk along listening to.

I was on the train with a few minutes to spare, so I shall be doing that again. It was less stressful (no worrying about when the next train was turning up), it was lovely to be out in the evening air, and I felt like I stretched my legs a bit after a long day at my desk.

I had considered going out at lunchtime to the big Marks and Spencer close to the office, it being sale day and all, but decided against it. Every time I went to look at it out of the window it was buzzing like a kicked anthill.

In the afternoon I had a meeting on the 8th floor, and gawped out of the window on the landing afterwards. We overlook Buckingham Palace. How chic. Didn't see any members of the Royal household gawping back, twitching the diamond-encrusted net curtains and tutting about the nosy neighbours.

I'm really enjoying London. I daresay the honeymoon will wear off eventually but right now every time I go up to the office it feels like a bit of an adventure. It helps that I am getting to grips with the job too.

Remember I was banging on about people eating delicious-smelling food on trains, and how it ought to be a capital offence? Yeah you do.

Well, there was a chap the other day who topped that particular piece of travel misbehaviour. He was on his mobile to his (presumably) wife, ordering what sounded like a fantastic Indian takeaway, detailing the types of meat dishes, rice, breads, sundries and side dishes. "I'll meet you at the station in 40 minutes, please pick it up on the way to there darling."


I think everyone within earshot's stomach was rumbling as he reeled off the menu. "Yes, the lamb samosa...with chutney. And a chicken biriyani...yes, with the vegetable curry. And a keema naan. Or, no, make that a Peshwari naan. In fact, get both." And on and on it went.

I sat there, wishing I had had the foresight to bring my dull, sad, dry cereal bar with me, instead of leaving it in my desk drawer.

On the bright side, I have lost some weight since starting the new job. Yay me.

Other news: Mr WithaY is finally getting over a heavy cold. I think it is the same cold he had last week, and it never really went away. He spent 3 days this week either in bed or sitting listlessly on the sofa, wrapped in many heavy layers. He is on the mend though, and hopefully has had his share of bugs for the Winter.

I have been offering tea and sympathy from a distance.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Ho ho ho

I have been out and about in the big city. And it was really rather nice.

Went up to London as usual on Monday morning, had a successful day at work (yay me), then met my mate Tall Richard outside his office for an evening of middle-aged frolicking.

I took the Tube to Embankment, planning to walk over to his office in about 2 minutes from there. As is traditional, I managed to go in completely the wrong direction on leaving the station, wandering up past Charing Cross into the Strand. I navigated by the stars* till I found Downing Street, then made my way to the appointed rendezvous, still slightly early. So no-one need ever know.

We strolled back the way I had just come (making me feel knowledgable and not too touristy) to Champagne Charlie's, where I had a couple of glasses of fizz. I very seldom drink during the week, so it felt like a real treat. Tall Richard had Beer In A Tankard, but disappointingly, he drank it nicely, refusing to quaff it properly.

We both managed to get covered in sawdust (it's all over the floor in there...I may suggest they add glitter for the festive season), then wandered across the road to an Italian restaurant where we had a very nice meal. Tall Richard, having lived in Naples, is unabashed about asking Italian restaurant staff for free liqueurs. Which they gave us with a smile.

We then took the Tube all over London, as there is no interchange at (I think) Embankment, so we had to go up and down several different lines till we were on the right one to get us to the Docklands Light Railway, and out to Shadwell, where Tall Richard lives during the week.

I honestly think it would have been quicker to walk all the way. We went up and down stairs, along endless tunnels, through stations full of commuters, into little secret doorways to vast empty chambers, along platforms, up and down escalators, finally finding a train to take us where we needed to be.

Anyway. We finally arrived at his little flat (which reminded me very much of being a student), had a nice cup of tea and a chat, then fell asleep to the relaxing sound of every police siren in London being let off outside the windows.

As Tall Richard and family live in the wilds of Suffolk, Mr WithaY and I don't see them nearly as much as we'd like, so it was lovely to have a chance to catch up in the middle, so to speak. Apparently next time I have to wear sturdy walking shoes and be prepared for Chinatown and a Blues Bar.

The trip into work the next morning seemed much less complicated, and I was at my desk by 0815, giving me the chance to be first in, and therefore smug as everyone else arrived.

Arrived home last night to find Mr WithaY suffering from a streaming cold, poor bugger. I think it's the same cold he had last week, and it never really went away properly. I am keeping my distance, whilst providing love and support. And cups of tea.

Other news: Who saw this? I wish I'd thought of it first. I could have borrowed all the dogs in the village and made up a husky team, stapled antlers to the bigger ones and called them Reindeer, and got Mr WithaY into a Santa suit.

We could have borrowed one of the farm fields and roped off a bit in the middle for the festive grotto (no photography) and sprayed the whole place with fire extinguisher foam to make it look nice and snowy. Could have paid for a fantastic holiday in the sun.

Next year.

*followed my nose