Friday, 30 January 2009


I am having the day off today because it's my birthday, and I want to enjoy doing stuff just for me.

In reality this means I will do all the washing, most of the ironing, clean the place and probably go and get the shopping.

Yay me.

Last night I realised with a sad shock that I am officially invisible now. I have reached the age where people don't notice me any more. It was all most disipiriting.

I was in the office till quarter to 7, because I wanted to get what I was doing finished, so I could take today off. So I got the 7:20pm train out of Waterloo, at least an hour later than usual, and thus saw a completely different commuting crowd.

I sat at a table, and was joined by a large elderly chap, a young lady with lots of bags, and a chap who, it transpired, knew two or three other people in the carriage. They all started chatting, I put my iPod in and settled down to read my book.

Now and again I would hear snippets of the conversation through my music, and the girl opposite me smiled at me in a friendly way whenever we made eye contact, but I was too tired to want to indulge in "strangers on a train" chat, so continued reading.

After what seemed a very long time indeed, the refreshment trolley arrived. I got my purse out to buy a bottle of water; there was much rummaging for wallets and so on from pretty much everyone else around me too. The chap next to me gestured expansively at the girl, and said "After you" so she asked for a glass of wine.

As she tried to hand over her money, he said "No, no, no!" and waved his own at the trolley attendant. "I insist! Let me buy you a drink! Put that away!" etcetera etcetera.

The chap opposite then asked for a beer, which the older chap made a song and dance about paying for as well. It was all rather awkward. The trolley attendant was very patient, getting the money eventually, after lots of jokes had been made about the lack of decent whisky on the train. How he must have laughed. Inside.

Once all the palaver had died down, I asked for a bottle of water, was given it, and paid for it, at which point the girl opposite me and the younger chap looked really embarrassed. The older chap continued bragging expansively at the other two, occasionally glaring at me if I moved, thus disturbing his huge flappity arms as they lolled into my half of the seat.

So. What do you think? Was I ignored because:

(a) He assumed I was a miserable grump who didn't deserve to be offered a drink along with all the other people at the table?

(b) He simply forgot to ask me, and possibly felt terrible all the rest of the way?

(c) He was making a point that those who didn't listen attentively to his endless anecdotes were therefore not in the "offered a drink" club?

(d) I am simply invisible now, being too old and raddled to be offered a drink?

Well, anyhoo, it's my birthday. I might make myself a cake in a bit.

Monday, 26 January 2009


On the Tube on the way back to Waterloo tonight, who should whack me with his laptop case in passing, but Phill Jupitus?

And spookily, I had just been thinking about the last time I saw him on the Tube, wondering if he travelled on that line much. And as if in response to my pondering, there he was, on the Tube, in my carriage, accidentally brushing my leg* with his laptop case.

Other news: Boy am I tired.

That is all.

*I exaggerated when I said he whacked me.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Memory failure

When we went to Frome on Saturday, we decided to call in at the huge Asda and pick up some groceries, as we were driving right past it, and it would save us driving across to the other side of town to go to Sainsbury's.

We went to Asda once before, soon after it opened, had a truly shite experience, and vowed never to return. However, that was a fair while back, and we were feeling lucky. Perhaps the dozens of aisles full of nothing but crisps, sweets and incredibly cheap clothing would have been reduced, making space for some actual food.

Who knows?

The car park was very busy, and it took us a while to find a space, not least because we were in Mr WithaY's Landrover, a beast of a vehicle that is a bit of a bugger to park. Eventually we slotted into a parking space, and walked across to the shop.

A group of elderly people were having a heated discussion with an equally elderly member of staff, standing right in the doorway, trolley and all, making it very awkward to get past.

Rather than cuffing them to the ground and striding by, I edged round them, muttering "scuse me please" politely. Bastards.

We found a trolley, no mean feat given the crowds, and started making our way through the shop. The first couple of aisles were "special offers" and consisted of mostly empty shelves, with the occassional tumbled heap of goods - washing up liquid, pan scrubbers, socks. It was like those films you used to see of Communist Eastern Europe. We put two (for the price of one!) bottles of washing-up liquid into the trolley and tried to get deeper into the shop.

Halfway through the third or fourth aisle we looked at each other in dismay, abandoned the trolley where it stood and fled, never to return.

It was a ZOO! But without the care and attention to welfare you would expect in a zoo.


Never again.

And this time I mean it.

Repeat to fade

Bloody computer did it again. Was in the middle of looking for a parquet floor specialist to come and restore our downstairs floors to their former glory, and the internet fell over.

The Orange Internet service really seems to be a bit flaky. If I can't rely on it to stay up and running, I can't work at home, and thus would have to flog into London 5 days a week, which would kill me.

Other news: Made a fab lasagna for tomorrow, but am seriously tempted to go and eat it now.

Have made some cakes, which I might ice, or might not.

Am learning to play "Because the Night" on my guitar, which is hugely satisfying.

Found out my beautiful "leaving my job after 20 years in the Department" ring is made of 18ct white gold, and not silver, as I thought. Yay me. We went into Frome yesterday, during the only period when it rained all day, and I popped into a little jewellers.

Also popped into the guitar shop and talked about 12-string electric Rickenbackers with them. It's my birthday next week, so if anyone wants to get me a gift, one of those would be very welcome. Only £1500. Bargain.

Friday, 23 January 2009


I am, yes indeedy do.

I used my wireless-connected laptop to look up the Orange website, then went through the help stuff till I found a page dealing with connection problems. I then followed all the instructions to do with resetting my Livebox, and hey presto, I am back online with my PC.

New ASDL filter, my arse.



This morning, as I was busily setting up my work laptop, running through the many complex security processes that have to be completed before I can check my email, I thought "Hm, this is running even slower than usual."

After 14 minutes of the login screen staring back at me, and nothing happening, I decided to switch it off and see if my PC was doing any better.

Alas, no.

I called the Orange helpline, in India, and spoke to a charming chap called Alex, although I doubt that his mates call him that. He had such a strong accent that I had a job following what he was telling me to do, expecially when I was upside down under my desk with the phone clamped to my shoulder, trying to decide which of the three cables he was telling me to unplug.

Eventually, after trying all the technical options at his disposal ("switch it off at the switch it back on again please,") he decided I need a new ASDL filter. One is apparently in the post for me even as I speak.

I hope it isn't coming all the way from India, or it will be weeks before I get my PC back on line.

I have dug out my laptop and am using that on Mr WithaY's wireless router, so the signal is intermittent, and the laptop is a lot, lot slower than the PC. But at least I can access the Web and my email.

But not my work stuff. Might be going into London every day if I can't use the bloody Internet at home.


Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Credit crunch

Blimey. Wednesday already. I know it's a cliche (and we're supposed to avoid them like the plague) but time does fly when I am at work these days.

The shopping trip to Bath on Sunday was very successful. My lovely mate bought some glamorous yet work-like clothes, I stocked up on tops from Long Tall Sally in the sale, we had lunch in town, and I made a huge HUGE retail error. A schoolboy error, in fact. If schoolboys buy makeup.

I don't go shopping much, except to the supermarket to buy food and toilet rolls and bin liners, so going out with a girly mate for the day is a real treat. I know this is starting to sound like a pre-emptive plea for mercy, but please do read on.

She and I went into Boots to look at makeup. I do like makeup. I don't wear it every day, although I am tending to when I am in the office these days. It's a confidence thing, see.

Crap noob with no idea about anything + eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss = confident knowledgeable woman of the world.

In my head, anyway.

Anyhoo. In Boots, mate is choosing posh expensive face care products, I am looking at the Chanel makeup on the next counter. I spotted a gorgeous nail varnish, in a vibrant yet subtle dark winy purple colour. Ideal for wearing with my black/grey/black and grey suits to work. Perfect. So practical!

Into the basket it went.

And then, a lovely lovely eyeshadow compact, two shades of purple, one pale and slightly sparkly, one deep and smoky, perfect to keep in my handbag for work emergencies. And it matches the nail varnish. So co-ordinated!

Into the basket.

A few more dull necessities later, I had finished my shopping and went to pay at the till. Ahahahahahaaaaaaaaa. They don't put prices on stuff at the Chanel counter. It was after I left the shop that I thought "Hm, that was expensive for half a dozen items...let me check the receipt."

Let's just say I will be wearing my new eyeshadow every day for the rest of my life to get my money's worth.

Other news: Is anyone else dismayed by the increasing prevelance of rock icons advertising sad sad things?

Iggy Pop advertising insurance, for example.

Alice Cooper advertising building society name changes?


What's next? Angus Young advertising retirement apartments in Portugal? Slash endorsing Specsavers? Ian Anderson putting his name to vitamin supplements?


Sunday, 18 January 2009

Bath time

I'm off shopping in Bath in a little while with a lovely mate. She found out this week that she was successful in her Very Important Interview, and therefore needs to buy suitable clothes for a scary London job.

And (ha!) she asked if I wanted to come with her. So, of course, with my fantastic sartorial track record, how could I refuse?

My plans, other than saying "Mmmm, that looks smart" a lot, are to look at spoons* in Habitat, maybe think about curtains if I see anything I like, and possibly get some more earrings.

Haven't been to Bath for months and months, possibly not since Eldest Niece was here in the summer, so it will be fun to look around a bit.

And then, later, when I get home, I am making marmalade. On a whim I bought 2 kilos of marmalade oranges yesterday, and spent an hour slicing them insanely thinly**. They have been soaking in a bowl of water overnight, as per the recipe, and now need to be cooked for an hour with a shitload*** of sugar till it marmalises.

Right. Time to find shoes that won't rub my newly-healed blister to bits again.

*At, not into. Although I might do that too.
**After I got them home, not while I was still in the supermarket.
***Official British measurement of quantity, American readers.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


Things I have seen on my travels to work this week include:

1) Incredibly glamorous girl with two-inch-long deep scarlet fingernails, which she fiddled with constantly as we travelled to Victoria, clicking them against each other with an oddly loud noise.

2) Man with more facial piercings than I have ever seen in my life, including in crappy science fantasy films and on heavy metal album covers. He must have had about 50, including stuff in patterns under the skin to make big lumps. Seriously, deeply intimidating. I saw him as I got onto the Tube, then had to stand with my back to him because it was honestly too much for me. He had at least 15 big rings in and around his lips, many with metal balls and things on them. He looked terrifying.

3) Continuing the scary theme, several large, very fresh pools of blood at Waterloo station, at the foot of the concourse escalators, next to the Help point. It was half covered in bits of paper, presumably to try and shield it from the hundreds of commuters thronging past, surrounded by tape, with two policemen standing next to it. The bloke in the newspaper vending place right beside it was gamely trying to sell papers and pretend he wasn't standing next to a scene from CSI Railway Station.

4) Incredibly farty bloke on the train this evening. This was more of a smelled- than saw- but it was most unpleasant. He was sitting there watching tv on his laptop, swigging cider, munching his way through a bag of mini Cheddars, farting liberally and foully all the way to Salisbury. Stinky bastard.

How was your day?

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


Oooh! Just noticed I have had more than 10,000 hits on the blog! Yay me!

Just hope they aren't all from the same four people obsessively checking back every few minutes.

Sock it to me

Big excitement tonight on the train on the way home.

The guard made an announcement asking for "any qualified medical personnel to make their way to the middle of the train". A young chap leapt to his feet in the carriage I was in and dashed off down the train, while all the female passengers looked admiringly at him, and the blokes scowled enviously.

After a couple of minutes the guard came into our carriage asking for chocolate in a panicky way, which a lady was able to provide (not me, in case you were wondering). After another few minutes the guard announced over the intercom that we would be slightly delayed at Andover station because the train was being met by an ambulance.

So, probably a diabetic having some sort of problem, I assume, unless it was a heart attack and the guard was coincidentally really fancying a bag of Revels.

Anyway, the dashing young chap then came back to his seat and smiled modestly whenever anyone caught his eye. Hopefully whoever it was that was taken ill will make a speedy recovery.

Other news, on a semi-medical related note: I have a bloody huge blister on my left heel.

I wore my new bargain boots (half price at Jones, black, low heel, excellent with trousers, ideal in all respects till today) to work yesterday. Walked from Waterloo to Victoria with no problem at all. Comfy, non-slip, easy to scamper across roads in. Perfect.

Wore them today, did the same walk from Waterloo to Victoria, and ended up rubbing about five hundred inches of skin off my heel, right down to the bone. I think I might even have worn away some of the bone as well*. It's hard to tell.

I think it's because I had different socks on, and they were a bit thinner. Bloody annoying though.

So, I will be limping around at home tomorrow in my slippers, whimpering in between doing work on my laptop.

I like having a plan.

Mr WithaY, who is a complete star, made the most fab dinner this evening. It was a roast chicken which he had covered in rose harissa spices. Mmm-mmm. Highly recommended.

I did a huge traditional roast lamb lunch on Sunday while our mates were here. Which was nice. My Yorkshire puddings worked brilliantly, though I say so myself. Was great to see them again (the mates, not the puddings). Their mad spaniels performed the traditional "trashing of the WithaY rosemary bush" ceremony. It's like Morris dancing, but for dogs.

*Bloody well feels like it.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Can do

Among the many items we are gradually amassing as a result of father-in-law WithaY's recent move into the nursing home is a bread machine.

One that bakes loaves of bread I mean, not something that prints money. Which would be very welcome, to be honest, if anyone has one they want rid of.

Anyhoo, we tried it out last night, and made a slightly odd-shaped loaf of dark bread, a sort of German rye affair. As a key part of a bacon sandwich this morning it was very good. Tasty, nice texture, not too floppity. I currently have a sunflower seed loaf in there, to see how it manages bread with bits in.

Is it just me, or does "A German Rye Affair" sound like the sort of book you buy in the airport on your way to your holiday? With a gold embossed picture on the front, and a list of all the other books by the same author in big letters?


We have several huge boxes in the kitchen, full of jars, cans, packets and bags of foodstuffs, some still in date, even. We have more olive oil than anyone other than a Turkish wrestler needs, and about fifty different types of dried vine fruit. Mr WithaY has cleared space in the garage; we plan to store all the mouse-proof stuff out there till we get round to finding a more permanent home for it.

If anyone wants about a thousand cans of peach halves, please do drop me a line.

Other news: Our mates with the mad spaniels are coming over later for dinner and (we decided over a sustaining lunch of home-made soup) cocktails. Mmmmmmmmmm. In fact, I need to go and put some ice cubes in to freeze so we can have proper posh cocktails and not just huge glasses of sticky warm mixtures of mad alcohol.

Am learning to play the riff from "Every Mother's Son" by the fab Lynyrd Skynyrd, which feels like a real achievement. Yay me. Makes me feel like a proper guitarist, being able to do little riffy bits.

Still bloody freezing here. Everything was covered in the most beautiful hoar frost yesterday and today, making the place look like a Christmas card. We will light the fire when our mates get here and talk bollocks all evening.


Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Too cold for snow

Car insurance has been on my mind this week. Mine expires in late January, and every year we get a quote sent to us from our financial advisor*, along with a whole load of forms we fill in to get the policy renewed.

This year the letter arrived, I opened it, and saw that the quote for this year's insurance was a whacking £400. Four hundred pounds! Gah!

We haven't had any accidents.

We haven't had the car stolen.

We haven't even locked ourselves out.

Why is it so hideously expensive? Why? WHY? Whyyyyyyyyyyyy? I may have wailed this at Mr WithaY in the manner of a Victorian workhouse washerwoman.

He, as befits a man of wisdom and great understanding** merely raised an eyebrow and suggested I go online to find a cheaper quote. He even, in the manner of a cheesy tv advert, suggested a website I could use. if you're interested.

And hey, guess what, annoying though it is to be apparently living in a tv advert, it worked. Within about 5 minutes I had dozens of quotes for equivalent insurance (fully comp, legal protection, protected no claims, windscreen cover), only one of which was higher than the quote we'd had from the financial advisor.

In the end I picked not the very cheapest, but one of the lowest quotes, for less than £200. That is almost £200 less than the quote I was sent by the brokers. What the fuck?

I rang the brokers up to say I had found a cheaper quote for the same service. The nice lady I spoke to sounded genuinely surprised that I had managed such a Herculean task.

"Gosh! Where did you find that?" she asked me.

"On the internet," I replied.


Bloody hell. I know we're out in the middle of Wiltshire, but surely everyone has heard of the Internet...oh she meant which website. Heh.

I told her. I daresay the brokers never thought to do a five minute online price comparison.

Other news: Back at work, so far so good.

Trains were horribly delayed on Tuesday evening. I left work a bit early to catch an earlier train, missed it by 10 seconds (they were just closing the doors as I scampered up the platform), had to wait half an hour for the next one, which was almost half an hour late getting to my stop because of power failures all the way along the line, and ended up getting home at the same time I would have if I'd left work at the usual time.


Still, it's been snowing here today. Was minus 6 as I left for work yesterday at 0630, and then when I came home at 8pm. Brrr.

*He gives us advice, we say we can't afford to do any of the things he suggests. It's a win/win situation.
**Has access to the Internet

Saturday, 3 January 2009


Dinotopia has been on all week, on Channel 5 at 0900, and I missed it! Gah!

Have to wait till next Christmas now.

So. What did Santa bring you? Were you good? Did you get coal in your stocking? Mind you, nowadays a stocking full of coal is not a gift to be sniffed at.

It's been bloody freezing here for days. We've had ice on the cars and the shed roof that hasn't melted for ages, and the birds are using their bath as a freestyle dance rink.

Mr WithaY has it on good authority (some people in the pub) that we are due a hot summer. I will be waiting for that with great excitement. Winter seems to have been going on since about May last year. Apparently it's going to snow on Monday. Perfect. Just in time for everyone* going back to work, and the trains trying to remember how to run. I think I will take my overnight bag just in case.

This weekend we have mostly been sorting out Father in Law WithaY's kitchen cupboards. He moved into the nursing home on Christmas Eve, and is slowly (and rather painfully) settling in. He has a lovely big room, and we are gradually bringing in pictures, books and small items of furniture from his house so it feels more like home.

But, and it is a big but**, he is finding it hard to deal with the fact that all the other residents are old, frail and in a couple of cases, bonkers. And who can blame him? Still, he looks clean, fed, warm and safe, which is a huge improvement on how things were a month or so ago.

And when all is said and done, he has only been there a few days. The fact that we can get to see him three or four times a week is certainly a bonus, as he is fretting about his house and so on, and we can reassure him that stuff is getting sorted.

But going back to the kitchen cupboards. Oh my.

Oh my oh my oh my. The things we found.

My favourites were (in no particular order):

1) Three inches of flat cider in the bottom of a large plastic cider bottle from four years ago.

2) A wide variety of jars of spices, none more recent than 1995, some coagulated into hard-as-concrete lumps which had to be coaxed out of the jars with the aid of a long steel skewer.

3) Six pecan nuts (shelled) in a screw-top glass jar.

4) A box of Tate&Lyle "Fairrie" Small Cube Sugar, in a pre-decimal box. I have been searching the Tate&Lyle website to try and establish an age for it. I may post a photo to see if anyone out there can give me an approximate date of maufacture. It must be from the 1970s, possibly earlier.

5) A giant glass jar of what I thought were green lentils, but which, on closer examination, turned out to be red lentils covered in thick green mould and dust. Opening the jar was like a scene from a low budget sci-fi movie where the mad scientist unleashes the deadly gas cloud on the world. The bottom two inches of solid lentil/mould compound had to be soaked in hot water, until the coaxing skewer was deployed.

Other news: Back to work on Monday. Am quite looking forward to it. It will be nice to get back to some semblance of normality again.

Plans for tomorrow include taking down all the Christmas decorations, including Mr WithaY's Blair Witch creation in the hallway. We are also going grocery shopping for the first time since December 22nd, as we have finally eaten our way through all the festive food. Except the dates, which I found in a drawer yesterday.

**much like my own