Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Woke up this mornin'

There has been an interesting new development in the WithaY household.

Am I having a baby?

Why no.

Are we getting another dog?

Not just yet.

Have we won bazillions on the Euro Lottery and can give up paid employment forever?


Take a guess.

Go on.

I'll help you with a involves a trip to the music shop in Salisbury yesterday, where Mr WithaY once again proved that there is no such thing as a bad impulse purchase.

Our home now contains, as well as three guitars, a bodhran** and a selection of tin whistles, a brand spanking new blues harmonica.

Many years ago, someone in my family (I can't remember who is responsible for the outrage) gave Mr WithaY a harmonica and a "Harmonica for dummies" book for Christmas. He tried gamely for a fair while, but only ever really managed to sound like an asthmatic who'd swallowed a whistle, and gave up after about three years.

How I wept.

Yesterday we went to Salisbury for a whole list of reasons:

1) Went to the hairdresser. I had a haircut booked at Toni and Guy. Yes thanks, it looks very nice. The girl who did it was flatteringly impressed that it isn't dyed: "It's such a lovely colour! Oh, you lucky thing!" etcetera. I looked at her blonde, blue-eyed loveliness in the mirror and thought "Yeah you'd ever swap." But I kept such uncharitable notions in my head.

2) Went to see Night at the Museum 2 at the pictures. Was amusing enough, but a bit of a firework display, far too much going on for any of the characters to get a chance to engage the audience. But, Hank Azaria is always watchable. Christopher Guest was completely wasted, and not in a fun way though. 6 out of 10.

3) Went to the music shop and bought some books of chords/piano/lyrics. Amy Winehouse, System Of A Down and The Pretenders, to be exact. Should be fun. I am going to force my piano-learning mate*** to play along with me.

While we were in the music shop, and I was busy buying Fender picks and music books, Mr WithaY got chatting to one of the staff. Next thing I knew, he was buying a blues harmonica, or "harp" as the pros in the shop called it, and a "how to play blues harmonica" book.

He's been practicing a lot. Already. I'll let you know how he gets on. He declared that as he now has missing fingers**** he needs a good "blues" name. Stumpy. Fingers. Lawnman. Chopper.

We spent quite a lot of the drive home trying to come up with something appropriate.

Suggestions welcome.


**google it

***hello Sarah!

****A bit of artistic license, but they haven't grown back yet.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Fire in the sky

I mentioned about taking pictures in London the other day.

Remember? Yeah you do.

Anyway. Look...

Westminster Abbey looking rather glorious in the afternoon sunshine.


Parliament Square, with riot police:


And some shots of the inside of the Royal Society, where they had the grandest ceilings ever.


I'm not kidding.


And they had some incredible techno firewood.


Other news: Went to our friend's memorial on Saturday evening. It was very well-attended, many friends and family were there, as well as a big crowd of people from the village.

Right at the end of the evening one of our aeronautical neighbours sent up a procession of large square lantern balloon things, about 5 feet high (or so it looked from where I was) with a fire basket underneath. They drifted up and off in a long curving line towards Shaftesbury, where they hung in the air for ages, the lights getting smaller and smaller before vanishing completely.

It was very beautiful and very fitting.

What else? Oh, Mr WithaY's hand is causing a little concern. He went back to the local hospital this morning to get them to take a look, but they were reassuring and seem to think everything is ok.

We did a little bit of gardening yesterday, not much, just pulled out some of the bigger weeds (the ones that were as tall as me), then sat on a bench out the back and discussed Plans For The Garden. We are remarkably good at Plans. We Planned for quite some time, then decided we were too poor/lazy/lacking in fingers to do any serious gardening for a while.

The big plan for tomorrow is that I am going to get my hair cut in Salisbury, as it is 3 months since the last fab styling experience at Toni and Guy's. And then we are going to the pictures to see Night at the Museum 2. Well, the first one was a laugh. And this one has Christopher Guest in it! Hurrah! How can it not be great?

Also, I made soup. Mushroom, with loads of garlic. Was lovely.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Thursday, 21 May 2009


It's 10pm and I am sitting on a train, hoping they decide to start driving it again soon.

I am unbelievably tired and still a fair way from home. Only my .38 Special album on the iPhone is stopping me from wailing like a banshee.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Mad scientists

Hello! Gosh, look, Wednesday already and I'm only just posting. I'd apologise, but as I know it will happen again it seems redundant.

Let's all just accept that I am posting less than I was, but with no corresponding increase in quality, and leave it at that, shall we? Then we can all get on with our lives.

Today, despite it being one of my "sitting at home and swearing at my laptop" days, I was in London.


I know!

How much more of this excitement can we stand?

London was looking nice in the sunshine today. And yesterday, when I walked back to Waterloo enjoying the scenery. I took some arty photos, when I am less tired I will upload them and share.

There were more police than I have ever seen in my life around Parliament Square, and when I saw the BBC website about the removal of the Tamil sit-down protest in the small hours, I realised why. It's all been remarkably low-key on the news; I can only assume that the BBC are trying not to raise the profile of the protesters by not mentioning it much.

I was at the Royal Society today, where the door handles are made of magical crystal with DNA helixes (helices? Spiral-type thingies anyway) embedded inside them.

It was an interesting seminar and a fine lunch, and I got to walk back to the office through St James' Park looking at the squirrels and birds. Not half bad.

But now I have to go to bed as I am up at 6 again tomorrow. I will of course have been awake since 4.30 but hey, at least it's light.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Boldly going

I was quite taken aback when I looked at the blog and realised that I only posted twice last week. That's a poor average for me, and even worse when you consider how little I actually had to say that wasn't all about yet more medical emergencies*.

Let me explain.

I have had a very busy week. Not with fun stuff like going to country shows, or shopping for gifts with a huge unexpected legacy, or learning to drive a monster truck, or anything like that.


It's been All About Work this week. I'd bore you with the details but I think I'd probably get the sack, so best not, really. Suffice to say it's been very busy and as a result I am waking up at 4am with a rising sense of panic most days.

It's not big and it's not clever, and it certainly isn't doing much for my appearance. I have developed huge dark rings under my eyes, an interesting pallor and lumpy flaky skin. Mmmmm-mmm.

When it hasn't been All About Work, it's been All About Fretting About Mr WithaY. Fretting is my own particular specialism in the field of domestic nursing. I am rubbish at the practical stuff, but boy can I fret myself into a tizz whilst not actually helping anyone.

So, well done me for that.

To be fair to myself, I am pretty handy in an emergency. I don't faint at the sight of blood, I can keep calm and sort stuff out, I can plan contingency stuff to mitigate the situation (sorry, this sounds like work again), I can even deal with hospital staff without clinging to their lapels and shrieking. But once things start to settle down and I am back home, I am frankly a bit crap.

The good news is that Mr WithaY is much better. His hand is slowly losing the swelling, and with a bit of luck when we go and see the plastic surgery people at the hospital tomorrow they will be able to tell him how soon he can go back to work, drive, play the bongos etcetera.

Fingers crossed. Heh.

Other news: Whilst on the train home on Thursday, I sat next to an elderly lady. She was very sweet, and we exchanged a few pleasantries as we got settled for the journey. It was a sunny-ish evening, and the carriage was a little warm, but one of the windows at the far end was open so now and again a gentle breeze could be felt. The sweet old lady was reading a book, or looking out of the window. I was listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd and playing solitaire on my lovely, lovely iPhone. Not too bad at all.

All that was to change.

The guard, a large, cheerful chap, came stumping through, checking our tickets. He got to the group of people sitting around a table a couple of rows in front of me, and leaned across to open their window with his special key, announcing "You'll be wanting this open! It's very warm in here!" They didn't argue, probably because it was all done in a flash, and after all, having the window open is a bit of a change on the train.

The window fell wide open with a thud, and he clumped on his merry way, obviously feeling that he had done us all a favour.

The second the window opened fully, a howling gale whipped through the carriage, making my hair fly about wildly, and flicking the pages of the old lady's book over as she tried to read. She looked up at me sadly, and I smiled back in my "Ah well, mustn't grumble" way.

I put my hair up in a clip and tried to ignore the strong draught now wrapping itself around my neck. I looked along the carriage. People were putting coats on, huddling down in their seats, closing their books as they gave up trying to read. It was also incredibly noisy; now and again the stench of diesel fumes rolled in. Very nice.

When the guard came back, 20 minutes or so later, the sun had gone in and everyone I could see was wrapped in coats, red-eyed, shivering, clearly miserable.

Me: Excuse me....can you please close the window there again? It's very cold and draughty now. We're getting blown to bits here.

Cheerful Guard: It is a bit breezy, but if I close the window there's no ventilation. How far are you going?

Me: Past Salisbury. (we were approaching Basingstoke at this point, still well over an hour to go.)

Cheerful Guard: (patting my arm chummily) Well, you can go and sit in the front carriage. That has air conditioning.

Ah of course. Good plan. I will leave my seat and walk through the train to the front carriage, where I imagine there are also no empty seats, and people are sitting in the luggage racks. Just like in this carriage, in fact. And all the other carriages that other people have been trying before they gave up and came and squatted in the wind tunnel of despair here.

The old lady looked up at the guard, her hair whipped into a birds nest, her eyes red from the dust and wind, her book abandoned.

Old lady: (tremulously) It is very cold in here.

Cheerful Guard: (now stroking my arm in a rather offputting manner) Well, I am sorry, but there's nothing I can do.

Exit guard, still smiling with the sense of a job well done.

What? WHAT? Of course there is something you can do, you stompy, grinning, shiny-faced galoot. You can go and shut the bloody window again.

The people sitting at the table where the window had been opened had tried to close it a couple of times, but it kept falling open. Clearly it could only be closed by someone with a key to lock it back in place.

Other, other news: Mr WithaY and I went to Salisbury yesterday to go and see the new Star Trek film.

Loved it. I now have a deeply inappropriate crush on Mr Spock, and want to join Starfleet. It's just like being 12 again.

*I could write scripts for Casualty now.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

It's getting better

So, how is everyone? Things here have been quiet, as you might expect.

Mr WithaY is remarkably cheerful today, which is a relief. He spent much of yesterday being violently sick, I suspect from the antibiotics he is on. Today, though, much less sicky, and consequently much more cheerful.

I worked at home yesterday as I was anxious about leaving Mr WithaY on his own while he felt so bad, but I will head into London tomorrow as he seems to be doing better. Our lovely neighbours have been calling in now and again to make sure he's ok, which has made us both feel much better too.

I took him to the local hospital to get his dressings changed today, and apparently things are healing up well. It will be interesting to see how his middle finger heals up as the bone wasn't damaged, but a big chunk was lost.

Do fingers regenerate? If there is a molecular biologist in the house, please do let me know.

Other news: Before all the alarms and excursions on Saturday I made a start clearing out my wardrobe, piling things in a heap on the floor. My rules for heap-addage were as follows:

Anything I haven't worn at all in 12 months.

Anything that I do wear but which is horrible and faded and shabby, like half a dozen cotton v-neck t-shirts from Long Tall Sally that are all pale and tired and washed out*.

Anything that I put on and then take off again immediately because I think it makes me look fat**.

Anything that I bought from a catalogue because it was a bargain, and then realised was a stupid mistake. For example, oddly-cut knitted tops from Next that looked interesting in the picture but which display bra straps and/or bellybutton at inopportune moments.

Anything I used to wear "just for the gym" and nowhere else. I don't go to the gym any more and a collection of decrepit saggy t-shirts is not ever going to make me feel good about myself.

Anything that I have worn holes in, even if I still love it.

Anything with unshiftable paint stains from when we decorated the house years ago, that I have kept "just for decorating in".

It made for a very big heap.

About half of it went into the bin, and it really, really hurts to throw away clothes, even when they are worn out and shabby and full of holes. The remainder, some brand new (well, never worn, at least) went into a big bag and got dropped off at the charity shop on the way home from the hospital.

And now I feel much better for it.

*A bit like I am today

**I know I am fat, but I like to pretend I'm not

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Lawnmower man

Today has been interesting.

Started off well, with sunshine, a nice cup of tea and free-range boiled eggs for breakfast.

We read the papers, chatted about our respective plans for the morning, discussed the possibility of going to the cinema at some point. I needed to pop into town* while Mr WithaY decided to mow the lawn with our funky new lawnmower.

He decided to go down to Father-in-Law WithaY's place and mow his lawns after he finished ours, so I as I headed off to the shops, I waved goodbye with a happy smile on my face.

I pottered around town, ran a few errands, dropped off the dry cleaning, all that sort of stuff, then headed home to start getting lunch sorted. I had a loaf of bread almost ready in the bread machine, and was going to do some lovely soup to go with it when Mr WithaY got home.

The phone rang.

Me: Hello?

Mr WithaY: (sounding unlike his usual cheery self) Hello. It's me.

Me: Oh hello! You ok?

Mr W: Yes. And no. I've had a bit of an accident.

Me: (Thinking he's backed his Landrover into a tree or something, and needs me to come and tow him home) Oh dear. Where are you?

Mr W: In an ambulance. Going to ....(conferring with paramedics in background) Salisbury Accident and Emergency.

Me: Oh fuck. What have you done??

Mr W: I've cut the ends of some of my fingers off.

Me: FUCK. How??

Mr W: (long pause) ...It was really stupid... (even longer pause)

Me: I'll meet you at the hospital. *click*

I drove to Salisbury, trying not to think about what might have happened. I know from long experience that Mr WithaY tends to underplay the seriousness of injuries to himself, so "the ends of some of my fingers" could mean an arm, or both, might be hanging off.

I finally found him in A&E, liberally blood-splattered and hopped up on morphine, a small plastic container in a bag of ice on the table next to him. The paramedics had searched the scene of the accident and found the end of his finger, and brought it to the hospital.

CSI Dorset.

So what happened?

You may well ask.

He had apparently, for reasons even he can't explain, stuck his hand under the lawnmower to clear some stuck grass while it was still running.

Yes. He poked his fingers into a razor sharp whirling blade.

As a result, he has lost the top joint of his ring finger and a big chunk of the top of his middle finger. They kept the bit that got lopped off to use for grafts, but apparently that wasn't needed in the end. No possibility of micro-surgerying it back on, unfortunately.

The plastic surgery team were fantastic, very reassuring and friendly. The A&E staff were brilliant too. One of them had to draw a big arrow in felt-tip pen on the back of Mr WithaY's wounded hand "in case they try and operate on the wrong one."

I left him as they were about to take him off for X-rays, drove home, packed him an overnight bag, and called our fantastic neighbours. Mr WithaY had been fretting that his Landrover was still sitting at Father-in-Law WithaY's house, so our neighbour very kindly came with me down to Dorset, finished mowing the lawn** while I picked up post and so on, then he drove the Landrover home to the WithaY house while I headed back to Salisbury hospital.

I found Mr WithaY in a ward (in E Bay...the medic had said "don't worry, we'll put a reserve on him" which made us laugh) eating his supper, with his hand all neatly bandaged up. They'd done the X-ray, whisked him off to theatre***, patched and tidied his hand up and sent him up to the ward in the three hours since I left him.

We chatted a bit. The Sister came over and I asked her if they were keeping him in overnight, as there had been some discussion about sending him home, but Mr WithaY and I were both unhappy with that suggestion.

The Sister agreed that he would be best to stay in hospital overnight, and that I should call in the morning and hopefully come and fetch him home then.

So. That's the plan.

I should be in bed now but am still too stressed and adrenaline-filled to sleep. Maybe I'll have a bath.

I really, really wish this hadn't happened.


**with the Lawnmower of DOOM

***for surgery, not musical comedy

Friday, 8 May 2009

Hell's Bells

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Test

I'm rather disappointed that I only get to the Second Level. I'm obviously not trying hard enough.

Although....a lustful, violent glutton is pretty scary and unattractve. So maybe it's not so feeble after all.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


Your Result: Chromium

Most people of this type tend to be distract easily. It is hard to maintain your attention span on something for too long when a "shiney object" comes along and distracts you. You could be sitting in a meeting or in class daydreaming and when addressed directly with a question, you must either admit to being distracted or come up with some dodge to get around answering the question you truly didn't hear. Stick to short-term projects. You will have better success there

I always wondered what element of the Periodic Table I was. And now I know.

Accidents will happen

Been working at home today, it being Wednesday, and until about 2 minutes ago it was all going rather well. I had managed to resolve a few pressing issues that seemed insurmountable at the end of yesterday, and even made progress on some of the dull but necessary jobs that we all leave till the last minute.

Yes, you. I know you do it too.

I was on a roll, redrafting something for the scary lawyers (brrrrr brrrrrrrrr brrrrrrrrrr) when I got the message "unable to connect to shared drive...error saving file"


Yes, once I managed to close down Word, restart it and find my file I'd been working in, it had lost the last 15 minutes worth of changes, meaning a long a tiresome trawl back through all the associated documentation I'd been referring to, trying to remember what I'd said.

How I laughed.

Actually, what I did was swear under my breath and then shut down the laptop.

Yeah. That'll teach it, bloody thing. Hopefully by the time I get into the office tomorrow it'll all be magically fixed.

Busy day tomorrow. Got to finish all the stuff for Friday's Big Workshop, also have a meeting with my boss, incorporating a meeting with an external stakeholder who is usually very worth listening to.

Oh, and I'm meeting my mate Andy for lunch. Yay.

Other news: Popped out at lunchtime to get some groceries, drop into the doctor's for some admin, and get cash at a cashpoint that doesn't charge a bloody fortune for the privilege of getting to my own money. So much to do.

Whilst parking in town* I witnessed a nasty little accident. There was a girl parked in the space next to mine. I didn't realise she was actually in her car until she started reversing out of the space as I was pulling forward.

Unfortunately, I think she was so busy watching that she didn't scrape into my car as she went back, that she failed to notice a bloke in a van pulling into the space on the other side of her car.

She smashed into the front of his van pretty impressively, then leapt out of her car apologising. I went to get my parking ticket, and as I came back I asked if everyone was alright. The van driver nodded, the girl was in her car getting her documentation out.

"Want a witness?" I asked the van driver, who was standing in a heap of broken glass and plastic. The girl's car looked relatively undamaged but the van was a mess.

He looked at me sadly and said "Nah. No point."

It really wasn't his day.

Just had a most enjoyable lesson with my gorgeous guitar teacher, and we played the bejeebus out of The Eagles' "Outlaw Man", and Bryan Adam's "When You're Gone". I need a decent vocalist to sing that with me, so I can do all the complex harmonies though.

My fingers hurt now. Excellent.


Monday, 4 May 2009

Communication breakdown

I have been grumpy. I did something distressing to my back on Thursday morning as I was brushing my teeth, and had to come home from work early as it was so incredibly painful. I took as many Nurofen and paracetamol as possible but it still hurt like bejeebus.

Limping around like Igor, whimpering and muttering "ow fuckit fuckit fuckit" under your breath is ok in the privacy of your own home, but not in the office.

Anyhoo. I spent some time the other day looking at what I was doing this time last year (according to the blog). And what was I doing? Apart from whinging about work, which seems to be pretty much a constant of my life?

I was paying for my bloody car to be repaired. I know it was a long time ago, but it still rankles.

More than two and a half grand to fix a known fault with the car, and because it was reported a couple of weeks after their arbitrary cutoff point, nothing from Toyota to help meet the costs. Bastards.

Yes, yes....ranklement still strong in this one.

I was also moaning about the weather. We have already had more nice weather this year than we did for pretty much the entire summer last year. That's how it feels anyway.

Other news: We have a vegetable patch! With potential vegetables and everything! Following a conversation in the pub the other week, one of our lovely neighbours dropped round some courgette plants for us.

Mr WithaY spent HOURS preparing a nice cosy little place for them in the garden. He dug over all the soil, picked out stones, sieved it, pulled out weed roots, put home-made compost in the holes....everything he could think of. The courgettes settled in quickly, and so far have not been devoured by rats, crows, mice, jackdaws, pigeons, pheasants, sparrowhawks, herons, badgers, moles, foxes, squirrels or slugs.

Early days though. Early days.

We have planted a load of seeds in pots on the kitchen windowsill. Parsley. I think. Tomatoes. Some squashes. Basil. Some others I can't remember. If they grow, they will soon join the courgettes in the Vegetable Bed of Unimaginable Luxury.

Mr WithaY, inspired by all this green-fingery, also bought two redcurrant bushes and some pepper plants. The pepper plants are on the kitchen windowsill, hopefully about to burst into flower. The redcurrent bushes are in the garden, keeping the courgettes company.

It's quite exciting* really.

So, apart from all the burgeoning self-sufficiency stuff, we spent the Bank Holiday weekend at home. Mostly quietly. Late Friday afternoon we expected to be driving up to Gloucester to see our mates and their mad spaniels. I rang them at lunchtime to confirm what time they expected to see us.

Good job I did.

They were not expecting to see us at all, and in fact wanted to call in at our place on their way down to the South West. Arse.

Well, it was lovely to see them, and the mad spaniels managed not to trash the rosemary bush for once. We ended up eating over at the pub and our mates stayed the night, so it was a fun social evening.

Last night we went to a rather fine dinner party with mates in the village, and as a result woke up late today. Which is no bad thing on a holiday Monday.

I'm fretting about work, having had a day and a half of unintended immobility, so am going to have to work my nuts** off to meet the deadlines I have this week. A bath and an early night should help.

If not, I will be whining and crying on the train all the way into London tomorrow. Which will be nice for the other commuters.

*We don't get out much.

**Metaphorical nuts.