Friday, 31 July 2009

Black like a raven's wing

It's been a rather odd day today, one way and another.

The shitstorm from Hades aftermath continues to make life more stressful than it ought to be, despite people being very helpful.

I did some ironing in the late afternoon, trying to use displacement activity as a means to stop myself fretting. It worked up to a point, but while I was doing it, I ended up watching "How Clean Is Your House" again. Gah. There were two episodes, back to back, including an update on the idiots who lived in ankle-deep shit that I saw the other week.

A year on from the first programme, they live in slightly less shit, but are still idiots.

Had a fab guitar lesson tonight, which lifted my spirits considerably. We played a very nice version of "Paranoid" which was great fun, I learnt the riff for "Communication Breakdown" and we played (and I sang) "Son of a Preacher Man" a few times, and it sounded lovely.

So yay for music being a soul reviving joy in a dark bleak world.

I'm hoping the weather tomorrow is dry as we need to get the hedge out the back tided up. It's encroaching wildly into the garden and makes the place look dreadful. It'll only take an hour with the hedge cutter* but we haven't had a dry enough window of opportunity for about 3 weeks now.

And, of course, we have a Village Fete competition entry to start thinking about.

*assuming we have no trips to Casualty, of course

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Morning glory

I'm on the train heading into London for the third time this week, which is an encouraging step towards normality. There is a man asleep in the seat behind me, snoring in a loud and completely relaxed manner. The man sitting beside me keeps shaking his newspaper disapprovingly at the more penetrating grunts and snorts.

Like that'll help.

And the man sitting in front of me smells unpleasant. I am trying to ignore it, but every so often a waft drifts back. Is it pee? Feet? Dirty clothes? I can't decide.

Ah, commuting.

At least the sun's out this morning.

Other news: We watched Watchmen on DVD last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. There were a few "look away" moments but I thought it was excellent.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Water on glass

Today it has been All About Rain. I see that the Met Office are revising their initial summer weather forecast from "Phew, what a scorcher" to "Fuck me, it's wet."

I was at home all day, and after a late night last night I slept ridiculously late this morning. I thought I'd have got home by 10.30 last night, but I hadn't taken into account the fact that the later trains do Different Stuff to the usual commuter trains I catch.

For example, the 8.20 from Waterloo stops at Salisbury, but instead of the FRONT three coaches carrying on down to Exeter, the BACK three do.

However, the announcements that they make as the train is sitting in Waterloo are a complete lie. They tell you that the front three coaches will continue after Salisbury, which is what the earlier trains do.

So, if you are a lady with many, many heavy bags, and a reserved seat in the BACK three coaches, and you move to the front after hearing that announcement, you would be mightily pissed off if after a couple of stops they then said that the BACK three coaches were going to continue after Salisbury.

She had to pick up all her many, many bags and drag them all the way back through the train, grumbling profusely. Can't say I blamed her.

Anyhoo, the point of this is that it takes much longer for them to sort the train out in Salisbury, so you sit there for bloody ages* till they finally decide that all is well and they can continue on their merry way.

In the end I was home by 11, but Mr WithaY was still up, watching TV and keen to hear how my exciting cosmopolitan evening in London had been. He is planning Great Things for the Virtual Village Fete, so I suspect this weekend we might have a flurry of creativity in the WithaY household.

*About 15 minutes

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Brown Sugar

I'm on the train listening to Electrical Storm by U2 and thinking what perfect late-night travelling music it is.

Met the lovely Emma of Belgian Waffle fame this evening, and annoyingly she is as amusing in real life as she is on the Internet. I may have to push her in the Thames next time we meet.

We had an early supper at Wagamama's by the Festival Hall, followed by a bizarre but very nice cocktail, invented by a lumberjack. Or something. It had maple syrup in it, anyway. It grew on me.

Hopefully my train will start moving soon, I'm starting to feel very sleepy and there's still a ten mile drive after I get to my station. Mind you, I was awake at 4.15 this morning. Which was nice.

Monday, 27 July 2009

The Look

If a fly-on-the-wall documentary appears on some low-budget TV station in the next six months called "Slags on a Train" I will not be surprised.

There was a group of four of them on the train out of Waterloo tonight. They spent the entire journey fulfilling every single stereotype I have in my head about slappers.

They shrieked. Oh lordy, how they shrieked.

They laughed like Barbara Windsor, and at times, Sid James. There were definite echos of the Viz Fat Slags - "Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

They sang nursery rhymes to each other, yelling the words in a frenzy of excitement as they remembered them.

They had loud, loud, oh so fucking loud, discussions about:

* Boys names - they like Jason but not Tim, Ben, James, Chris, etcetera etcetera etcetera, so if you possess any of those names out there, sorry, you are not in with a chance. Try and bear the pain.
* Weddings and marriage - it's just a bit of paper, innit, what's the point? But they do want to get engaged cos then you get a nice ring off him, see.
* Horses - there was a lengthy bragging session culminating with the shouted remark "I've got horses in my paddock worth more than my 3-bedroom house!"
* Pole dancing. Obviously. Apparently their mates all have photos on their Facebook pages of it.

There were lots of others, but I was desperately trying to screen them out by listening to music far louder than I usually do. They penetrated that feeble barricade time and again, though. If we could capture their exact vocal pitch, tone and volume we could create a whole new range of sonic weapons.

They were joined initially in the bellowed ignoramus-fest by a man in the seats on the other side of the aisle. I think he was hoping to get at least their phone numbers off them by the end of the trip, but after more than an hour of their relentless high volume inanity, he feigned sleep.

After a particularly long and piercing screeching session, the woman opposite me gave me The Look. The one that says: "If I were less civilised and grown up I'd have belted them over the head with my laptop by now, but I am a better person than that and will content myself with pursing my lips and sighing loudly now and again instead." That Look.

As I left the train at my stop they were still going strong, I suspect they were going All The Way*. The woman opposite looked at me with wide, haunted eyes.

From the platform, I looked back through the window. She seemed to be mouthing the word "Noooooo!" as the train pulled away.

*to Exeter

Sunday, 26 July 2009


This week has been odd.

Monday I went up to London to the office, and that was fine, no problem. Saw the counsellor at lunchtime, which was helpful. The journeys to and from were fine, no major drama or incident, thankfully. I walked both ways to and from Waterloo, which felt like an achievement, and the weather was reasonable.

Fucking tourists though. Bastards. Why do they walk in long strung-out groups, all holding hands and blocking the pavement? It's like being a fish in the middle of a fleet of ring-netting fishermen.

On Tuesday morning I decided to work at home, as I wanted to make some important non-work-related calls that I didn't want the rest of the office overhearing. By lunchtime I had decided to cancel attempting to get any work done, and simply take the day as leave, then decided to take Wednesday as well, as there were a lot of things relating to the recent shitstorm from Hades to try and sort out.

Work, fortunately, have been, and continue to be, brilliantly supportive and understanding.

I think as a result of having to make all the phone calls, I had a bit of a delayed shock reaction, involving tears and vomiting (nice!) but thankfully once that passed I felt better.

Anyhoo, I decided to take the rest of the week off work, and try and get Hades shitstorm stuff sorted. Which I did, to some extent.

The cleaning team came back on Friday, and the house is starting to look really nice. I even did some more of the ironing, which felt like much less of a chore as the rest of the cleaning was already done.

Yesterday we spent a large chunk of the morning in the garden, before the heavens opened. Mr WithaY cut the front hedge, which looks much tidier now, and even managed to mow the lawns without lopping any appendages off. I pulled up an entire wheelie bin full of weeds from the front flower bed, which was hugely satisfying.

Mr WithaY also cut down the spiky bastard bush by the dog/log shed in the back garden, making the whole place look and feel much bigger. I want to plant some climbing roses somewhere in that area, but will have a think about how the place will look first. I don't want to rush into anything and then realise it was the wrong decision.

It's a shame the weather is so shite again today, I wanted to cut the back hedge too, but it's too wet and windy right now.

Might go and make some bread, I feel the need to knead.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


Today has been a long and rather tiresome day, in the main.

This morning it took me 40 minutes to get my work laptop up, running, online and with all the emails etc downloaded, which was annoying. There have been complaints at work that the desktop machines are equally, if not more, slow, but my laptop has been pretty good up till now.

I am trying to get my head round a whole new chunk of work that I have taken on from a colleague who left last week, which is interesting. Trouble is, even after a couple of days of reading and re-reading I still feel like a bit of a halfwit. It'll come, but it's all a bit of a struggle, especially at the moment where my brain is still not quite all there yet.

I'm back in the office tomorrow, and I see from my sloooow inbox that we are having a summer party at the end of the afternoon, in the conference room.

Aah, nothing says Summer quite like corporate furniture. I'm not completely sure, but I think it's more likely to be a few drinks and nibbles and speeches by the top of the shop about how well everyone has done, rather than a wild drink-fuelled orgy of destruction. Not a real party.

Speaking of which...

We had a bit of a hoolie last weekend. On the spur of the moment we invited some of our lovely neighbours over for dinner on Saturday night, after a Friday night pub discussion about how we weren't doing anything much for the weekend.

I wanted to make cocktails. We watched some TV show in the week where they were drinking cocktails from proper martini glasses, and I thought "We've got some glasses like that! We should make martinis! Why don't we do that*?"

And from that, it is but a short step to having a few mates round for dinner.

Mr WithaY and I are trying to make space in the freezer, as we are expecting to take delivery of a lamb (dead, butchered, to be frozen, in case you were wondering) from some friends who have been rearing them this Spring, so we've been eating Meals That Time Forgot over the last few weeks.

We have also been unearthing some rather great stuff, like sea bass that Mr WithaY caught when he went sea fishing a while back. And frozen octopus. It made a rather fine seafood salad, a grand end to a glittering career. Sorry Spence.

I made some mini bread rolls, from a recipe on Nigella Lawson's website, which were, though I say it myself, bloody great. I also made chocolate truffle cake, and shortbread to have with strawberries for pudding. My plan was to offer our lovely guests a choice of things in an elegant restrained manner, but by the time we got round to eating we were all off our heads on martinis, and I think everyone had some of everything, possibly all on the same plate at the same time.

Cocktails, though. Don't they get you drunk fast?

We started with the classic gin martini: Bombay Sapphire gin and dry Martini, shaken with ice, served with an olive. Mmmmm-mmm. Goes surprisingly well with chicken flavour crisps. You're welcome.

Then we made Vodka martinis. Sadly, thanks to the gin martinis, I was unable to follow the recipe and ended up mixing together vanilla vodka and Bombay Sapphire gin, completely leaving out the dry martini. Again, shaken with ice, served with an olive, and then later with an additional splash of martini when we remembered. Not nearly as bad as you might expect.

Obviously, that was before dinner. With dinner we had some** truly splendid white wine.

The evening is a bit hazy after the second cocktail, but I'm pretty sure there was a lot of laughing, shouting, eating of fine food, and the gracious hostess falling asleep on the sitting room rug as her guests departed to crash through the garden hedge, as is traditional after a WithaY dinner party.

Sunday was a quiet day.

*The whiny small child that lives in my head tends not to demand sweets and comics these days, but opulent cocktails and expensive jewellery instead.

**a lot

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Day of the Kraken

Once upon a time there was a small scientific outpost, manned only by a lonely botanist and agronomist, and her highly intelligent robot assistant. The robot was called Dewi, in a lame homage to "Silent Running".

01 - Scientists

The scientific outpost was dedicated to the development of giant fruits and vegetables, to try and stave off the world food shortage, and that.

They had had early, if moderate, success, and were quietly excited about their new Ultra Courgettes and the Really Giant Tomato. The scientific press was beginning to take an interest, and even politicians had been asking questions about the work being undertaken at this remote, coastal outpost.

03 - many giant veg

Yes, it was on the coast. Because of the prevailing wind. Or something.


One day as they were out conducting their scientific experiments, polishing the tomato and poking the courgette with a rake, a hideous tentacled creature from the deep emerged. It saw the giant fruits and vegetables, and it lusted after them with all the strength of its vile black heart.

04 - scout

The scientist and Dewi were too engrossed in their work to even see the creature, who sniggered to itself and slunk back into the sea to get some backup.

05 - Attack!

The scientist and the robot were taken entirely by surprise! They fought with all of their ability, but the wooden rake was no match for the mighty tentacles, and the robot was frankly crap in a fight.

06 - Aieee

07 - back to back

The hideous squid monsters simply battered the scientist and the robot, and wrapped their long rubbery tentacles around the giant vegetables, stealing them away to their homes under the ocean. Probably to make a nice salad.

08 - battle

09 - Spoils of war

The scientist and Dewi lay, dead, in the ruin of their dreams for a better, more fruity and vegetably world.

The evil squid monsters laughed amongst themselves, scuttling back home with their stolen spoils.

The bastards.

11 - carnage

The End.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Walking back to happiness

So, the end of my first week back at work in ages. How do I feel? Just a bit tired, really, and that's perfectly copeable-with. I went up to London on Thursday, slept on the train on the way up, walked from Waterloo to Victoria in the sunshine, which felt like a bit of an achievement, and had a reasonable day trying to remember what it is exactly* they pay me for.

I'm still not a fan of the new flexi-desk arrangement. Disappointingly, this is not a series of special magical desks that you can bend and stretch to fit the number of people, like a special effect from a Harry Potter film.


It's a limited number of desks into which a larger number of people have to try and fit on any given day. Inevitably, there are people who get into work a little later, and then can't find anywhere to sit.

We have these little personal box thingies that we keep in our lockers that we carry around till we find an empty desk, then decant all our work rubbish all over it for the day. We look like squalid bag ladies (and bag men, I suppose) with all our worldy goods lugged from pillar to post each day.

I haven't seen some members of the team all week because I have no idea where they are sitting. We communicate via email, because people also forget to set up their phone to pick up their extension, and therefore can't take calls.

Ah, progress.

I look forward to it.

Other news: One of our mates came round last night for dinner, and we had a rather splendid time eating our own weight in roast pork, bought from the highly persuasive butcher we met at the Bath and West show earlier this year. He was right to brag about the quality of his meat, it was superb.

We also watched Tropic Thunder on DVD, which is very funny. Lots (and lots) of bad language, so not for everyone, but it still makes me laugh out loud in parts. And Tom Cruise is just inspired.

There's an extra on the DVD entitled "Blowing shit up". Says it all really. Check out the website, you can machine gun stuff with your mouse.

*Still struggling with that a bit, to be honest. It'll come back to me.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


This week I have been back at work. I have been out for just over 4 weeks, and it felt very odd going back up to London. The journey was ok though, I listened to the excellent Chris and Thomas on my iPhone on the way up, and slept, and looked out of the window and played solitaire.

I started walking from Waterloo, but by the time I got to Westminster I had lost my enthusiasm and hopped on the Tube the rest of the way.

In the time I've been away, we have moved back down to the first floor (Second Floor, American readers...the one up the stairs from the Ground floor. There's a clue in the name.) The new accommodation is cramped, noisy, hot and lacking in storage space. Just like the place I left last year then. Fan-tas-tic.

Everyone hates it, there is nowhere to put anything (paperless office my arse) and the coffee machine is nowhere to be found.

I don't actually drink coffee very much but it is still distressing to see colleagues wandering around the floorplate forlornly, mugs in hand, whimpering sadly as they go through caffeine withdrawal.

On my boss' advice I phoned up the departmental counsellor, who kindly agreed to see me that afternoon. That was tough. She was very kind though, and helpful, and gave me leaflets on Coping With Shite* and I am going back to see her next week. If it helps, I'm all for it.

I fell asleep on the train and slept all the way home, waking up in a panic in Salisbury wondering if I'd missed my stop and was halfway to Exeter.

I have worked at home today and yesterday and am back into London tomorrow. Work have been marvellous, but my God they must be tired of me by now. I feel like every week has provided a new, freakishly horrible, drama to disrupt life and add to the huge hot bale of stress I am now carrying around on the back of my neck. Which is nice.

Other news: The cleaning team came on Friday and did a good job. They were apologising as they left that they hadn't got round to doing the ironing, but to be fair they had slaved over the vile filth in the kitchen and bathroom, both of which were left spotless.

One of them said to me "Once we get on top of the place we'll have time to do some extra jobs." This got me thinking of stuff to ask them to do**. Excellent. I have come up with a few ideas, but more would be nice. Suggestions welcomed, obviously.

In fact, I felt so guilty at the thought of them having to tackle the appalling mountain of WithaY ironing that I spent an hour and a half yesterday evening doing a load of it, whilst watching reruns of "How Clean Is Your House". Some people really do live like pigs.

There was a couple who were repeatedly described as "former London high-fliers" who now run a farm in Kent. They both looked like leftover hippies, and their house was ankle deep in shit. Literally. The floors (and they were carpeted floors at that) were encrusted with mud, hair and dung. Lovely. Even their bedroom floor. And these were allegedly intelligent people. Fuckwits.

I was outraged, which is a good state of mind to be ironing in.

The weather today has taken a turn for the Apocalyptic. High winds, driving rain and the constant sound of squealing tyres and blaring car horns all combine for a relaxing background ambiance as I try to read the 450 emails in my work inbox.

Ah well. Could be worse. And when it is, I will let you know.

*I think. I'd need to look at it again to confirm the title

**Top of the list is repainting the dog shed, followed by chopping kindling, then clearing out the garage. I'm not sure our contract covers that, I'll need to check.

Sunday, 12 July 2009


Continuing the green theme, today we went down to Father in Law WithaY's house to do a bit of clearing up and so on. The drive was waist high in weeds as we drove up, so we decided to try and tidy up a bit.

It's funny how much longer a drive appears when you are weeding it by hand, than when you drive up it.


Friday, 10 July 2009

Mock The Leek

Ah the joys of not sleeping. So, rather than going and doing something useful like...oh, I don't know...the ironing maybe, I am posting photos of Mystery Vegetables for you to identify for me.

We could have a competition maybe?

Name That Green. Now That's What I Call Greenery. Green Or No Green. I have a great format in my head, if only I could come up with a great title.

I might need to call the BBC with my ideas tomorrow.

Anyhoo. Picture 1, an arty leaf shot:


Picture 2, displaying the rhubarb-like stems:


Picture 3. Admire the mighty WithaY vegetable patch! Look upon our works of cultivation and despair, humanity!


The basil's still not dead, which I think is rather impressive.

Also, due to popular demand* I am posting up the photos of the Huge Fire we witnessed the other week.

Scene 1 was taken from inside the coffee shop, Scene 2 was taken from the steps outside the coffee shop. I was all set to run much closer and take Scene 3, but then my brain managed to finally make itself heard and stopped me from endangering my life.

Fire 2!


Other news: I am waiting expectantly for our new cleaning team to turn up. I have tidied up specially. When the lady from the agency came round to assess the house the other week, she said "Oh good - they like having to do houses with a bit of dust!"

I was mortified.

Also, am officially back at work today, although I suspect that the work will mostly consist of reassembling my laptop and trying to get back onto the work intranet and email system. I am going up to London on Monday which will be a bit of a big step, but hopefully it will be ok.

Aha. Domestic assistance has arrived. Marvellous. I'll go and put the kettle on.

Bah. Just noticed that this post has the time I started it at the bottom, ie late last night, rather than the time I actully posted it, ie at about 0900 today. If I were more technically competent (and could be arsed) I'd amend it, but sadly I will have to pretend I meant to do it this way.

Yes, I am a time traveller. I hope you're impressed.

*Youngest Sis was grumbling that she hadn't seen them.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


Back home after a couple of days visiting my lovely Mum. Middle Sis popped down too so today all three of us and Mum went out for lunch together. I can't remember the last time it was just us without hordes of small children stampeding through the place as well.

It was lovely, and just what I needed after a particularly shit time just lately.

The drive home through Wrath of God thunder and torrential rain was interesting.


Music news: A lovely Internet mate recommended I listen to Chris and Thomas . I did, and have fallen hopelessly in love with their music.

I urge you to do the same.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Clean clean

Today I have mostly been tidying up. Not from any sense of shame at the hideous slovenly state of the house - I have managed to suppress that after years of practice.

No, it's to make the place look tidy for next week.


Because, dear reader, we are finally admitting defeat and addressing The Staff Question. As a result, the WithaY house will benefit from the professional attentions of a cleaner, once a fortnight.

It has been dawning on me over the last few months that doing my new job, which entails 3 14-hour days a week in London and two busy days working at home, I have neither the time nor the inclination to spend the evenings and weekends doing the ironing, washing, cleaning etcetera. Mr WithaY is an absolute star, and does the vast majority of the cooking, but even so there is a lot left to cover.

Mr WithaY is very busy with work too, and away from home a good deal one way and another, as well as having Father-in-Law WithaY's house, garden etc to manage, so he doesn't have the time either.

So, what's the solution? Why, pay someone else to do it, of course.

As a result, I have had that episode of The Simpsons* in my head - the one with Steve Martin, where Homer takes over managing the rubbish disposal, with the slogan "Can't someone else do it?" Maybe it's residual guilt for being too crap to manage my own home.

Regardless of the small inner voice saying "Shame on you, you lazy good-for-nothing hussy, are you not even doing your own ironing now?" I am going ahead, and the cleaner starts next Friday.

Other news: The WithaY courgette harvest is doing well, we have had several off the two plants already, and there are more flowers forming. I have a fine (if small) crop of basil holding its own in the garden, and the chives aren't entirely dead.

There are also several thriving Mystery Plants which we grew from seed. I have no idea what they are, so will take a photo when I remember and see if any of the keen gardeners out there can identify it for me.

They had a Green Day** at work and dished out vegetable seeds, so I took some home, and these were some of the results. I have no idea what they are, as they were in a little screw of paper; I am thinking possibly chard. But I don't know. I tasted the leaves and they aren't obviously poisonous, always a bonus in a vegetable.

The fiery phoenix is still looking mighty fine out in the garden, you'll be glad to hear. I am now eying up Rosemary the Sheep speculatively***.

*"Trash of the Titans" - I love the internet. There's an answer for every question.

**Ecology, not music

***In an art way, not a dodgy West Country sheep-botherer's way.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Sticky business

Ahhh, bliss. The sun has got his hat on, but it is a rain hat. Just in time for the weekend, obviously.

I am sitting here listening to some fool throwing bottles into the recycling bins. By the sound of it they are several hundred yards away and using a trebuchet.

What with that and the bin men yesterday, I am well on my way to recording a sound effects album called "Noisy Bastards Who Want To Wake You Up Nice And Early So You Don't Miss The Best Part Of The Day."

The "Lawnmower Chorus", coupled with the delightful "Tractor Serenade" makes for easy listening. I could add that.

And at this time of year we get the special summer festival version of "Combine Harvester - Extended Replay", as well, of course. Maybe as a bonus track. I could get The Wurzels to do a guest spot on there.

Amongst all the agricultural din, I heard a bird in the garden the other day that had clearly been competing with a car alarm. Which reminded me:

I read somewhere that birds in cities are getting louder, to compete with the other noise. I wonder if that means that when they migrate, they are the bird equivalent of loud tiresome tourists, shouting and gawping and getting in the way of all the other, quieter, permanent resident birds.

Tourist Bird 1: HEY! Look over here! They have berries on the trees! Get over here everyone! Hey! HEY!

Tourist Bird 2: Wow! Check it out! Hey! Guys! Over here! Berries! HEY!

Tourist Bird 3, 4, 5 etc: Hey! HEY! Hey! Berries! Hey! Hey! HEY!

Resident bird: (shaking his newspaper in stiff protest) Well really. *tch*

Why don't they show that on Springwatch?

Other news: BBC loses the plot. Or they have a disgruntled member of staff copy writing headlines on their website.