Monday, 31 August 2009


August. Gah. It's dark, windy, rainy and bloody freezing this weekend.

This Bank Holiday Weekend.

Yes, a long weekend, traditionally used for enjoying the last few parties, beach trips and barbecues of summer.

However, we lit the fire in the sitting room yesterday, it was so bloody miserable. A few weeks back I had a bit of a buying frenzy on Amazon, treating myself to some boxed sets of DVDs. I think I was subconsciously pining for the long Saturday afternoons of childhood, and bought the filmic equivalent of comfort food.

I bought:

1) The complete boxed set of Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films,

2) The complete set of Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films,

3) A boxed set of Errol Flynn films, including The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. That's a surprisingly long film, isn't it? Mr WithaY gave up after an hour and went to the pub; I stayed till the bitter end and then rather wished I hadn't. Not exactly a feel-good film, but the costumes were lovely. And Bette Davis was brilliant.

We've been watching the Sherlock Holmes films. Marvellous. I love Nigel Bruce as Dr Watson. He's a complete buffoon, blundering about with a look of painful incomprehension on his face, asking stupid, stupid questions about the most obvious things, whipping out his service revolver at the slightest pretext to blast bullets up and down the streets of London, then every now and again solving complex pictographic codes at the drop of a hat with no apparent difficulty. Superb.

Other news: Today we have been making cake. Not just any old cake though. Mr WithaY has made the Official Christmas Cake. It weighs about 8 pounds*, and smells wonderful. He plans to keep it in his study ("where it's close at hand") and feed it with brandy for the next four months.

Sounds like the sort of lifestyle I could enjoy myself, never mind the cake.

I took photos at all stages of the construction, so once I can get my phone to upload them, I will.

Mr WithaY, who is not a man given to wasting good food, was using up some of the dried fruit and so on that we cleared out from Father-in-Law WithaY's house. Among the scavenged groceries there were a couple of tins of black treacle. More of these later.

He mixed up the ingredients for the cake, cheerfully weighing and sifting and mixing over the course of the afternoon. It became apparent that even the biggest mixing bowl was too small for the mixture, so he went out to the garage, returning in triumph with the huge copper preserving pan. He scrubbed it out, and continued mixing the cake in that.

He is nothing if not resourceful.

Anyhoo, the cake was carefully spooned into the enormous brown paper, string and cake tin construction created earlier, and then decorated lovingly with glace cherries and blanched almonds. The almonds came from Mother-in-Law WithaY's tree in her garden**.

A mere six hours later, it was ready. It is currently sitting on the side in the kitchen, exuding glory.

My contribution was much less prestigious. I made a batch of cupcakes, half with pink, lemon flavour icing and sprinkles, half with brown, coffee flavour icing and walnuts. They were very nice, thanks for asking.

I also made scones, but the least said about them, the better. I ate one, but it wasn't particularly enjoyable.

Our mates who came round for tea (hence the cakes) took one away for their chickens. If I hear a "bwaaaaaaaark...ptooooie!" from their side of the village, I will know it was not appreciated.

*I know people who have had smaller babies.

**But she does live in the South of France.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Food, Glorious Food

Gah. I have had a headache for the best part of a week now and am bored with it. I have been taking Ibuprofen, which helps in the short term, but it has made my stomach hurt. Apparently you are supposed to take it after food, which I haven't been doing. Doh.

I suspect that the headache is a combination of stress and eyestrain, so I am going to make an appointment to get my eyes tested in the near future.

The stress is less easy to deal with, but we are getting there. Things are getting done, and we are feeling much better about it all.

Anyhoo, whilst on the train yesterday morning, I saw this. And thought I'd share it with my lovely readers.


fat man on train

Sorry if you were eating when that popped onto your screen, by the way.

Which reminds me. I have been made aware of these websites:

Exhibit A: Pimp That Snack - a collection of frankly mental foodstuffs to rival even the Virtual Village Fete in creativity and wonderment.

Exhibit B: This is Why You're Fat - a truly horrific, stomach-churning collection of foodstuffs that I hope were created for the purposes of taking amusing pictures. However, I have my doubts.

Is it lunchtime already?

Monday, 24 August 2009


I'm at my mate's lovely flat in Chelsea, full of fine Italian food and wine. Hurrah. I have walked bloody miles today, from Waterloo to Victoria, then from Victoria to Whitehall, then all the way back down past Sloan Square and all along the King's Road. My feet are killing me.

We're trying to persuade another former colleague to jump in a cab and join us for a nightcap.

He's just rung and told us to stop pressuring him. Heh.

And we've arranged a breakfast meeting for tomorrow instead. Marvellous.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Fighting talk

Saturday already. Another work week gone, and bugger all to show for it apart from the bags under my eyes and some Thornton's chocolate money I bought yesterday.

Thursday was a NIGHTMARE on the trains. We trundled into Waterloo almost 40 minutes late yesterday morning due to a breakdown in Hersham.

After the first twenty minutes of painfully slow progress I rather felt like having a breakdown myself.

Instead, I did that terribly British thing of looking at my watch in an obvious manner and making a face implying that the freedom of the Western world was at stake if I didn't get to my destination on time. When we finally got to Waterloo I decided that as it was already late, I might as well saunter to the office in the sunshine, enjoying the views, rather than trying to fight my way through the Tube system.

I met up with a former colleague from my old job for lunch, which was very pleasant. We had a sandwich in Pret a Manger on Victoria Street while we caught up on each other's news, and it was very cheering. My stroll back to the office took me past Thornton's, hence the chocolate coin impulse buy.

Thursday evening was glorious, so I decided to walk back to the station. Earlier in the week I took the Tube. Oh. My. God. What a mistake. It was hideous. Hot, smelly, windy, filthy and smelling of a mixture of chips, filth, tunnels and people who have been sweating all day long. Ugh.

So, I left work at the usual time, and strolled across Westminster to Waterloo, only having to fight down the urge to pound people into the pavement a couple of times, several fewer than usual. Progress. Fucking tourists though. Bastards.

Special mention goes to the idiot hot-dog vendor who positioned his vile reeking wagon of filthy slimy glistening oleaginous "sausages" at the top of the steps leading up to Westminster Bridge, thus guaranteeing a huge congestion pinch point. Bastard.



I caught the train in plenty of time, found a decent seat, arranged my goods and chattels and buried myself in my trashy historical romance* for the duration. All was tranquil. The air conditioning was working, a treat after the appalling rail-guided sauna I travelled home in on Tuesday. It was all going terribly well.

Until we got to Andover, where they announced that due to an unspecified "problem" with the front three coaches, everyone who planned to continue their journey beyond Salisbury had to move to the back three coaches. Joy.

There was a mad stampede down the train, with a lot of grumbling and muttering** as everyone tried to find seats and spaces for bags etc. Everyone ended up settled but disgruntled. I was lucky enough to be in a coach with a family of screaming children.

Nice and relaxing.

I turned up my music and thought happy thoughts about how soon I would be in my nice comfy air-conditioned car, leaving the railway station faaaaaar behind. That seemed to work until Salisbury.

Aah, Salisbury. Normally I have a lot of time for you, and your gorgeous if intermittently appropriate architecture. Today, however, I am looking at you with narrowed eyes and dark thoughts in my heart. Why? Because the world's most ignorant man lives there.

Sorry, but he has blighted our love. This is why.

He was sitting on the opposite side of the aisle to me, faffing about with his laptop and sweating unattractively***. As the train neared Salisbury station he packed all his stuff away into a big square shoulder bag thing. He stood up, put the bag over his shoulder, then swung it round wildly, not bothering to look first.

It hit me.

On the arm, hard. Hard enough to bruise it, in fact. Look, a bruise.

Normally, I try to be considerate and make allowances for very stupid people. On Thursday I didn't. Instead of simply ignoring it and turning the other cheek, I said "CHRIST!" in a very loud voice, making him, and the bloke opposite me jump visibly.

He looked round in horror, and muttered "Sorry" as he stood there waiting for the queue of people to move towards the door. I was not in the best of moods, one way and another, so rather than graciously accepting his somewhat grudging apology, I said "Twat" in an undervoice. Which he heard. His ears went red and he scurried away.

I was half hoping he'd try to make something of it so I could stand up, loom over him and use my extensive and varied vocabulary till he cried. I think I may need to take up yoga or something.

The bloke opposite me was laughing, trying not to, his shoulders shaking as he read the paper. Heh.

When the train finally stopped at my station I had to carefully step over the recumbent body of a small child which was sprawled in the aisle, exhausted after the 40-minute tantrum it had been throwing.

God it was good to get home.

Fucking South West Trains. Sort it out. Ban idiots and make everyone use deodorant before they get onto the train. And issue the guards with elephant tranquillizers in case any children start kicking off. How hard can it be, for heaven's sake? Cuh.

Other news: The tickets for the End of the Road festival have turned up! Hurrah! We're going to see (among others) Steve Earle and the Fleet Foxes. In a beautiful garden. With parrots. Can't wait.

Other, other news: Get well soon to my lovely Eldest Niece who is in hospital, having tried to break up a fight between a cat and a dog, and spent over two hours having surgery on her hands as a result. Poor soul. I'd have hit them both with a fucking shovel.

The animals, not my niece. She doesn't often warrant a shovelling.

*Georgette Heyer, my guilty pleasure

**mostly from me

***I notice these things

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Men in tights

We've had a Weekend Away. This has become rather a rare event, at least for both of us to be in the same place at the same time, so it was a bit of a treat.

We went up to see some mates in Nottinghamshire (*not* pronounced Nodding-Ham Shire, American readers) which entailed a nightmarish drive up on Friday afternoon/evening. It took 4 hours. FOUR!

Our plan to stop en route for a cup of tea and a bun were abandoned and we chugged along in slow, slow traffic all the way instead. Once we got there all was well, though. We enjoyed seeing our lovely mates, we drank a lot of wine, and we ate like fat greedy kings.

We went ten pin bowling on Saturday. I can't remember the last time I did that, and due to the unfamiliar positions adopted, both Mr WithaY and I were limping around with Bowler's Buttock for a couple of days afterwards, which was rather depressing.

Our mate took us into the nearby town (I can't remember which one) to run a few errands, and we ended up sitting outside a local pub having a cheeky lunchtime drink, watching another pub over the road being demolished. On the way back to the car we were accosted by a wild-haired woman who demanded that we come into her shop for a glass of champagne.

Well, it would have been rude not to.

It was the opening day for a new estate agency, and they were having a bit of a celebration. We had a glass of not bad pink fizz, gawped at the property prices (£150k for a three bedroom detached house!) and idly wondered if it was worth buying another house up there to rent out to students*.

On another note:

My blogging has been curtailed of late because frankly I am too hot and tired to think of stuff. I keep starting posts and then going "Oh arse to this" and going to sit in the garden or make a cup of tea or do some washing.

I'm hoping it passes and my usual ability to blather on about all the dull stuff that makes up my life will return soon. Being stressed out of my head over the last few months hasn't helped.

Mr WithaY and I have made some progess on the SSFH** aftermath, and that has made us both feel better, but we are waiting to see what happens next.

We have been trying to socialise a lot more, and keep each others' spirits up, which has worked to a large extent. I have recently realised how much my job in London has affected our social life, though. Mid-week entertaining and socialising has pretty much stopped, which was a big part of our lives before I took this job. I can't see a way around that, though. Not at the moment anyway.

I am not socialising in London nearly as much as I had thought I might, too, so it's not as if I am making up for it elsewhere. Might need to be more pro-active about meeting people in town.

And on that note, time to go and sort stuff out for the morning, as we have decided to invite some friends over for an early supper, to try and rejuvinate the mid week social life thing.


**Shit storm from Hades

Friday, 14 August 2009

Too much monkey business

Mr WithaY has been stung, yes stung, by the debate over the use if marker pen and cocktail sticks, and also by the suggestion that he has a fish fetish.

I hope this silences the doubters:



It has a maraschino cherry tongue! It's a great big green louche cocktail gorilla.

For those of you who fret about such things, we ate the marrow body and the courgette arms afterwards, but not the face. That was too disturbing.

Other news: Some pictures from the lovely, lovely party last weekend. As most of them are of the family, it seems rather inappropriate to put them on here, but I do like this one of Mr WithaY flaked out under the mighty erection, following his return from the woods on Sunday morning. What you can't see is the many small children and perky Jack Russell who were gleefully playing around (and sometimes over) him as he dozed peacefully in the shade.

The mighty erection in the garden:


It was a truly beautiful day, and the purple buddleia bush in the corner was alive with butterflies. There were Red Admirals, Commas, Peacocks, Fritilleries, white ones and yellow ones. Plus some brown ones I think may have been moths.

Buddleia butterflies:




This afternoon we're off to spend the weekend with some mates, which will be lovely. It's nice to feel that things are starting to get back to normal after the SSFH* of recent months.

Other, other news: Thing I have seen on my travels this week:

A huge articulated lorry turning a corner into Victoria street slightly too quickly, causing the large, expensive-looking motorbike strapped to the back to slide violently, detaching the straps on one side, then smash into the middle of the road. It hung there by one set of straps as the lorry driver leapt out of his cab swearing and panicking, his little dog watching quizzically from the open truck door as all the traffic in South London began to grind to a halt.

The guard on the train last night walking down the aisle, stopping as he got to where I sat, looking thoughtful, shaking his leg as if he had pins and needles, then picking up his keys from the floor and saying "Aha! I thought I had a hole in that pocket."

More roe deer than you can shake a stick at, leaping all over the fields in the mornings, making everyone on the train go "Ooooo!" at them.

*Shit storm from Hades

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Animal House

This weekend has been lovely.

The weather has been fantastic, and as a result my mood has improved significantly. We had a houseful here. We had a belated birthday party for my lovely Mum, who was very poorly indeed when it was the actual Big Day; we decided to have a celebration now, when she was actually able to enjoy it.

It was fantastic. Both sisters were here with their respective families - we had eight children (yes, Eldest Nephew, I know you are 18, but in my head you're still a child) and six adults. Good job it was sunny, or it would have been an incredible squash in the house.

Mr WithaY had a prior work commitment* but was able to come home this morning in time to say hello to everyone before they headed home.

We had a barbecue, with Bro-in-Law manning the cooking station, assisted by various children. We had lots of lovely celebratory fizz, and a truly beautiful birthday cake that Middle Sis managed to smuggle down from London in one piece. We had lights in the trees and lanterns all over the garden so when it got dark it looked lovely. We had a tent in the back garden for several of the children to sleep in (thank goodness for the fine weather!) so there was much excitement about who was sleeping where and who was getting what bedding.

Youngest Sis managed to acquire a huge fat lip, which made her look like one of those minor celebrities who have disastrous collagen injections. We're not entirely sure what caused it, but an allergic reaction to the jalapeno burgers seems to be the likeliest candidate. And she brought those, so I don't need to feel guilty.

Charlie the dog was the star of the show, running madly between all the children, hovering hopefully whenever anyone was eating** and barking at next door's dogs when it was all getting too quiet for his liking. He also did a good deal of that cute Jack Russell "jumping really high and then dancing on his back legs" thing.

Marvellous stuff.

I spent the night in my little study here, initially on Mr WithaY's foldaway camp bed. He had taken a hammock and a tarpaulin to make a sleeping shelter in the woods. The bed was considered an unimaginable luxury I think.

Anyhoo, I set it all up, and then carefully climbed in. I am, I have decided, far too wide to sleep in a foldaway camp bed. There seemed to be knobs and spines and bars and bolts sticking into every part of me as I lay there, and the bed made alarming groaning noises when I shifted position.

It brought to mind one of those disaster movies where you know a suspension bridge is going to collapse, and you keep seeing a shot of high tension cables parting under stress, strand by strand.

I lost my nerve after 20 minutes, folded the bed back up and made a little nest of blankets and sofa throws on the floor and slept there instead.

This morning we sat in the garden and drank coffee, whilst everyone found their respective sleeping bags/socks/hairbrushes/dog toys/PlayStations/iPods/car keys etcetera, before eating the World's Largest Chilli con Carne. And barbecue leftovers. Nom nom nom.

Mr WithaY and I stood on the drive waved off the family, a tender moment only slightly marred by Mr WithaY jumping up and down waving his arms in the air like Flounder in the closing credits of Animal House.

And now I am going to have a shower, put my pyjamas on and chill out till bedtime. When I will sleep in a bed. Hurrah.

Oh - I understand that there is some discussion around the appropriateness of the use of marker pen and cocktail sticks in Mr WithaY's Village Fete entry. I would just like to state for the record that no marker pen whatsoever was used in the creation of March Of The Penguins.

That is all.

*Doing survivalist woodcraft type stuff out of doors. In the woods. I hope he gets lots of time off in lieu as it took up his entire weekend.

**ie almost all the time

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Village Fete 2009

Here it is. The post about the long-awaited, eagerly-anticipated WithaY entries for this year's Village Fete contest.

First, mine. It's called "March of the Penguins" and I think that if the BBC sent a specialist film crew to my kitchen, they'd save a lot of money on air fares for their next high-end nature documentary series.

In fact, I wish I could use Photoshop, because then I could add David Attenborough in one corner, looking at this touching scene, and you could all imagine him telling us about their feeding habits.

But I can't, so bollocks to that idea.




Awwww, so cute!

Mr WithaY, as one might expect given his track record, and fierce wish to defend his title from last year, came up with this:




It's a startlingly accurate representation of a lion fish, mostly made of sweet potato.

Check out the whole gamut of entries over at Belgian Waffle, but be warned. There are some seriously odd people out there.

Apart from us, I mean. We're just lovely and slightly off-beat. Not odd.

No no no.

I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky

I checked my livesbythewoods email earlier, and to my astonishment and delight I saw this! Who'd have though it!

I'm off out to sort out a new shoebox to go under the bed to put all this money in. Well, you can't trust banks these days.

With due respect:
I am Barrister Rahaali.Musa, the financial attorney of Late Mr. Morris Thompson in Burkina Faso.
My late client has a Dormant Account with a huge amount of Money Valued $60 Million USD (Sixty Million Dollars only) with (B.S.I.C.) Bank Burkina Faso, he died in a plane crash with his entire family, you can read more news about the crash by visiting this website;
If your are interested to run this deal with me by using your bank account to receive this fund as his next of kin, then I shall provide you with more details on how we shall proceed legally for immediate transfer of this fund into your bank account.
Meanwhile 40% of this total amount will go for you as my partner for your full corporation and 60% will be for me, if you are interested for this deal get back to me for more details

Regards Yours Barrister Rahaali.Musa

I would be interested to know which airline runs flights between Burkina Faso and Alaska though. Can't be a big holiday route, surely?

Monday, 3 August 2009


So let's talk about the weather, shall we? It's, what, August now? When did we last have more than 4 consecutive hours of fine weather? Late June, was it? Come on...sort it out, weather gods.

Having said that, yesterday was reasonably dry in the morning, so we were able to get out in the garden. To be fair, we are always able to get out in the garden, it's not like the back door is bricked up or anything. We choose not to use it, much of the time, and prefer to spend our time gazing mournfully through the rain-spattered windows, making tea and bitching about the weather.

Well, we are British, after all.

But Sunday. Gardening. Yes.

The back hedge desperately needed cutting. It was looking like one of those gap year students who spends 3 months hitching round Australia and never quite masters hair management...all weird spikes and bulges and long floppity bits. Between the two of us, using the hedge trimmer, the stepladder and two extension cables we managed to get the majority of the hedge sorted. Sadly, however, there is one corner that was justout of reach, and remains defiantly sticky-uppy. We'll have to ask if we can get at if from next door's garden, if it stops raining for long enough.

Once the fun bit was over, the slash and burn element, we had the boring tiresome tidying up to do. This was enlivened by Mr WithaY dragging a huge tarpaulin out of the garage and laying it on the lawn, rather like someone about to do an impressive magic trick involving Folding.

Then the pair of us, using shovels and rakes and other implements of destruction*, dragged all the hedge cuttings onto it. We rolled the tarpaulin up like a giant swiss roll, and took turns laying on it to squash the cuttings down.

Eventually it was a manageable size, and Mr WithaY deployed his trusty para cord to tie it all together. I couldn't decide if it looked like the corpse of an elephant seal being taken for discreet disposal, or the world's worst Christmas gift ever.

We lugged it to the tip and dumped it, pretending we were Mafia hitmen.

A speedy trip to Homebase after that, where we bought a gazebo tent thing for when we have people over and it rains, as it has done every weekend for about 2 months. While we were there, I got some funky solar lights on sticks to put in the flower beds, and a set of fairy-type lights on a net to put in a tree or in the gazebo tent thing, also solar powered.

Every moth in Wiltshire will turn up, I'm sure.

*Thanks Arlo