Friday, 31 December 2010

Review of the Year


The addition of fish to our Christmas-present-to-ourselves aquarium.  Glad to be able to report that we have only lost a very few over the intervening 12 months, and the ones who are still there look happy.  Well, as happy as fish ever do.  They've grown, and their colours are bright.  And I think one of them was smiling at me.

Snow.  Lots of snow.  Inability to get to work, which started off as fun and exciting, and rapidly became irritating and constraining.  No snow animals, though.  Fail.

Chest infection.  Yes, another bout of the Black Lung. 

Ongoing SSFH fuckwittery from the police, proving that basic administration CAN be impossibly hard if you really work at it. 

Sausage making. Oh yes.  Oh yes indeed.  Watch and be impressed, dear readers.  The hands belong to our friend the chef, the splendid camera work was down to me.  I didn't realise my camera recorded sound. Until I filmed that. 


More fuckwittery from the police.  I suspect that I could say that every month, to be honest.

My blog was stalked by a mad optician for a bit, they added semi-literate comments to the same post over and over. Fool. 

Big, long, fantastic holiday to the US of A was booked, which cheered us both up after the horrible year we had just had.

Joined Slimming World, after deciding that I really couldn't pretend that I was fine as I was any more.  That was a surprisingly hard thing to do, it felt like an admission of defeat and failure somehow.  And now, 10 months on, two and a half stone lighter so far, I realise what a fucking idiot I was for not doing it years ago. 


I had my hair cut at a posh hairdresser in Salisbury.  And it was great.  I will continue with that for the forseeable future I think.   Well, at least for as long as I have a job and can afford it. 

There was a lot of whining about trains.  Again, I expect that is true for every month. 

Minor domestic appliance chaos, and a huge crack in Mr WithaY's Landrover windscreen made it an expensive month. 


April was ALL ABOUT the visas.  Following the SSFH, we discovered that we now need visas to travel to the USA, so we had weeks of incredibly stressful and depressing paperwork and expense.  It all came right in the end, but I can honestly say that if we hadn't already booked the flights and hotel we would not have bothered. 

Mr WithaY went off to Wales for a fortnight to help run the outdoor activity stuff with work.  I don't remember any major domestic appliances breaking while he was away, for a change. 

There was also a degree of ranting about fuckwits on trains.


May saw the continuation of the Black Lung, which had stuck around on and off for about 5 months.  Nice.

The weather improved and we did work on the garden. 

Poor brother in law was taken ill, which was very frightening, but thankfully he is making good progress now. 

Father in law was also taken very ill, rushed into hospital several times, all very upsetting.  Oh, and the nursing home staff dropped him on his head, which didn't help matters.  He is still with us, though, battling on and watching murder mysteries with glee. 

Holiday preparation continued, having the visas meant that we actually started looking forward to it.


We went to AMERICA.  Hurrah!  I can't believe it was 6 months ago. 

We also had the house insulated - been much warmer this winter, so that was worth doing - and did lots to the garden. 

Oh, and I got chatted up by the man who works at the rubbish tip.  Bonus.


AMERICA AMERICA AMERICA.  We were over there for a month, it was marvellous.  Best holiday ever.

I fell over in Nantucket like an idiot and fractured my ankle, not realising I had done so for about 3 weeks.  Gah.  Well, a bad sprain looks like a fracture, and vice versa, apparently.

The weather had been boiling hot the whole time we were away, we returned home and the rain started.  Ah well.


I started my new job, still in London, still in the same department, but in a different team and with a different role.  Still enjoying that.  Good chance that I will be made redundant though, next year.  And to be honest, that would mean that I wouldn't have to spend 6 hours a day travelling, and would probably pay off most of the mortgage, so hey, not all bad.

Had the plumber in to do some minor work on the bathroom.  Ended up with huge holes smashed in the walls and a craving for whiskey.  Looks ok now.


September is all about the Frome Cheese Show.  I am already looking forward to the next one.

We persuaded father in law WithaY to sell his house, and spent many weekends travelling to Dorset to clear his stuff out and take photos for the estate agents.  It's still on the market.  Anyone with £300K to spare, drop me a line.


Had a mini holiday in St Ives with some mates, the weather was lovely, the sea was blue, we saw a seal, Mr WithaY fell over backwards into a stream. Oh, and there were cream teas.  Perfect.

Went to see our MP to try to resolve the ever-present SSFH aftermath. 

I lost my blogging mojo for a bit, but not to worry, it came back.  Like Lassie. 



Return of the Black Lung.   4 weeks off work, antibiotics, chest x-rays blah blah fucking blah.  Again.

Also, visit from two senior police officers to discuss the rather excellent letter which our MP wrote to the Chief Constable.  Had almost 2 hours with them, explained exactly how their actions had affected us, and how incredibly fortunate we are to have a close group of friends and neighbours who looked after us when the SSFH broke over our heads, and basically made sure we didn't do anything stupid at a time when we felt as though we might. 

Police apologised profusely and heartily. Police also said they would pay us a small token amount - NOT compensation, that would imply fault - but as a recognition of what we had suffered as a result of their "poor decision."  We agreed that we would let the matter rest.  We are waiting for a cheque. 

Feel as though a line has been drawn under that now, which is a huge relief.


Snow snow snow.  Frost and fog as well.  Very seasonal.

Catastrophe in the kitchen with a shelf collapse, and about £500 of china and glass smashed all over the floor.  Waiting for a letter from the insurance company.  Gah.

New curtains though.


So, yeah.  We were arrested last summer.  The police turned up at our house at 0630 with a warrant and a battering ram (thankfully not used) and arrested us both on very serious, very nasty allegations.  We were held in the cells for 10 hours, photographed, fingerprinted, questioned under caution and finally released on bail.  Our home was searched, a lot of our property was confiscated for examination, and we both felt as though our world had come to an end. 

A week later we were told that the police would be taking no further action, and all our property was returned.  I was off work for over a month with post traumatic stress, we were both very badly affected, and without the love and support of our friends and neighbours, I really don't know that we would both still be here. 

We've spent a lot of time over the last 18 months trying to get an explanation as to how this could have happened, and why, and who was responsible for the original malicious and unfounded allegations.  We'll never know, as it turns out the police didn't know either.  But they decided to act anyway.  As they said to us last month: "It was not our finest hour."  No, it really fucking wasn't.

As a result of that, we now have to get a visa to travel to the USA.  We have managed to get our DNA, photographs and fingerprints deleted from the central police database, and we have had an apology from the Chief Constable. 

It should never have happened. 

And the saddest thing, to me at least, is that we no longer trust the police. 

But, at least we now have closure, to use a dreadful pseudo-psycholgical term.  And as a result, next year will be a good one.

Thank you to all our friends, neighbours and family who got us through what was undoubtedly the worst few months of our lives.  Onwards and upwards.


Happy New Year, everyone.  Thank you for reading, commenting and hopefully enjoying spending virtual time with me.  Looking forward to the next chapter.

Snack time

Hmmm...a bit peckish.  How about a nice sandwich?  Crusty bread, some ham, a bit of tomato, perhaps.  Just the ticket.

Hey, here's a place that sells sandwiches.  Let's have a look at what they have to offer.

Fresh sandwiches. Perfect.

But wait.

Fresh in inverted commas?   Not Fresh, but "Fresh"?

So how old are they, exactly?  And whose notion of "fresh" is being used to define this?  I bet that a fishmonger and an archaeologist would have very different views on what constitutes "fresh".  And where on that scale would a sandwich maker sit? 

If a sandwich maker is leaning towards the archaeologist's view of "fresh" I am pretty sure that sandwich bread would be a bit too crusty for my taste. 

Also, now that I am examining this sign more carefully, define "local" too. 

Do they mean local to the shop?  The salads are made in Salisbury?  That would be fine. 

Or do they mean local to Wiltshire?  The salads are made in Trowbridge, or Devizes , or even God help us, Swindon?  That's a lot of travelling for a salad.  Over bumpy, bendy, country roads with lots of opportunity for salad joggling and spillage. 

Maybe they mean local to the UK.  Those salads could have travelled from Inverness

Gone off the sandwich idea now.


Wednesday, 29 December 2010


So hello.  Hope everyone is enjoying the festive season.  Tis the season to be jolly, apparently, but I'll settle for "relaxed and cheerful".  Jolly sounds far too much like hard work, and I am too idle for that right now.

Today we went to Salisbury, ready to hit the big city and check out the sales.  In the big city shops, the ones with more than two styles of shoe, or a wider variety of goods than rat poison, ash buckets and mole traps.  It's not like round here, you know.

As we had got up early*, we arrived in town without having eaten breakfast, so we found a cafe and had eggs Benedict.  And it was GOOD.  Not quite as fab as some of the eggs Benedicts we had in America. but not bad at all for a foggy Wiltshire Wednesday morning.

I picked up a couple of pretty tops in the M&S sale, one of which I had looked at when it was full price, so that was satisfying.  Mr WithaY wanted some new jeans, and also possibly a new tweed jacket.  He can't help it.  He's just naturally tweedy.

We made our way across town to the splendid old-fashioned gents outfitters, and I took a seat in one of the big leather chairs while Mr WithaY rummaged through the racks of tweed jackets.  His rummaging soon took him out of sight.  Another couple wandered into view, him looking at clothes with enthusiasm, her distracted and grumpy.

Him:  (Holding up a vibrant green and yellow tweed jacket) What about this one?
Her:  Ugh.  No.  Put it back.
Him:  *sigh*

He made his slow way along the rack, searching, searching, humming a happy tune.

Him:  (Holding a more muted tweed jacket aloft, swinging it about)  Aha!  I like this one!
Her:  GOD no.

He wandered a bit further, looking hard for the perfect jacket, clearly slightly deflated by her dislike of everything he was choosing.

Him:  (Pulling a brown corduroy jacket out of the rack with glee) ....
Her: (Before he even spoke and without turning round to look) NO!

They wandered out of earshot, her still looking furious, him with the crumbling remains of a spring in his step.  Not for long, I'll be bound.

We left without finding anything either, but at least we weren't looking like we were going to be murdering one another with axes before the New Year**.

I bought a new teapot to replace the one that got smashed to smithereens. 

Today I have emailed more photos of the carnage to the insurance people.  It hadn't occurred to me to call the insurance company until Z mentioned it in a comment, and then I thought I'd see how much it would cost to replace everything. 

Yes, I know.  Muppetry. 

And guess what...the total came to over £500.  Gah! 

So, I photographed as much as I could identify, and have sent the pictures to the insurance people, along with the approximate replacement costs where I could find them.

It wasn't easy, a lot of the glass stuff was literally smashed to dust. 

That's all that was left of a very large glass plate my Mum gave me.  I loved that plate.  Fucking stupid fucking shelf fucking collapse.


We also went to Waitrose this afternoon, part of the Big Day Out.  As we walked into the store, an elderly couple were being reunited, surrounded by smiling staff.  It looked a bit like one of those allegorical paintings with Eighteenth Century European royalty posing heroically, surrounded by fawning cherubim and seruphim. 

Her:  They've made three announcements for you!  I've been so worried!

Him:  What?

Her:  Over the speakers...three times they announced that I was looking for you.

Him:  Well I was outside.  By the car.

Her:  Three announcements.  Three!

Him:  I heard NOTHING.

The smiling staff melted away, and the elderly couple left, her still asserting that he had been lost, him insisting that he hadn't. 

Other news:  I have been making sausage rolls.  And readers, they are damn fine.  Father in law WithaY has been much impressed, something that takes quite a lot of doing.

Christmas Day was quiet, we went over to the care home to visit F-in-L, then home for a big roast dinner.  Oh, and The man Who Would Be King on TV. I love that film. 

There was a slight misunderstanding about Christmas gifts.  On our return from F-in-L, I said to Mr WithaY "So...would you like to open your presents now?"

Mr W:  What?  I didn't think I had any presents.

Me:  Of course you have!  Silly!

Mr W:  But we agreed...we weren't going to get presents for each other this year.

Me:  No we didn't!

Mr W:  Yes...we said we were going to buy a new TV instead.

Me:  But we didn't do that.  So you've got presents.

There was a rather awkward silence.

Mr W:  Well, now I feel terrible.

Me:  (Cheerfully, whilst inside I am screaming like a flayed banshee) Oh, never mind...come and open yours.

Good job it's my birthday soon.   Next Christmas I think we will have a written agreement about whether or not we are Doing Presents.  Just to save any arguments. 

Oh, as a cheeful footnote, we went down to my lovely Mum's on Boxing Day and I had lovely, lovely presents from the family.  So yay for families! 

It was great, albeit a bit squashed.  I think there were 16 of us there, at one point we were ALL in the sitting room.  I love Christmas.

*Before 0930.  Fuck knows how I am going to cope when I have to get up before 0600 for work again. 

**Probably.  I'll keep you posted


Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Today was the day that disaster struck.

Yes, disaster.

You heard me.

Settle down, dear readers.  Gather your loved ones close and get comfy.  This is a tale of HORROR.  Of WOE.  And of astonishing, catastrophic breakages. 

I was planning to post up some photos of our new kitchen curtains today.  I know how to live, eh?   I decided a few weeks ago that the thin, feeble, pale, unlined curtains that graced our kitchen and dining room were too depressing and crap at insulation, and that They Had To Go.  I ordered some fabric samples from Next Online and showed them to Mr Withay.  He nodded at all of them, and said more or less the same thing to each one:

"That one's fine."

This, I believe, roughly translates as: "For the LOVE OF GOD stop showing me curtain fabric, woman.  I don't care.  Just pick one, and let me be.  Jeez."

I may be mistranslating slightly, but I think that's the gist of it.

We* made our final fabric selection, I measured the windows carefully and sent in the order, and within 7 days our new curtains had arrived.  All lined with lovely thick blackout insulation, and much, much warmer.  Mmmmm cosy.

We still need to get some more curtain rings as we miscalculated the quantity, the new curtains being much heavier than the old ones, but they are up (mostly) and look lovely.  You can't see the saggy end due to my astounding photography.  I haz skillz. 

Oh, and to prove I am a complete domestic goddess, I also ordered some matching cushion covers.  Yeah.  That's how I fucking roll, man.

So, enjoy the beauty of my (apparently) retro curtains while you may.

The disaster happened today.

I was in the kitchen as it was just getting dark, closing the curtains - aren't they lovely? - when I heard a strange noise, like chinaware clinking.  I looked around dopily, then the big cupboard door slowly opened of its own accord. 

Before I had time to do more than go "Whut??" a dish slid gracefully out onto the floor.  It smashed.

I went "WHUT??" again, and then started screaming in horror as an entire shelf full of china, cast iron and marble slid onto the floor in a sort of avalanche of kitchenware, everything breakable smashing into a million billion pieces.

I think I screamed for about 5 minutes solid as the slow, unstoppable slide continued.  The noise was incredible, and it just kept on going.  Then I stood there looking at the heap of smashed stuff on my floor.  Then I went a fetched a broom.  Then I went to find a cardboard box.  Then I fetched the dustpan.

And then I started crying.

And it was at that moment that Mr WithaY came home from work, to find his lovely wife weeping uncontrollably in the kitchen as she shovelled up the pulverized remains into a cardboard box. 

Look away now if you are of a nervous disposition. 

You may remember that blue plate from previous blog postings when I was bragging about my baking.  No more, my friends.  No more.

Look, I have codified it for ease of reference.  I can't help it, I'm a Civil Servant.  There's a ton of other stuff in there too but I couldn't fit all the text on the picture.   Plus I got bored with the labelling thing. 

Our 6 pint cast-iron Le Creuset casserole dish fell out, and amazingly didn't smash the floor tiles.  There are several large unslightly chunks missing from the enamel on the dish, though, and one handle is busted.  Good job it didn't land on my foot, I suppose.

So, all a bit shite really.

Turns out that the shelf was held in place by 4 little metal and rubber plug thingies, and one of them had weasled its way out, dropping the front of the shelf and causing the Avalanche Of Unnecessarily Destructive Force.


Mr WithaY is going to hammer some batten up over Christmas.  That'll learn it.

I'm still in shock and will need to have medicinal brandy forced between my lips from time to time until I recover.

Otherwise, things are good.  Lots of snow on the ground, and looking forward to Christmas.  Yay. 

*Well, he didn't object to the one I picked.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Rudolph the red - wait, what?

I hope they find their missing reindeer.

It sounds like he'd be pretty easy to identify, though.

Ho ho ho.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Christmas spirit

We've put the Christmas tree up!  I'm so excited.  No, really, I am.

Mr WithaY unravelled 400 miles of LED lights, and went and wrapped them around the rose arch in the front garden, so that is now a vision of glittering be-lighted loveliness.  We put up our tree in a hastily-cleared corner of the sitting room.  It's an artificial one which we bought in 1994, and it looks very pretty, if a little wonky. 

New tree next year, I think.  I'd like a real one, so we might get one in a tub to live in the garden and be hauled indoors for the festive season.  We'll see.

Mr WithaY has carefully pinned up the dozens of small straw dollies in the shape of angels and fir cones all over the hall ceiling, which is very effective.  He gets extra kudos for doing it with a stonking hangover, as well as (he says) the start of a cold.

Yesterday was his work Christmas lunch.  They went to a posh French restaurant in Bath, where he crammed his pie hole with cold meat, and confit of duck, and figs in honey, and all manner of fine wines.  He said it was lovely

I think the trouble started after they finished lunch at about 4.30pm, and went on to the pub.  I was half expecting him home any time after about 5, and even looked at the train times online to see roughly when I might be greeting him into the bosom of his adoring home, hem hem.

Well, it got to 8pm, so I had a bite to eat and watched some TV. 

It got to 10pm, and I checked the train times again. 

It got to 11pm, and I went and played World of Warcraft Cataclysm (yes, yes, I know, I know) for a bit, fully expecting him to be home soon, as the last train gets in at 11.15-ish.

Midnight came and went.

I went to bed and read my book, waiting for a phone call to say "I missed the train and I'm mysteriously stuck in Bath/Frome/Trowbridge/Exeter...will you come and fetch me please?"

Readers, it was almost 1am when he finally burst through the front door.  Drink had been taken, he informed me.

He was very cheerful, having had a delightful meal and then a fun time in various pubs in Bath.  And yes, they'd missed the last train and got stuck in Westbury.  I have done that myself, although in my case the last train was cancelled, and I had to phone home to ask Mr WithaY to come and fetch me.  Which he did without a grumble.

I asked how he'd got back from Westbury.

"Taxi!" he bellowed as he hopped around the hallway trying to take his shoe off. 

"Was that very expensive?"

"Fuck yes!"  More hopping, on a different leg as the other shoe was removed. 

"Why didn't you ring me and ask me to come and get you?"

"Hahahahahahahaaaaaaaa.  I'm not brave enough."


Friday, 10 December 2010


Well, here we are, a mere two weeks from Christmas.  Are we all ready for it, dear readers?  Have we got the mulled wine on a low simmer, the Christmas pudding clamped into the workbench ready to be chiselled into, the turkey nervously fingering its collar out in the garden? 

Me neither.

Although, to be fair, Mr WithaY and I have already made more festive effort than we did over the entire holiday season last year.  We have written and posted our cards, bought a Lidl pannetone, discussed what we want for Christmas lunch - we're hovering on "duck" at the moment, but it may well change - and we plan to put the tree up this weekend.

Last Christmas we did almost none of that.  No tree, as we weren't in the mood to put it up, very few cards and a festive season spent mostly sniffling and coughing at each other.  The aftermath of the SSFH* went on for a very long time, but now we both feel in the appropriate frame of mind to celebrate stuff again.  So that's nice.

All it needs this year is the annual Dinotopia-fest and I will feel as though we are back to normal.

Anyway.  Hasn't it been cold?  I'm well aware that we soft south-western pansies get very little in the way of severe weather compared to those in the frozen wastes up North, but what we do get we make the most of.   We had about a week with real snow on the ground, which was very pretty, and then another week or so of ice on top of that, turning the roads into glass.  GLASS.

Last Sunday, we thought we might pop over to Salisbury, as I was getting stir crazy from a month of housebound coughing due to the ongoing boring chest infection.  The sun was shining, and the snow was melting, and the roads looked fine.  Traffic was moving normally on the main road past the house. 

Mr WithaY's Landrover has been in fine fettle**, so we hopped in and headed off.  As you drive out of our village on the non-main road, there is a sharp bend before you get to the junction with the slightly bigger road.  We went into that bend doing about 20mph, maybe less.  We started to turn the corner, then we lost it and went sideways on a sheet of black ice, sliding gracefully towards the wall. 

Fortunately, there was nothing coming in the opposite direction, and we came to a halt before we hit anything, but it was quite unsettling.  We reached the junction, made an executive decision and turned in the opposite direction to Salisbury, opting instead to pay a visit to father in law WithaY at the nursing home. 

Our trip to the local hospital was less slidey, but it was still pretty cold and icy out there.  I'm glad that they keep X-ray departments so warm.  Having to strip down into a saucy open-backed hospital gown for a chest X-ray would have been miserable otherwise.  I get the results next week sometime, something nice to look forward to. 

The doctor referred me for an X-ray because he was a bit concerned that this is the fourth significant chest infection in two years.  He asked me lots of questions about foreign travel.  Had I been anywhere exotic recently?  Did I do much air travel?  Do I have any close friends who have come back from the Far East lately? 

Other than the flights to and from Boston this summer, I haven't been on a plane for ages.  None of my friends have been anywhere exotic as far as I know.  The closest thing to foreign travel is the bus from Waterloo to the office, which sounds like a lively debate at the UN most mornings, I suppose.

Apparently it's my lower right lung that was "rattling" - the same one that was badly infected last time, so I have a feeling it never went away properly.  Anyone would think I smoked 60 a day.  I have NEVER smoked.  Ever.  Gah.

So anyway.  As my car died, and the roads were too icy anyway, I went for a short stroll the other morning.  I took my camera, because the hoar frost was incredible.  I wore the hat with ear flaps, in case you were wondering.

It was bloody freezing though, so I didn't go very far before realising I couldn't feel my fingers.

How Christmassy is this, eh?  Very, that's how.

I saw some herons and egrets in the river, but by the time my frozen sausage fingers got my camera out, they had buggered off.

Look, there he goes, buggering off.


Now I need a cup of tea.  And possibly a crumpet.  With butter and jam.

Which reminds me, the ongoing weight loss has stalled a little, probably due to 4 weeks of chest infection and 2 courses of antibiotics.  And shitloads of crumpets.

The last lot of antibiotics I was on apparently cause "spontaneous tendon rupture" so I am still half expecting my arms and legs to fall off. 
I'll let you know.

*Shit storm from Hades.  Yes, I am stilll going on about it.

**Unlike my car which died after three days of the cold, and had to have its battery recharged.  I know how it felt, to be honest

Monday, 29 November 2010

In the spotlight

I was reminded the other day of an episode in my life which I think deserves a much, much wider audience than it has had to date.  Much. 

Dan wrote a post about things how he wished would happen in his life, and one of them involved becoming a karaoke god. 

Readers, I have been that karaoke god.  Goddess.  Whatever.  It happened like this:

(Cue wibbly wobbly lines and flashback music)

Picture the scene...

It was the early 1990s, and I was on a training course in glorious Bournemouth.  Two weeks in a dodgy run-down seafront hotel, along with about 25 other members of the Civil Service, all there to improve our Interpersonal Skills, like it or not. 

Some people, it transpired, had been compelled to attend by their management, as they were borderline psychopaths.  The majority of us, however, were there to learn how to deal with Difficult People and Awkward Situations, and to Improve Our Promotion Prospects By Not Punching People Even When They Really Deserve It.

Day 1 passed uneventfully, with lots of  embarrassing "ice-breaking" exercises, and stilted conversation between the course delegates.  I knew one of the lecturers from a previous training course, and he had already talked to the group about me.  I had a reputation, it seemed.  A good reputation, I mean.  I was being described as a team player, someone who was good fun, and would chip in to keep discussions moving along. 

Yes, I was famous for being someone who has an opinion on everything and an inappropriate sense of humour. 

Can't imagine why.

Day 2 began, and was a bit slow.  The group discussions were lagging, and some of the breakout sessions were painfully silent.  I had stopped chipping in quite so much, as even the dulcet sound of my own voice was grating in the flat dead pall cast by some of the other group members.  Come lunchtime, the lecturers collared me for a chat.

They were worried that the course was stalling, and it needed to be livened up.  What did I suggest?  I suggested going out and getting a few drinks down us one night.  They agreed that an off-site social event was a good idea, and then one of them said,  "There's that karaoke bar down the road.  What about that?"

Hell yes.

So, come the afternoon tea break, the lecturers announced that those who wanted to were invited out that night for a few drinks and possibly some karaoke.  Remember, this was the early 90s...karaoke was still comparatively new.  At least in Bournemouth, anyway.  There was a ripple of excitement, and the mood lifted.  We were going out.  A night on the town. 

After dinner those of us who were up for the Big Night Out assembled in the hotel foyer, and we wandered down the road to the karaoke bar. 

It was dead.  There were a lot of staff working there, but other than our group - maybe 18 people - the place was almost empty.  A group decision was made to stay and see what happened later; we got the drinks in, and sat round a big table.  Both the lecturers had come along with the majority of the course delegates, so it was nice to have a bit of a chat outside of the hotel. 

After a little while, one of the bar staff came over and handed us a big book, a ring binder really, with many laminated pages.  It was the Song List for the karaoke, which she told us was due to start "about 9.30-ish."  By now, we'd all had at least one drink, and several of us were eagerly scanning the list of titles for songs we knew. 

I was determined to get up and sing something.

I was equally determined not to do it on my own.

Eventually, after a prolonged and shouty discussion about how crap everyones musical taste was, I announced that I was going to put my name down for a shot onstage, but that someone had to come with me.  The good-natured bellowing stopped, and there was a bit of an awkward pause.

"Aw, come on, guys," I said.  "Somebody else come up with me?"

They all looked fixedly at their drinks, the temperature dropped perceptibly.  Tumbleweed drifted across the table.  Eventually, I caught someone's eye.

"Dave, you'll come up with me, won't you?"  I asked.  He nodded, too shy to say no.

"Great!  Let's pick a song and I'll go and put our names down!" 

I was quite excited.  We flicked through the book again, and settled on the Chrissy Hynde/UB40 version of "I got you, babe."  A classic duet.  I scampered over to the karaoke DJ, handed in the slip of paper with our names and the song title, and rejoined the group, all miraculously chatty and cheerful again. 

I had another drink.  Dave had another drink.  Dave got progressively more and more anxious, his hands shaking as he held his drink.  I sidled up and said "You don't have to come and sing if you don't want to - I'll go on my own."  He shook his head and insisted that he was coming too.  He'd agreed to sing "I got you, babe" onstage with me, and that was all there was to be said.

After what felt like a very long time, our names were called by the karaoke DJ.  Dave and I headed through the crowd - an influx of people had taken place and the bar was suddenly packed - to the stage.  The rest of our group followed, till everyone was stood right up in front of the stage, waiting expectantly.  The DJ handed Dave and I a microphone each, grinned and started the music.  I was very nervous, and I could see Dave standing like a rabbit in the headlights to my left, staring fixedly into the distance. 

The intro played, and I launched into the first line of the song.  It was ok, I knew I was in tune at least. 

Dave's turn came.  Dave missed his cue.  Dave didn't sing at all.  Dave didn't open his mouth.  Dave stood there motionless, staring at the sea of faces, the microphone held tight in both hands in front of his face. 

Oh fuck.

I looked at the crowd, at the group of people from our training course, at all the many others who were dancing and smiling, and I just thought "Hell's bells, here we go..."

I sang the entire verse on my own.  Both parts.  After the first chorus Dave started to jig up and down a bit, bobbing along in time to the music.  Encouraged, I took his hand and danced with him as I sang the next verse.  He looked at me, and then, miracle, started to join in with the next chorus.  He was behind the beat, and almost inaudible, but he was doing it.

By the end of the song he was giving it all he had, singing and jigging up and down on the spot, a huge HUGE grin on his face.  We finished to rapturous applause, bowing and waving to the audience, showboating.  We were swept offstage by our coursemates, and were making our way back to the table in triumph.  A large man in a smart suit barred our path.

"Scuse me," he said.  We all stopped in our tracks.  Well, you do when a big scary bloke is stood in front of you.

He looked at Dave and I, both grinning and a bit sweaty, and then handed us a bottle of champagne.

"Compliments of the management,"  he said.  "You were bloody brilliant."

On the way back to the hotel one of the lecturers took me to one side.

"We were a bit worried when you got Dave to get up and sing," he told me. 

"Why?"  I asked.  "He was a bit nervous, but he was fine when he got going."

"Yes.  But he's actually on this course as part of his therapy - he had a nervous breakdown recently and is trying to get his confidence levels back up."


I'd dragged that poor man onstage in front of about a hundred people and made him sing "I got you, babe." 

The next day we opened our prize at coffee time and had a glass or two. 

"More champagne, Dave?" 

"Don't mind if I do, Lucy.  Any more biscuits to dunk?"

By the end of the course we were all much more relaxed with each other, even the psychopaths.  Dave gave me a huge emotional hug and told me I'd changed his life.  He did that himself, but it was a lovely thing to say.

Everyone exchanged phone numbers, work numbers, anyway, and promised to keep in touch.  Some of us did.  Dave told me he was going to buy some karaoke tapes for his car to help him get into a positive frame of mind when he drove to work in the mornings. 

For about 5 years after that, every now and again my office phone would ring.  I'd answer it to hear Dave's excited voice "Lucy!  They're playing our song!"  Sure enough, "I got you, babe" by Chrissy Hynde and UB40 would be on the radio in the background. 

And to this day, every time I hear it, I think of that night in Bournemouth, and Dave, and I smile.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Winter Fashions

This morning sees a blanket of snow across the WithaY estates, and prompts the question "Which of my many, many hats is most appropriate for venturing forth into the cold?"

Readers, I have thoughfully taken some photos of the various options.  The various options which happen to be at hand, I mean.  There are many other hats stashed in cupboards and in boxes under the bed which I can't be arsed to dig out.  Maybe another time, when I am very bored. 

1)  Sensible fleece headgear.  With earflaps.  Can be flung in the washing machine if, for example, a spaniel should happen to get hold of it and run around a muddy garden with it for a bit. 

Option 1 - Flaps down. 

And Option 2 - Flaps up.

Mmmmm. Versatile.  Also, does not blow off in the wind, thanks to sensible string-and-pulley system to strap it tightly under your chin(s).

2)  Less sensible velvet hat with huge bow on the front.  Warm and slightly bohemian, rubbish in the wet.

I like this one very much, although it does make old ladies shy away from me in fear, and dodgy buskers shout sexually-harrassing compliments at me.  Mind you, I am used to old ladies and dodgy buskers commenting freely on my appearance.  It seems to happen a lot. 

Hey, it's all good. 

3)  New woolly scarf/hat combination that Mr WithaY very kindly bought for me yesterday.  Apparently one of his colleagues' daughters (keep up) sometimes travels to India to fetch back locally-made goods to sell in the UK, to help support the villages where they are made. 

I think. 

Anyway.  It's green and very soft, and I am already rather taken with it.

It does make me look a bit like an extra from Lord of the Rings, though.  I'm too tall to be a hobbit, so maybe an elf who's let herself go a bit?

See?  You can imagine the pointy ears under there.  I could be one of the elves that has been asked to stand at the back and not say anything during the crowd scenes.

"Just keep quiet, and try not to embarrass Elrond.  Again.  And lay off the lembas."

4)  The Moose Hat.  We bought this in America this summer, in Maine.  Boothbay Harbor to be exact.  Ahh, happy memories.  Mr WithaY refused to wear it again after the first modelling session we had after purchase.  Shame on him, I say. 

It's surprisingly warm under there. 

Also, I like how my nose makes it look like he's sticking his tongue out.

I love winter. 

Oh yes - if it snows enough, we plan more snow animals.  Watch this space.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Austerity measures for Dummies

I went to the supermarket today.  That felt like a bit of an achievement, given that I can hardly breathe half the time, and the rest of the time has me coughing repulsively.  Anyhoo, I went in armed with too many re-usable bags and no shopping list, never a good combination.

I resisted the temptation to buy bargain hot pies, or huge 25-bag multipacks of crisps, or gallon vats of cheap ice cream (a decision I have been regretting on and off ever since, I might add) and stocked up with all manner of sensible meat-and-potato meal makings.  And vegetables.  And washing up liquid.  Yes, I am that sensible.

In my trolley were two tubes of Pringles (plain flavour) for Father-in-Law WithaY, who has recently developed a taste for them.  All seemed uneventful as the shopping was scanned and beeped and tagged and tracked* by the nice till lady. 

She scanned the two tubes of Pringles (plain flavour) then said "There's a Buy One, Get Two Free" offer on these.  Do you want another tube of the same flavour?"

Me:  No thanks, I only want the two tubes.

Till lady:  But there's an offer on!  You can have another one and get three but only pay for one!

Me: (packing potatoes and washing up liquid into a bag with grim efficiency)  But I only want these two.  Really.

There was a slightly accusing silence as she carried on scanning groceries and I packed bags, the two tubes of Pringles sitting folornly on the end of the conveyer belt like unwanted game show prizes.

Till lady:  Well then, I will take off one of these tubes from the bill so you get one free.  But you could have two free.  Do you want two free?

Me:  No.

I must admit that by this point I was interested to see what happened next, and prepared to argue cogently for my right to have just two tubes of Pringles if I wanted to.

This happened next:

Till lady:  Oh!  Gosh, that's strange.

Me:  What is?

Till lady:  It's taken both tubes off the bill. get them both free.  I think.

She fiddled about with the till for a bit, then slid both tubes down the counter to me as I continued cramming tins of beans and pots of probiotic yogurt** into the bags.  There was a queue forming behind me, which may have affected her decision making.

Till lady:  Yes.  You get them both free.  We'll just have an extra tube on the shelves now.

Me:  (Warily)  So...I get them for free?  Are you sure?

Till lady:  Yes.  You can take them.

Me:  (not touching them)  Really?  I don't want to take them without paying for them.

Till lady:  (pushing them towards me encouragingly) But you get two free!  So you can take those.

I relented and put them in my bag, paid for the shopping - not the Pringles, though, obviously - and left the shop without setting off any alarms. 

All the way home I tried to work out how she had arrived at the conclusion that "buy one, get two free" can be converted into "buy two, don't pay for either of them."  I am still not convinced by her logic, and am waiting for a knock on the door from the Fraud Squad.

Other news:  I have bronchitis.  Again.  I went to the doctor on Tuesday.  He listened to my chest, told me cheerfully that he's heard me sounding much worse, and gave me a prescription for the scary syphillis pills he prescribed at the end of my last bout of Black Lung. 

He said "Chest infections usually only last five days or so.  Let's long did your last infection go on for?   Hmmmm....December till.....oh.  May.  Well, yes.  You were obviously a bit unlucky, weren't you?"

Yes, in the same sense that Cornwall is a bit wet at the moment.

He also commented "Oh, you've lost weight."  I nodded, and was about to expound on my slow but steady progress when he said sternly "I hope it's not because of all the stress*** you've been dealing with?"

No, not stress, but thanks for asking, doctor.  Eating fewer pies and drinking less cider, mostly.

I told him how much weight I intend to lose in total in order to be a non-overweight person according the the BMI scale; he advised me not to pay too much attention to BMI figures, and to weigh "as much as you feel comfortable with."  Interesting advice, which I intend to ignore. 

I am still up and writing my blog at 1am, by the way, because when I lay down in bed I start coughing hard enough to make my eyes shoot out of my head and slam into the bedroom ceiling.  And that gets old fast. 

Big day tomorrow.  The auction house is coming to Father-in-Law WithaY's place to take out all the stuff that is going to be in a sale next month.  So, hopefully I will be able to get in and give his place a bit of a clean and spruce-up once it's a bit less crammed with antiques.  And then who knows, we might even sell it.

Which would be nice.

*I'm sure that we are all being monitored via our shopping. 
**I'm on antibiotics. I have bronchitis again.  Yay me.
***Shit Storm From Hades, although that is receding a bit now.  More on this anon.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


Welcome to the inside of my head.

Today it has mostly been full of the echoing sounds of lung-searing coughs and whining. 

There has also been a bit of guitar music as I tried to master the intro to "Weather With You*" and gave up, moving onto the far simpler and more satisfying chord sequences of  "Nothing Else Matters**" segueing (sp?) into "Rocking in the Free World***" and "Your Decision****" by way of light relief. 

The day started early, when I woke up, coughed a bit, then gradually slid into the full heaving paroxym, ending with streaming eyes and panicked racing heartbeat, imagining I was about to die.  I didn't.  I expect you worked that out.

Mr WithaY went and made me a cup of fresh ginger, hot lemon and honey, which was great until you got to the last inch or so, which was startlingly fibrous.  Next time, I think we will deploy a sieve.  The reaminder of my morning was spent in bed, wheezing and watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine on tv, wearing what was effectively a bed jacket.  Ok, it was a really little cardigan/shrug thing, but by wearing it over my nightie I think it turned into a bed jacket. 

I was WORKING it, baby.  Working it like an OLD LADY.

Tomorrow is a bit of a big day.  We have a visit from Her Majesty's Finest***** to discuss the ongoing repercussions of the SSFH******, so there's a fairly high stress level chez WithaY today.   Once it's all sorted out, if it ever is, I think I will write a book about it all.  With a gritty dreary black and white photo on the front cover, and some quotes from Serious People saying how enthralling it is.

Once you get the cover sorted, the rest is easy. I expect.

People do judge a book by it, they say.  Need to get it right. 

*Crowded House
***Neil Young
****Alice in Chains.  The timing on that is a bugger, and as soon as I start to sing it, I lose the ability to play the chords.  Not that I was singing today, mind.
******Shit Storm From Hades

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Lexicon of the Weird

In the absence of anything unusually hilarious happening to me lately, here are some more results from the word search thingy that people use to stumble upon my blog:

1)  emma stone.  I have no idea who emma stone is, or why she doesn't get capital letters for her name.  Is she a relation of e.e. cummings?  More to the point, how did they get to my blog by typing in her name?  Very strange. 

2)  foot, leg, and ankle swelling   I'm guessing my blog is now a magnet for sprain pervs, and possibly also people who like to see freak show horrors.  I imagine there is a whole market segment dedicated to spraining injuries, possibly with its own glossy magazine that comes out once a quarter, with a section for Readers' Sprains at the back, just in front of the adverts for crutches and padded ankle supports.  Brrrrr.  It's slightly disturbing that the single most viewed image on my blog - the window, if you will, into my whole life and innermost psyche - is of my revolting, swollen, sprained ankle.    I might have to grow a beard, or develop a second head to maintain the carney-like ambience once the ankle novelty wears off.  Sickos.  Yeah, you.

3)  rick leek quarter horsesshow lucy artiscally obvious lucy  Say WHAT?  Whoever typed this into their search engine has a lot on their mind.  Leeks?  Horses?  Slightly agricultural, so I can understand why it ended up here.  Repeated mention of my name?  Irritating, but again, can see the link.  "Artiscally obvious" has me stumped, I admit.  Do they mean "Artistically obvious"?  Which is slightly hurtful, and implies that my fabulous attempts at mixed media art are not nearly as original as I imagine, dammit.  And who is "rick"?

4)  the oinkmaster pig roast  Aha.  Ahahahahahaaaaa.  Yes indeed.  The Oinkmaster Pig Roast.  I remember it well.  I think, reader, that it was in fact the Oinkmaster 3000, to be exact.  No wonder you ended up here, you're not being specific enough, you muppet. 

In other news:  The Black Lung seems to be making an early appearance, giving me plenty of time to prepare for the annual Christmas chest infection-fest.  Yay. 

Monday, 8 November 2010

Monday morning adventure

This morning's instalment comes to you courtesy of South West Trains, without whose help none of this would be possible.

I have had very little sleep. Yes, I went to bed at a reasonable hour.  No, I didn't watch scary films or read an alarming book first.

The night went as follows:

2130:  Shower, wash hair, blow-dry hair into fabulous Elvis Presley Girlfriend bouffant style. Check bags are all packed ready for the morning.

2200: Into bed, turn off light. Lay there for 20 minutes mentally reviewing contents of bags, also trying to remember details of the many and varied meetings that fill Monday pretty much back to back. Fall asleep.

2330:  Visit bathroom.  Back into bed, fall asleep. 

0215:  Woken by violent rainstorm lashing at bedroom windows.  Check time on phone whilst mentally cursing self for checking time.  Back to sleep.

0345:  Woken by howling wind and continued lashing rain.  Check time again, thinking "Did I set the alarm clock?"  Turn on light to check.  Yes, alarm clock is set.  Back to sleep.

0457:  Woken by the Apocalyptic weather going on outside.  Lie there forcing self not to check the time, trying to reassure self that alarm clock will do its job and wake me at the appropriate hour.  Try not to think how soon that is.  Back to sleep.

0526: Woken by loud vehicle going past on the main road.  Get up and look out of window.  Pitch black, rain hammering on windows.  Cars going by sound as though they are navigating a ford.  Back into bed resigned to wait for alarm to go off.

0550:  Deep and dreamless sleep, perfectly comfortable, utterly at peace.  Heaven.

0556:  Alarm goes off.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the journey to the office is taking on epic status.

0645:  Arrive at railway station in plenty of time to catch the 0652.  Overhear the very nice ticket office man telling the passengers buying tickets that the train is "suffering with it's engine" and will be late. How late?  Fucking late.  Ticket man gets repeated updates from the train driver and various other railway officials, which he relays to us gloomily.

"It's lost an's going to be at least 20 minutes won't be travelling beyond Salisbury....they'll cancel the next train because this one's so late...." The litany rolled on.

To be fair, he seemed genuinely sorry for us.  A few weeks ago our train was absurdly late, and the ticket man came into the waiting room to apologise face to face.

"I'm really sorry about this, everyone.  I know it's not much, but I've got a kettle and four mugs in my office.  Would anybody like a cup of tea?"

I was charmed.

Eventually the train crawled into the station, and the grumpy committed scrambled aboard.  The passengers already seated had a weary look about them.  I think some of them may have been there all night.

0750:  The train limped painfully into Salisbury, the guard informing us halfway there that we'd lost two of the three engines and had "no power."  

It was like being in an episode of Star Trek where Scotty is desperately coaxing Warp 9 out of the engines, all the while shouting "I'm giving it all she's got, Captain!"

When we got to Salisbury, 36 minutes late, there was a wild stampede to the "nine carriage train that is waiting for you there."

Nine carriages my arse.  THREE carriages.  All of them already full.  I have found a seat, fortunately.  Less fortunately, it is under the window.  Which is leaking.  My left arm is wet. I have improvised a small lean-to using my coat, and hope to make it to my destination without catching pneumonia. 

Send pemmican and Kendall mint cake.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


This stats thing is horribly compelling.  Not the numbers, I ignore those now I know that the majority of my dedicated readership are crouched in some vile scam den in the Ukraine, trying to steal credit card numbers or sell their sisters to lonely vulnerable men in the UK.

No, the numbers can fuck right off.  But the keyword search, well, that's a very different story indeed.

This week, apparently, I have been discovered by people using the following search expressions:

1)  5000 chicken birds how much feets shed wanted hopw much mony   Ok....what?  "5000 chicken birds" I can sort of understand.  "How much" I can get a handle on.  Maybe someone wants to buy some chickens to start up a poultry farm.  Perfectly reasonable.  Then it goes off the rails slightly.  "Feets shed wanted" is bewildering.  "Shed wanted" again fits with the chicken farm there.  "Feets" is a red herring, thrown in to no purpose.  The "hopw much mony" again relates to the chicken farmer theme, albeit one who can't spell. 

2)  moose come out frome woods  If this is a statement, it is incorrect.  If it is a question, the answer is "no, moose do NOT come out of Frome Woods."  As far as I know, there are no moose in the woods round here, or around Frome.  Walk in peace, my friends, fear not random moose attacks in Somerset. 

3)  what animals lives in woods?  Oh gosh.  Mice.  Voles.  Deer.  Badgers.  Foxes.  Rabbits.  Toads.  And of course, famously, bears.  No moose though.  Not round here. 

4)  the difference in a person hat lives in the woods and a country   Hmm, now this is challenging.  I'm assuming it's a "town mouse, country mouse" kind of thing, and leave it at that.

5)  horror veg carving is my favourite so far.  It pretty much sums up a good percentage of this blog, and is also the name of my first death metal album, when I get round to making it. 

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

May I take your trident, sir?

Having been made aware of the "stats" part of Blogger, including the "Who uses what phrases to find this blog" feature, I was rather alarmed to find that someone located me by googling this phrase:

"is cavity insulatyion appropriate by the seaside"

Reader, if you're out there, I have no clue.  Not a scooby.  Also, why, WHY do you need to know?  Are you planning on insulating a sandcastle?  Are you a hermit crab who feels a bit chilly?  My advice is to use seaweed.

The last week has been a bit emotional, and completely exhausting, hence yet another long hiatus between posts. 

The still-ongoing SSFH* fallout continues.  Mr WithaY and I had a meeting with our local MP on Friday, which was interesting, if a bit stressful.  He was extremely kind, and is going to help us as much as he can. 

We were early, so were invited in to sit in the bar of the Conservative Club to wait.  An elderly gentleman was sat at a table, smart in a blazer and cravat, waiting to see the MP too.  He was chatting to one of the staff there.  He was ANGRY about many things.  And loud. 

"People speeding - that's so antisocial.  They should be stopped on sight by the police."  (I think he said "stopped" - he may have said "shot".  Either seemed appropriate, given his outrage.)

The barman chappie nodded politely, clearly not very interested.  Encouraged, the old gentleman expanded on his theme.

"Littering!  That's another thing!  People who litter are the lowest of the low!  It should be a criminal offence!"  (I think it might be, actually, but he was on a roll...nobody was going to try to stop him.)

"And people who litter from cars!  Throwing rubbish out of the windows!  They should be stopped on sight and fined - a hundred pounds.  For a first offence."  I was intrigued as to where his scale of fines had come from.  He'd obviously given it some thought. 

The barman nodded again, rearranging crisps in a silent and discouraging manner. 

"And for a second offence...."  the cravat-wearer paused, thinking what would be suitable punishment for a second offence, then triumphantly came up with:  "They should have their car confiscated. On the spot.  And then crushed."

Yes, crushing cars is an ideal way to prevent littering.  Just don't chuck the crushed cars in the river afterwards.

In sombre work-related news, I found out on Friday that our Department is planning to shed between 30 and 40 percent of staff over the next two years.  I have to say, the thought of being paid off is rather appealing at the moment.  It would save me 6 hours travelling a day on the 3 days a week I am in London, would save me £5000-ish a year on my train ticket, plus the bus fares etcetera etcetera etcetera** and would save me a lot of stress. 

Of course, having no money coming in would open up a whole new world of different stress, but at least I'd be doing that in the comfort of my own home. 

It's definitely something to consider.

I was sat at my desk on Tuesday, eating my lunch, when I realised what I was doing.

Yes, dear readers, I was eating apple sauce with a spoon.

When did I turn into Ruprecht?

Better news though, possibly as a result of the apple sauce.  I put on one of my suits for the meeting on Friday.  I did the trousers up.  The trousers fell straight back down again, in approved Carry On Film stylee.  If Mr WithaY had been playing a Swanee whistle, it would have been perfect. 

I tried on a different suit.  Those trousers fell down. 

I tried on all my suits, including one that I bought two years ago, tried on, was too fat for, so hung in the wardrobe and forgot about***.  All of them were too big.

Inspired, I then tried on the outfit I wore when we got married, 16 long, long, oh so very long years ago.  I wouldn't wear it if I was going out for a big dinner, but it was perfectly wearable.  So hurrah.

But I need some new suits.  Bugger.

*Shit Storm From Hades.  I promise to be less crypic once it's all over.

**(c) King of Siam

***because clearly I wasn't going to go to all the bother of sending it back, was I?

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Mostly bullets

So. Yeah. Hello again. 

I'm not dead, nor have I been captured by pirates and sold into slavery, to be rescued in a breathless paragraph in Chapter 27 by Conan the Barbarian.  Dammit.

I've been doing a bit of travelling, of late.  Nothing too fancy.  Well, you know me.  I don't like to be a trouble.

Where have I been?  Well, I'll tell you.

1)  Sussex.  Went down to visit my lovely Mum for a day, which was very pleasant.  Also called in at Youngest Sis's house where I was roundly trounced on the Wii Formula 1 car racing game by several children.  The kitten, as is traditional, migrated immediately to Mr WithaY, where it fell into a deep and peaceful sleep on his lap.

2)  Cornwall.  We were invited by some mates to join them for a couple of days at their little holiday cottage thing in St Ives.  I'd never been to St Ives before, and I can recommend it.  Probably best not to go in the summer though.  I imagine it would be a complete fucking nightmare then.  But in early October it was lovely. 

We went to the beach one afternoon.  It was glorious.  The sun shone, the sky was blue, the sea was emerald green and had a seal in it, swimming about 6 feet from the beach.  Of course, nobody took a photo.  We were all too busy pointing and exclaiming how close it was to us. 

Our friends produced a kite from the boot of the car.  I sat on the sea wall to watch.  For some strange, possibly eldritch, reason I decided to "just watch" the others fly the kite up and down the beach.  I don't know...maybe it was a foreboding.  A little flash of foresight.  A teeny glimpse into the future.  Who knows.

Plus, my ankle was hurting after walking around up and down some steep hills, so I thought a rest would be nice.

Our friend went first, launching the kite with enthusiasm, and making it dart around the sky like a professional.  It had a long red tail*, so looked most impressive, looping and fluttering for many yards behind the kite itself.  After a while, Mr WithaY wanted to have a go.   

The wind seemed to have dropped a little, so it was much harder to get the kite off the ground.  Mr WithaY had to run a fair way down the beach to actually get any kind of lift on it. 

There were people on the beach.

If this was a disaster movie, we'd have little vignettes of the people on the beach about now. 

...The cheerful Asian family having a teatime picnic on a blanket. 

...The dad and young sons digging in the sand. 

...The elderly couple walking their small yappy dog along the waterline. 

...The young mother, quietly breastfeeding her baby as she sat and enjoyed the sparkling water and warm sun of the early evening. 

Ah. So peaceful. So relaxed.  I think there would have been a cheerful, optimistic soundtrack too, maybe something by the La's.

But then, all of a sudden, the music changes.  A menacing note is heard.  Mr WithaY is running backwards along the beach, desperately trying to keep the kite airborne.  The wind has dropped and the kite is dropping with it, swooping low and fast near the innocent bystanders.  People are starting to watch with alarm as the kite cuts through the air, narrowly missing the small yappy dog.

Personally, I would pay money to see a small yappy dog knocked sideways into the sea by a kite, but maybe that's just me.

The lady with the baby was now watching with alarm as Mr WithaY drew parallel with her, the kite darting up and down, closer and closer to her, and of course, to the baby.  I could see from my vantage point on the sea wall that things could turn ugly. 

However.  Nature took a hand.  Across the beach ran a small river.  It was in a shallow cleft in the sand, several feet wide and about 6 inches deep, the water running through it slowly.  Most scenic.

Mr WithaY, eyes fixed on the errant kite, desperate hands on the kite handles, continued running backwards.  Right up until he fell over backwards into the river. 

The beach erupted in laughter; apparently the man standing behind Mr WithaY almost fell over too, he was laughing so hard.  Mr WithaY extracted himself from the river with dignity and squelched back across the beach to sit by me on the sea wall.

The kite?  Well, that sank to the ground like a bird landing on a tree, the tail curving gracefully around it. 

3)  Gloucester.  We went up for a weekend to visit our lovely mates and their three mad spaniels.  It was marvellous. 

Work is a bit stressful, what with the massive cuts and all, but hey ho, what will be will be. 

My ankle is still a bit buggered, but is recovering slowly. 

I have lost 2 stone in weight so far, and am sticking with it.  Only 4 more to go.

That is all. 

*The kite.  As far as I know, our friend has no tail, red or otherwise.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


I discovered the "Stats" thingy on Blogger recently.  What larks.  It shows me where all my readers are at any given moment, and which posts they are looking at.

Sadly, this has simply notified me that a lot of my traffic is from people who are looking at very old posts, mostly in Russia, the spamming bastards.  At least the word verification seems to have put paid to their antics.  Ah well.  As long as I don't analyse the stats too carefully I can pretend it's really people who are keen to read the words, and not just post adverts to their dodgy websites.  Bastards.

Today has been a bit like a traditional Whitehall farce, despite me not being in Whitehall.  I had a lot of complicated time-consuming work stuff to get through, so my laptop decided to re-enact a good old-fashioned go-slow.  Added to this, every 20 minutes or so it crashed whichever application I was using at the time, varying between Word, Excel and Powerpoint to keep me guessing. 

Mr WithaY arrived home unexpectedly mid morning as he had someone coming over to look at his old Landrover, languishing unloved since he got the new one.  There was a degree of arseing about as he fetched keys, and found paperwork, but then he scooted off again, returning a while later to meet the potential buyer.  The potential buyer turned into an actual buyer, but when he came back to collect the vehicle, Mr WithaY had gone back to work and the bloody thing wouldn't start.

He rang the doorbell and asked me if there was "any special technique" to starting it.  I said no, you just turn the key and off it goes.  He looked at me.  I looked at him.  We both looked at the Landrover, bonnet up while his wife fiddled about uselessly with the steering wheel.  I was already tetchy, due to the IT failures mentioned above, and also due to my ankle being painful after my latest trip to the physio, so I rang Mr WithaY at work and suggested he come home to sort this crisis out.  I was a trifle terse, I believe. 

There was an awkward silence as the farmer and his wife looked at each other, and at the Landrover sitting on the drive, silent and unmoving.  A brainwave struck me, and I mentioned that it had an immobiliser. The farmer's face lit up.  He dicked about with the key, then tried to start it, and hey presto, it roared into life.

I went back into the house and rang Mr WithaY again, telling him not to come home after all.

The farmer, his wife, and the landrover eventually left, allowing me to go back up to my study to get on with my work.

Five minutes later, Kevin the Decorator arrived.

Ten minutes after that, the phone downstairs rang, someone from Talk Talk who cut himself off, the fuckwit.  .

And so the long day wore on. 

Tomorrow I am going into London for some peace and quiet.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Careful now

Another week without a post. Oh dear.  I was lying in bed this morning, wide awake at 0700, listening to the alternating rumble of huge lorries heading for the coast and the deep, penetrating barking of next door's dogs, pondering why this happened.

I mean I was pondering.  I don't think the dogs do much pondering.  Is it lack of material?  That's never stopped me before, admittedly. 

Lack of time?  Yes, possibly.  I am spending far longer than I used to at work, I don't post on here while I am in the office (which I did sometimes times when I worked locally, and had "proper" lunch breaks) and I find the hit-and-miss posting from an iPhone on the train too annoying.  I have, on a few occasions, drafted a post which I thought was mildly amusing, tried to upload it and lost it completely.  It's probably got more to do with my technical ineptitude and an intermittent 3G connection than with my iPhone deliberately trying to sabotage me, but even so, it pissed me right off. 

Lack of inspiration?  Yes, at times.  Sometimes I have a brilliant, yes, I said it, brilliant idea for a blog post, but by the time I get home and onto my PC, the initial excitement has faded and I end up with yet another "What I did on my holidays" style post.  Not satisfactory.

Lack of enthusiasm?  Hmm, yes.  When I do sit down to write a post, I enjoy doing it.  I tend to bash it out in one go, check for obvious spelling mistakes and then press the "fire and forget" button.  I don't make heavy weather of it, once I get on with it.  It's the getting round to doing it that makes me go "hurrr" and wave my arms about like Kevin the Teenager.  Procrastination and all that.  I have been thinking about what to do about it, and other than taking a break from blogging to recharge my creative batteries, I can't really come up with any suggestions.  And, when all's said and done, a week without a post is a little break, I suppose. 

I don't fancy making a slightly drama-queeny "I'm stopping blogging for a while" announcement, because that seems to be asking for people to comment and tell you how much they love your work, or how much they'd miss you, or that reading your blog is the only thing that drags them back from the abyss of despair on a regular basis, much like a child threatening to run away from home just so that someone will stop them.   

Anyway, I love the fact that people I don't even know read this, and sometimes they bother to comment.  It really does make my day when I get a comment or two, and I like knowing that other people are enjoying the stuff that comes out of my head.  And, when I started blogging it was just for me, so it oughtn't to matter how often I post, really.

Was there a point to this?  I can't remember. 

Other news:  My cold is better, my ankle is mending nicely, and work is still interesting.

The physiotherapist told me this week that my ankle WAS fractured after all.  She can tell that because when she put the ultrasound thingy on it, I went "Gaaahhhhhhhhh!"  This week she had turned it up on high power, so it hurt.  Last week it was on low power, and didn't.  So, it turns out that when I fell over, I broke my ankle, damaged most of the ligaments in my foot AND made a fool of myself.  Now that's what I call falling over.  I make sure I get my money's worth, me.

Oh, and I didn't see the Pope.  I saw all the crash barriers, and the stage they put up outside Westminster Cathedral, but no pontiff.  Plus I had to get the Tube to Waterloo on Friday as my bus was cancelled in honour of his visit, or something.  This is why religion causes wars.

Is it just me, or did anyone else keep having Father Ted flashbacks every time the Pope was on TV?


Sunday, 12 September 2010

Farming Today

It's a big weekend, this weekend.  At least, it is in Somerset.  Why, dear reader?  Why, because it is the time of year for that mightiest of all Grand Days Out, the Frome Cheese Show.

We've been here before.  Ohhhh yes we have.  If you hated it last time then you'd probably better go and get a cup of tea and read the paper for a bit. This could be a long post.

Let us begin.

As you walk across the car park, there, shimmering in the distance like Camelot are the fair pavilions of the show.  You can practically hear angelic music, can't you?

As you get nearer to the entrance, though, the sobering reality of where you are heading is made apparent.

I took particular note of this warning, as you can imagine.  No more disasterous ankle incidents for me, thank you very much. 

And then...the Show!  All around you in a whirling blur of sunshine, crushed grass, barking dogs, pounding music, fairground rides, cider and spilt chips, there it is.  Marvellous.

We made our way to the Beagles first, because we love them.  We LOVE them.  Most of the time they snoozed contentedly in their pen, but every time one of the Beastmasters appeared there was an excited surge of hounds, and the poor man was almost drowned in wet noses and wagging tails. 

Later in the day the whole pack was in the show ring, and the commentator invited all the children in the crowd to come and say hello.  It was mayhem.  About 40 hounds and at least twice that many children, plus a few parents, all romping about on the grass squealing and wagging tails, with a few of the braver ones* escaping out under the fences and running amok in the picnicking parties around the edge of the ring.

After all that excitement we decided to go and look at the Cheese Tent.  It's basically a huge tent full of cheese. 

Many different sorts, many different prizes to be won.  It's highly competitive.  As an aside, I would suggest NOT going to this tent with a hangover.  It's a bit too aromatic and noisy to be tolerable for long periods without having to go and stand outside to take deep breaths and suppress the vomit reflex.  Just FYI.

But the winning cheeses looked lovely.  Mmmm.  Brown.

I was intrigued by this:

Then I saw them, sitting smugly in their own special little tent-within-a-tent.  The Champion Cheeses.  Just look at them.  Bastards.

A little further on, there was the Poultry Tent.  This is another one you should probably try and avoid if you are a bit fragile following a big night. 

Multiple cocks crowing, ducks quacking, hens squawking and children shrieking "Mummy!  A chicken!  A chicken!" is rather a lot to take.

The birds seemed unimpressed with it all. 

And there were eggs.  Eggs in shells, eggs on saucers, eggs with decorations on them.  It was like Faberge's worst nightmare.

Also, if you were still hungry for hen-related exhibits, there were pictures of chickens.  They don't dick about, these poultry people.  You want hen-related stuff, buster?  Right this way.

Delightful though it all was, escaping back out into the fresh air and comparative peace of the showground was a relief.  There were many stalls and vendors there, selling farm- and cheese-related goods and services.  Some of them, admittedly, were probably only of interest to the real hardcore crowd. 

I have no idea what this is all about.  I didn't dare ask. 

Some things are just too weird.

I liked this car that was on display.  I can imagine every farmer at the show exclaiming aloud at the thought of how practical and useful it would be on the farm.  Bringing a few lambs down from the top field.  Carrying bales of hay to the barn.  Taking half a dozen young farmers home from the barn dance.  Towing the horsebox.  Utilitarian, that's the word.

I spotted this helpful sign on a roundabout in the fairground.  Parent, you will pay.  You WILL PAY.  Every day of your life.

But the highlight of the day, and the thing I know you're all waiting for, was the craft tent, which includes Things Made From Vegetables section.   This year, the theme seemed to be trains.

The craft tent is also where you see the stern notes left by the judges, notifying competitors of their many, many failings.

Not as dark as the thoughts that went through that competitor's head when they read that note, I'll warrant.

I like that last one.  "Your flowers are just too nice, loser."

This one seemed harsh.  Right up until I looked at the exhibit in question.

Never mind the animals and combine harvester...whose is that ginormous boot in the background?  Magog's?

Speaking of scale...look at the size of these leeks!

Mr WithaY kindly lent his hand for scale.  You'd think they were a freak, a giant abnormality, and wonder where anyone would get the idea, these huge leeks.  But wait!  What's this?  A teeny model garden, made by an apple-cheeked child?  Look at the size of the leeks in there!  Holy crap!

That explains a good deal.  There were a few of these mini farm dioramas.  I might have a crack at making my own.

Look at the pigs!

Adorable cotton wool sheep on this one.

I get terribly excited and take far too many pictures, but honestly, I bet you would too. 

Sadly, there was evidence of vegetable apartheid.  I hate to say it, but segregation was taking place.   Segregation on the grounds of colour. 

There was a Wurzels tribute band.  No, I am not joking.  As if.  I overheard one of them talking to a fan who was buying a CD:   "Yeah, of course a lot of what we do are covers." 

I'll stop now, I can hear the groans of ennui from here. 

It was a grand day out, and the sun shone on the righteous (i.e. us), Mr WithaY had a free fly-casting lesson from the helpful chaps from the local fishing society, I sat on the sunshiny grass and watched dragonflies buzzing around as Mr WithaY learned how to fling fishing line farther than he'd thought humanly possible.  It was all very pleasant. 

Roll on next September.  Bet you can't wait. 

Oh, as a PS, and to explain the hangover references, to the nearest whole number, guess how many people were involved in this dinner party:

*hounds, not children