Friday, 30 July 2010

Eating out

You'd think that going out for lunch would be a straightforward exercise, wouldn't you?  Leave the house at about lunchtime, travel somewhere that serves food, have some food, come home?  Easy. 

Even when you factor in the relative immobility of one of the people involved, how hard is it to go out and eat?  Not very, would be the answer.

Well, that answer would be WRONG, my friend, wrong.  West Wiltshire on a Tuesday lunchtime is a desert.  A food desert.

Admittedly, Bestest Mate and I have previous form in this area.  It has been known for us to go out for dinner, drive miles, sit and wait for hours fruitlessly*, and then end up eating a home-delivered pizza at 11pm because things went terribly, bizarrely, wrong in an entirely unpredictable manner.

So.  We hopped (in my case literally) into the car and drove out to a local farm shop where they serve nice lunches.  But wait!  What's this?  It's closed on Monday and Tuesday?  Arse!  Not to be daunted by such a minor setback, we continued on our way.

Every so often there would be a conversation as follows:

Me:  Ooh, I've never been down this road before...I think it might lead to FUCK SLOW DOWN a nice pub HORSE! HORSE! yes, there it is...shall we stop there?

Bestest mate:  Looks shut.  Let's take a closer look.

Me:  Mind that bloke...THAT BLOKE THERE...yeah it's shut.  Arse.  Keep going on this road...there'll be another pub in a HORSE! minute.

And so the long day wore on.  He's not a really terrible unsafe driver or anything, I was just a bit jumpy, what with not being able to drive at the moment, and my ankle hurting like hell every time we went over a bump or round a corner. 

We drove the entire length of the Wylye Valley, only finding pubs which were shut, occasionally glimpsing a pretty church or row of thatched cottages which we ignored in our feeding frenzy.  Eventually we turned onto the main road back towards the village, and decided to stop at the rather splendid Indian for lunch.  It was just closing. 

Nothing for it but to head back to the house, and go over to the local pub for a sandwich then.  But no...they'd stopped serving food.  Admittedly by the time we got there it was after half past two, but we still felt disgruntled. 

We ended up having a sandwich back at the house, and watching a DVD** while I sat with my foot up and whined how much my ankle hurt.

On that subject, I went and had an X-ray earlier this week, and got the result over the phone from a nurse this morning.  Apparently there is no "obvious bone damage" but there is "significant soft tissue damage".  And, helpfully, because I had the accident 3 weeks ago if it was a slight fracture it would be healing by now and might not show up on an X-ray.  So.  Probably not broken, but possibly broken.  Yeah, that helps. 

I can hop around a bit more easily, but I still can't drive as I can't hold my foot in any other position apart from "flat on the ground" without a good deal of discomfort, and stabs of pain in my anklebone.  So I am wiggling it about in short busrts, and taking painkillers when it starts to really play up.

God, I'm old.  Nothing works properly these days.

*also meatlessly, fishlessly, chiplessly and puddinglessly

**Tropic Thunder.  He hadn't seen it, and I still find it amusing.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Stale custom

Gah I'm bored.  Bored bored bored. 

Being unable to drive or move around much is really dull.  Who'd have imagined it, eh? 

Even my longstanding love affair with the Internet has worn thin...custom has staled its infinite variety, and laughing at cats with things on their heads no longer seems to be enough.  I never thought this day would come.

It's like the end of something beautiful, it really is.  Well, till tomorrow when I will find it all hilarious again.

The highlight of my day today?  Making some redcurrant jelly, using the entire crop from our garden.  Mr WithaY harvested the berries yesterday, I boiled them for about 20 minutes in water till they were all squishy, then we set up a complex arrangement of upturned chairs, elastic bands, muslin cloths and a huge bowl, and left them to drip overnight. 

I did my cooking bit whilst standing on one leg, leaning on the cooker or the kitchen counters, in case you were wondering. 

Today I carefully measured the amount of juice (half a pint), added the appropriate amount of sugar (half a pound) and boiled it till I got bored (about 12 minutes).   

Hey presto, a really small amount of redcurrant jelly. 

Other news:  Bugger all.  My ankle really hurts, I can't stand on it for any length of time, and getting up and down the stairs is a trial. 

We dog sat yesterday for some friends, well for their dog, really, who was charming and well behaved.  Other than the whole "stealing a shoe and running up the garden with it" incident, that is.  But, it was an isolated outbreak and we made him sit in the garden afterwards and think about what he'd done.  That'll learn him.

Bestest Mate is coming to visit tomorrow; he is threatening to take me to Casualty in Salisbury and make a scene until I get crutches and/or an X-ray.  I will distract him with tea and chit-chat. 

We have decided that we are officially old now.  We had a chat about the best places to buy walking sticks last time we spoke on the phone.  Maybe we'll go shopping tomorrow.  I can sit in the car while he checks out the best stick bargains.

I can't wait.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Nantucket - The Fracturing

Soooo you know this sprained ankle I got on holiday?  When I fell over like a fool in Nantucket? 

Yeah, you remember. 

Anyway, it's been two weeks since the whole pothole of DOOOOOOM incident, and although the swelling has gone down a bit and the bruising has faded, it still hurts like billy-oh.  I rang the doctor's surgery on Monday to ask advice from the nurse there, who gave me some good advice (don't walk on it) and made me a conditional appointment to see the doctor on Friday if it was no better.

It was no better.

Mr WithaY came home from work early and drove me to the doctor, and dropped me off in the carpark outside, so I only had to hobble a few yards.  Once the traditional "awkward wait whilst chatting to people who might be horribly contagious" was over, I limped into the doctor's office.  Usually when I go to see my doctor it's because I have a chest infection, I am fortunate that very little else seems to go wrong with me*.   

He asked me what seemed to be the trouble, having watched me limp in slowly and painfully. I was tempted to say "My nose really hurts," but thought better of it.  I explained what had happened and unstrapped my ankle from the amazing neoprene and velcro techno-bandage I bought in America to show him the hideous offender.

He said "Hm, probably some nasty ligament damage.  I'll have a feel about.**"  A few moments of poking the soft tissue around my anklebone, asking "Does this hurt?  How about now?"  and me going "Nu-uh, nope, nothing," followed.

He looked at me.  I looked at him.  He poked my anke bone.  I yelped and went through the roof. 

"Ah," he said.  "That's probably a fracture, or a bone chip.  You need an X-ray so we can see how bad it is.  I'll refer you."

Well, to be honest, he first offered me the option of a "walk-in" at the big hospital in Bath, but as my gorgeous guitar teacher recently had 5 days of hell on toast in there with a broken AND dislocated ankle***, I declined.  I'll wait for an appointment at the local fracture clinic, which should come up in the next few days. 

So.  Still all strapped up.  Still not started my new job.  Still can't walk anywhere.  Still can't drive.  Unable to do much around the house, so even domestic drudgery displacement activity is out, I am getting bored. 

Suggestions for entertainment, please.

*Apart from the occasional violent bout of norovirus, which is frankly gross and terrifying

**Oo-er missus

***Playing cricket.  Honestly. 

Friday, 23 July 2010

Holiday snaps part 3 - Cape Cod

Finally!  The last leg of the mega-holiday, including such highlights as "Boiling in Provincetown", "Lobster II" and "Nantucket - The Spraining."  Bet you're glad you looked in, aren't you?

We drove back from New Hampshire, past Boston, taking in some of the famous Afternoon Traffic Queue On The Way To The Cape, which was a nice ambition realised.  Our friend was delighted to see us, which, considering we were going to be eating her out of house and home for a fortnight, was remarkably nice of her. 

The weather took a turn for the unfeasibly hot while we were on the Cape, temperatures of 30-plus degrees day after day, which meant that we lived in shorts and t-shirts, and all the clothes we'd packed for "cool evenings" were left mouldering sadly in our cases.  I had packed a selection of shawls, pashminas, scarves and even a cardigan. None of them were used once.

My joy at being back on the Cape was slightly tempered by the headlines in the local paper, all about how Great White Sharks were back, swimming around just off Nauset Beach chasing seals into the shallow water.  The sharks were spreading joy and excitement among the marine biologists, but also buggering up my plans to swim off Nauset Beach, and possibly get up close to the seals. 

To compensate for this mighty blow, we went out for another lobster dinner. 

There was some sort of salty old sea-dog band entertaining the diners with sea shanties and accordian music, and later in the evening, a solitary guitarist who wandered between the tables, playing mournful songs.  What made it even sadder was his tips bag, strapped to his waist.  If you wanted to tip him, you had to get up really close and drop the money in, a horribly intimate thing; he had the bag strapped to his belt, so you'd have been groping about in his trouser area.  Brrrrrrrrr.

We champed through our lobsters and sweetcorn, trying not to notice the minstrel and his trouser bag of woe. 

Also paid a visit to my arch enemy Dr Gravity's Kite Shop. 

He sells kites.  Including a kite shaped like a horse.  Can you imagine how terrifying it would be, seeing that bearing down on you from the sky? 

Plenty of other, less fearsome, kites too, though, as well as whirly things you hang in the garden.  We bought one with a lighthouse on it, and will adorn one of the many, many WithaY sheds with it. 

There's a lot of Nature on the Cape.  We went and looked at some of it up close.  There are several families of Osprey living in nest boxes in the marshes, and you can walk close enough to them to take a really blurry picture with a zoom lens.  Well, I was happy just to see them, to be honest.  One day when we were at the beach (not Nauset though, not with the fucking sharks, oh no matey, no thank you) we saw one flying along, looking for fish.  They're surprisingly large, and the big hooked beak looks like it could eviscerate you no trouble at all.  So don't piss off an Osprey, is my advice.

We also went to a beach with the most amazing boardwalk.  This was the latter part of the holiday after I'd sprained my ankle so I gimpily hopped along the first few yards, then gave up and sat on a bench while the others went all the way to the end. 

To infinity and beyond!  Our friend had very resourcefully found me an old broom handle to lean on as I walked, so I amused myself by waving it at them and saying "Fly, you fools! Fly!" as they went off to explore the far-away end of the boardwalk.  They, probably wisely, ignored me. 
The view from the invalid's bench was pretty nice too.

Look, here's me and Mr WithaY on the boardwalk.  You can't see my Staff of Leaning. 

And of course, there was the ill-fated, disaster-laden trip to Nantucket.  What a day.  On the high speed ferry out from Hyannis, my eye was caught by this advert in the free newspaper. 

I had no idea that Lung in Vomit was a Nantucket speciality.  Things went, quite literally, downhill from there, thanks to this...the Pothole of DOOM.  Yes, DOOM. Possibly even DOOOOOOOOOOM.

See that pedestrian crossing on the right?  I was walking across it, minding my own business, looking at the traffic (safety first!) when I must have put my foot in the hole, turned my ankle over and went down like a 5'10" sack of shite, not to put too fine a point on it.  I hit the tarmac, and once the initial "What the FUCK?" moment passed, realised I was:

(a) on the ground 
(b) in the middle of the road
(c) the centre of an alarmed crowd
(d) injured and bleeding.  Maimed, in fact. 

A kind lady was fussing over me, I was muttering "fucking hell" under my breath, the traffic was held up as there was a body in the road (mine), and the local police/community support/Scouts were mobilising into action.  It was like a scene from a disaster movie, but without the volcano. 

My day in Nantucket, therefore, consisted of hopping painfully between places, then sitting with my foot up, taking ibuprofin and whining loudly.  Here's me in a coffee shop that had free WiFi access, drinking an iced latte.

It's a rubbish quality picture because I took it on my phone and have no idea how to embiggen it without making it blurry.  You get the idea, though.

But, the main reason for the trip was the Whaling Museum.  And it was absolutely marvellous.  Here it is from the bench I sat on outside.

They have about a million exhibits, most of them made of bits of whale, some of them just wonderful.

I liked the huge Mobile Of Many Whales they have hanging in the front of the building.

They also have, in case you somehow manage to miss the whole whale-related theme, a skeleton of a whale that was washed up on the shores a few years ago.  It's HUGE and looks like a dinosaur.

The day in Provincetown was HOT, baby, damn hot.  I think it may have been the hottest day of the entire holiday, and we were out at sea, whalewatching for a chunk of it, thankfully.  My whale pictures are rubbish, but take my word for it, it was thrilling.

Here we are on the whaewatch boat.

And here's a whale, chilling out.

Once off the boat, we found a place to eat and sat panting in their airconditioned room, surrounded by very loud, very gay men, all having a fine old time.  I saw this as we walked through the town.

We did a sunset dune buggy tour, ending at a beach where we watched the sun go down (there was a clue on the name of the tour, really).  The dunes are unearthly, I liked them very much. 

Parts of them look like how I imagine the Veldt looks. 

Parts of them don't.

That teeny black speck on the upper right?  That's a seal.  Honest. 

Ok, I can sense that people are probably losing the will to live now with all the "what I did on my holidays" stuff, but to be fair, that's all that this blog has ever been about.  I reserve the right to post more photos as and when I feel like it though, I took loads.  LOADS. 

So, a picture I took out of the window of the plane as we flew home.  I might use it as an album cover when I get my arse in gear and become a successful professional musician*. 

Hello sky, hello clouds. 

I saw a crop circle from the air too, which was lovely, somewhere between Cardiff and Bath I think, but I was too slow and the clouds were too numerous to get a picture of it.

Other news:  I am off to the doctor to get my ankle checked out as it is still BLOODY painful and I can't walk any kind of distance, which is tiresome and slightly worrying.  I don't think it's fractured, but it's hard to tell, so I will feel better once it's been poked by a professional.  Ooh matron.

Also, went to Fat Club this week, and despite the lobster, butter, ice cream, fried clams, Reeses' peanut butter cups, nachos, cocktails and eggs benedict diet I followed, have lost 2 pounds while I was away.  So yay me.   

Oh, and to end, this was the sign outside Harwich library, where I borrowed their pcs a couple of times.  I think they just thought of random words that children would like and slapped them on a noticeboard.  I hope it worked. 

*Never. But in my head, one day. 

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Holiday snaps part 2 - Maine and New Hampshire

Yes, more pictures.  But this time of Maine! And New Hampshire! So much travel, so little of America covered.

We left Boston on a cloudy Sunday morning, after a huge breakfast. We had been advised to use a small cafe down the street from the hotel, and their Eggs Benedict was superb.  

The trip to the airport to pick up the hire car was entertaining.  The courtesy bus, shared by three hotels in the area, was driven by a cheerful Jamaican man who was playing a Bob Marley cd.  He drove along, occasionally bouncing the minibus off small obstacles like crash barriers and kerbs as he tried to drive, sing, chat to his passengers and answer his mobile phone all at the same time.  He was most impressed that Mr WithaY and I had heard of Bob Marley.  So much so that I can only assume that most of his guests come from remote islands in the South Pacific. 

Delivered from the Jamaican rally drive champion 2010 we went to talk to the nice Alamo lady at Boston Airport.  She looked us up on the computer, checked that we had ordered a car, then looked us up and down quizzically.

"How far are you driving?"  she asked us.

"Oh, you know, up to Maine and back, then down to Cape Cod...around and about."

She shook her head sadly, and said "This car you ordered is no's too small for you."  I wondered if perhaps we'd inadvertently booked a clown car.

"You need something bigger."  She looked at us again.  "Much, much bigger.  Tell you what, if you are willing to pay to upgrade one level, I'll upgrade you three."  We nodded.  She nodded.  It was a done deal.  Her colleague wandered over as we finalised the paperwork and she told him to take us outside and "pick them something nice" which I thought was very kind. 

The car lot was packed with all kinds of huge cars, but the one that we both spotted immediately was a Jeep.  So, we set off to New Hampshire in a Jeep Patriot, which was comfortable, economical, had fab aircon and a decent stereo.  Kudos to the Alamo lady.

I thought it was quite a big car, till we came out of LL Bean later in the trip and saw what had parked either side of it. 

Anyhoo, the drive up to New Hampshire was fun, once Mr WithaY remembered how to drive an automatic, and that they drive on the right, the RIGHT, darling, other side, over there. 

The placenames in New England are eerily familiar.  Amesbury!  Salisbury!  But in America!  How thrilling. 

We drove up to see our mates in New Hampshire, where over the next few days we went out for lobster and steamers, saw a chipmunk, went for a long hot walk along the Marginal Way, visited many, many shops, ate fab food with our friends, and went to a graduation party with hogroast.  The man roasting the hog was using a giant steel machine, all rotating spits and charcoal which he'd designed and made himself.  It was called the "Oinkmaster 8000" and he was justifiably proud of it.  The roast hog was delicious. 

Look, a chipmunk.

One day we went up into the White Mountains, and had a trip on the North Conway Scenic Railroad, on a huge train with a cowpusher on the front.  Mr WithaY and I had seats in the Pullman coach, slobbing out in wicker chairs as we chugged sedately through the countryside.  It's very green, with a lot of mountains, as you'd expect, including Mount Washington, famous for having the worst recorded weather in the USA.

In the Ladies at the North Conway Railroad Station is this sign:

I was rather hoping they'd have a T-shirt for sale in there that said "My girlfriend went to North Conway Scenic Railroad and all she bought me was a box of personal hygiene products" but I couldn't find one.

There's a museum in Conway all about the observatory up there, where they have a mock-up of the shack that you can stand in while the windspeed goes up and up and up.

The shack shakes, the floor moves, the snow flying past the windows blurs into white lines and the noise is extraordinary.

200 miles an hour, eh?  Better get the washing in, I suppose.  The museum had loads of interactive exhibits you could poke about.  My favourite was the Vortex of Doom.

You could change the movement of the wind with your hand, man.  With your hand.  It was, like, awesome.  I dicked about with it for ages.

The highlight of the trip into Maine was the visit to LL Bean, long planned and much anticpated.  It's got everything, including a giant boot outside.

I liked these.  A selection of things that make duck noises, and not just any old honker, but a MAGNUM honker for those situations when you need that extra magnitude of honkage. 

They also had the DUCK COMMANDER for people who need to take command of ducks from time to time.

And this, which I just giggled at like an idiot while Mr WithaY stood a little distance away tutting and telling me to stop being childish.

Moving on.

When you go out for a lobster dinner, they mean what they say.  You get lobster, butter, sweetcorn and that's pretty much it.  Maybe some steamers as well, but it is usually all about the Lobster. 

I decided not to get this one, as it would have cost about $200, and instead went for something a bit smaller.

They have some stunning sunsets over there.  This one was going on as I champed and nommed my way through the lobster.  I expect it made an uplifting background to a frankly unedifying and probably repellant sight, as shell fragments and butter flew in all directions.

On that note, I will end, as I have a bazillion photos and I daresay you're a bit tired of them for now. 

Other news:  My ankle is recovering slowly, although I still can't drive which is tiresome.  We've got the loft insulation blokes coming tomorrow so I hope that we will be able to put all our stuff back in the loft soon.  I think a car boot sale might be in the offing, as there's stuff in the loft we've not used since we moved into this house, over 8 years ago. 

Oh, and we have started harvesting carrots from the garden, and very nice they are too. 

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Holiday snaps part 1 - Boston

Hello!  Back in the USSR home once more, in heaving rain and tempestuous winds.  Oh, and yesterday there was some End of the World stylee thunder and lightning.  So hurrah for British weather.  Bit of a culture shock, leaving the clear (mostly) blue skies and solar-flare temperatures of New England, but at least it means I can stand outside barefoot without feeling as though the soles of my feet are frying.  Well, I could if I could stand up for any length of time.  Which I can't.

I mentioned the sprained ankle, yes?  Look, here it is in swollen, revolting glory, just after we got back from Nantucket and I had peeled off the acid-covered, burning, sticky bandage from HELL.

Makes your stomach turn, doesn't it?  It does mine, but then I know what it feels like.

I just looked up "Sprained ankle recovery time" on the Internet and apparently I have another 3-5 weeks of this to go, then anything up to 3 months of "continued instability".  I assume they mean the ankle.  The swelling is going down, and the truly stomach-turning purple bruises that covered the side of my foot and lower leg are going green, so are less conspicuous.  Gah.

Other than that, though, things at the WithaY household are going well.  Mr WithaY has popped out to collect the fish to put back in the aquarium.  Hopefully they will all still be alive after a month at the Fish Hotel.  I also hope they've not been running up huge room service bills, having lavish parties and watching porn movies.  You never know with fish. 

We are dog-sitting today for some friends, our little hairy guest is asleep in the hall downstairs, having worn himself out chasing his hide chew all over the house, growling at invisible enemies in the garden and being told off for trying to get on my lap on the sofa.  We love him really.

Anyhoo.  Photos.  I took over 1000 pictures in America. Who'd have thought there was that much to look at, eh?  Some of them, I admit, were taken purely for the fun of posting them on here.  See if you can guess which ones they were, readers. 

I made my very own LOLpic, too.  I'm so hip and happening.

I expect all the American readers will be thinking "Bah, that's so old," but it made me laugh.

Holiday pics from here on in, so if that sort of thing bores the arse off you, maybe go and get a cup of tea or something and I'll see you later.

Boston was the first stop, so here are some touristy shots of the city.  I like it very much, especially now that the Big Dig is finished and that hideous flyover that cut the place in half has gone.

This is the iconic shot of the city from the harbour.  We did a boat trip.

This is the captain* of the boat we were in.  He is chilling out, eating an ice cream and steering with his feet.  We didn't crash into anything. 

Look, here we are on the boat.

This is the view from the top of the Prudential Center, the Skywalk Observatory.  It's jolly high up.  Our hotel was on the left hand side of that long straight road, easy walking distance from the Center.

We had our first proper meal in America in the food court of the mall at the Prudential Center, and very nice it was too.  I recorded it for posterity.  Lobster rolls, clam chowder and oyster crackers.  Nom nom nom.  Mr Withay managed to feature clam chowder in almost every meal he ate in Boston, apart from at breakfast. 

This is the Christian Science Plaza, which has some funky fountains and this reflecting pool.

I like how this man looks as though he is lying in the water.


This sign at the reflecting pool caught my eye.  It says "no swimming or wading" but it is quite hard to read unless you get into the water to see it.  I had to use my zoom lens. 

Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. I think there is a law that every single person in Boston, man, woman and child MUST own and wear at least one item of Red Sox clothing whenever they go out in public.


The New England Aquarium is well worth a visit.  The outdoor seal tank is great, there was always a huge gaggle of families watching the seals swimming about.  I was very taken by the penguins, particularly this one who looks like an overweight heavy metal fan giving it some in the front row at Donington. 

There were many fish, jellyfish, seahorses and sharks.  We were in there for ages, not least because it was air-conditioned, and it was a boiling 30-odd degrees outside. 


I spotted this sign in their gift shop.  Sound advice for us all, I think.


We found a place to eat in Quincy Market, where I packed down the largest plate of fried scallops in the Western Hemisphere.  Mr WithaY had clam chowder with his.


We tried to book seats on the Codzilla speedboat trip, but it was fully booked, so we watched from the shore as the over-excited passengers boogied to AC/DC while the large, ultra-cool CodMeister watched them with a benevolent eye.


Next time, Codzilla.  Next time.

This is the front of the v big, v posh looking Colonnade Hotel, where they provide teeny eco-cars for the guests.  Our hotel had an ice machine. That was fine by us. 

Next time:  Maine - the saga continues.

*I edited his face as I don't want him to get fired or anything.  I suspect he was doing it for effect.