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

Thursday, 9 September 2010


I have discovered the bus, of late.  It's much easier than the Tube and MUCH cheaper than a taxi.  And, also, I can hop off and walk the remainder of the way to the office down Victoria Street, which is helping to keep my ankle on the road to recovery.

So, yeah, the ankle.  I went to see the doctor about it a week ago, as it was still swollen and tender, much like an unpleasant fleshy grapefruit.  Also, when I went downstairs first thing in the morning, stabbing pains assailed me, making me stop in my tracks and shout "Ow! Fuck it!"

Not a great start to the day.

So.  back to the doctor I waddled.  He was very nice, poked my foot, commented on how swollen it was compared to my non-mutant foot, and told me to get some physiotherapy.  I had the choice of waiting for a referral to an NHS physio (free but probably several weeks wait) or paying for a private session that I could have very soon (ooo-er matron).  I went private. 

The phyiso told me that I have severely damaged two of the three main ankle ligaments, although not the one she was expecting to be damaged, also the ligaments that go across the front of my foot, out to the toes.  That explains all the bruising and swelling of that bit of my foot, then.  She's shown me some exercise to do that will help to break up the scar tissue on my ligaments (ugh), build up the "wasted" muscles on one bit of my calf (ewww) and improve bloodflow to the "inflamed joint"  (ack). 

Oh, and she rubbed gel on my foot and did ultrasound.  That's like normal sound, but for SUPERHEROES.  She has strapped me up with gaffer tape (or the medical equivalent) to encourage me to walk around more.  I might post photos if I can work out how to take some at a non-terrifying angle.

Anyway, it's all mending and I am not limping any more.  The physio showed me how not to, and I have told everyone at work that if they see me doing it, they are to tell me off.

So far, so good.

Other news:  I've had a FANTASTIC idea for a film.  It's about a group of people in transit in a confined space, unable to get out or away, with a terrifying, venomous creature (or creatures) in there with them.  The working title is "Wasps on a Bus!", and I think Samuel L Jackson ought to be involved.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Bags of style

Overheard on the train recently:

Elderly male hippy:  I was looking at a magazine the other day.  What was it called, now?

Elderly male non-hippy:  (not entirely seriously) Tatler?

Elderly male hippy:  No.  Not that.  LK?  GK?  PQ?  Something like that?

Elderly male non-hippy:  Don't know.  (Interested now) What was it about?

Elderly male hippy:  (After a deep-thinking pause)  GQ!  That was it!  GQ.  Fashion. But for MEN!

Elderly male non-hippy:  (Appalled)  For men?  MEN?  (shakes his head)  Naaaah.  Really?  Fashion?

Thery stare at each other, aghast at the thought.

Elderly male hippy (some time later)  They had bags.  For men.  Page after page after page. Of bags.  For men.  Just...bags.

I was tempted to stay on the train all the way to Exeter, just to eavesdrop. 

Friday, 3 September 2010

Jam jam jam

The theme of this week in the WithaY household (other than work, sleep, work, sleep, deal with domestic stuff, sleep, work) has been jam.

Plum jam, to be specific.  We don't have a plum tree in the garden, although there are plans afoot to do some clever planting and espaliering (sp?) in the future.  However, Father-in-law WithaY has a tree in his garden, so when we called round to the house at the weekend on the way home, we decided to pick a few plums.

I think we ended up with about 40 pounds of fruit.  So, we ate some, we put some in a bowl to take to Father-in-law WithaY at the nursing home, and we looked at the remaining 38.5 pounds of plums.  What to do, what to do?



We got everything ready...sugar, plums, water, recipe book, jamjars....perfect.

Please note, that little bowl of plums is the one we took to Father-in-law WithaY, not the one we used for the jam. 

We cut the plums in half, took the stones out and boiled the bejeezus out of them for a bit. 

Then we added the sugar and boiled them a bit more.  There was a degree of confusion about the correct amount of sugar.  We had to multiply the recipe by 3.  Or was it 4?  Anyway, there was a rapid and irreversible escalation of confusion which ended with me being sent out of the kitchen in disgrace to think about what I'd done. 

Mr WithaY continued with the jam making alone. 

Anyhoo, some time later, we had jam.

Lots and lots and lots of jam.  If I wasn't still on my weight loss regime (stone and a half so far, slow and steady, thanks for asking) I'd be scarfing down hot buttered toast with home-made plum jam like a machine.  A MACHINE.

We still have quite a lot of plums left.  Suggestions on a postcard.