Sunday, 29 May 2011

The horror...

Have you ever bought some nice soft French cheese, maybe a small whole Camembert, and thought "I'll put that in the fridge, and in a day or two it will be just perfect."   Have you?

And then you make different meals that don't involve cheese in any shape or form.  And then, after a week or so, you've all but forgotten it's there.

Oh, perhaps you had to put it into a sealed plastic box after a day or two, as it was smelling particularly cheesy, but otherwise it's been no trouble.

And then, then, one day, your husband decides to rummage around in the fridge, looking for something nice for his lunch.  He finds the box with the small whole Camembert in it, and opens it in a spirit of keen scientific enquiry. 

He removes the cheese from the box, leaving it on the side, while he starts looking for cheese biscuits.

Readers, it only takes a very few moments for the smell of that cheese to permeate the entire room, then the house. 

I immediately began heaving violently, and had to beg him to take it outside.  He did so, doubled up with laughter as I gagged and retched into the kitchen sink, finally dropping the offending cheese into the wheelie bin in the garden.

We may be sued by the dustmen.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Last day

I am in a period of adjustment. I finished at work on Monday, and am now on leave until the end of the month, when my employment officially ends.

How does it feel?

It feels weird, mostly.  I don't think it will actually sink in for a couple of weeks that I no longer have a job.  I'm trying to resist the temptation to either panic or completely freak out*, both of which have threatened in the last couple of days.  Instead, I am slowly sorting out my study, and emptying my handbag and rucksack of stuff I don't need to carry around any more every day.

I took my season ticket back to the railway station on Tuesday morning.  The nice man who offered to make us tea was on duty.

"Morning," I said.  "Can I cash in my season ticket please?"

"Ooh!" he said.  "Have you left your job now?"

"Yes I have! Yay!"  I did a little dance of joy.  The ticket man did a little dance of joy behind the glass screen.  His young trainee emerged from round the back somewhere and did a little dance of joy with us too. 

An old lady walked in and we all stopped, embarrassed.  The young trainee vanished round the back, never to be seen again. 

I had to fill in many complicated forms, and hand over my season ticket - still with about £2500 left on it - and my long term parking ticket, and was assured that I would be told by the end of the week how much I was going to get refunded.  I hope it's loads.  Well, I'm practically unemployed now.

The last day in the office was very strange too. 

I'd organised a farewell lunch at the local Wagamamas for some of my colleagues, and most of them were able to come along, including one or two who left the Department a while back, which was lovely.  Before lunch I did a bit of desultory work-related stuff, chatted to people and emptied out my locker.  Lunch was prolonged and animated, so I thoroughly enjoyed it, then back to the office for the last couple of hours before I could decently head home.

I was down on the first floor, chatting to a colleague, who had very kindly got me a farewell gift.  As we sat there, one of my colleagues from the sixth floor, where I sat, came rushing through, looking for me. She was in a bit of a tizz.

I waved to her and she came over, all out of breath and anxious.

"You need to come back upstairs!" she said.

"Oh?  What's the matter?"

" just need to come back upstairs."  Bless.

Sure enough, when I arrived back at my desk, the entire team were assembled, waiting for me.  The boss quickly came back from his end of the office and gave a flattering, if embarrassing, speech about how much help I'd been and how much I'd be missed. Always nice to hear.  Then they gave me a huge bag of loot.  How splendid. 

I managed to say thank you and good luck and goodbye (I think, I actually can't really remember much of what I said) without blubbing like a great big girl, which had been a bit of a worry.

And then I went home. Handed in my security pass - first time in 23 years I haven't had one of those in my handbag - and my laptop, and left the building. 

Mr WithaY had sorted out a very fine supper and a bottle of Champagne** so we sat together and drank that, and I showed him all my fab gifts, and told him how nice everyone had been. 

And now I am looking at what to do next.  Apart from stabbing futiley at molehills with a garden fork, I mean.  Bastard.

Tell you one thing though.  I am LOVING not getting up before 6am to catch the train.  Oh yes indeedy. 

*that's when I run in circles like Daffy Duck with his hair on fire, shrieking.  It's not pretty. 

**Lidl's finest - can't go wrong

Saturday, 21 May 2011


I have only one more day of work left.  Well, one more day - Monday - in the office, and then I am on leave until the end of the month, when my employment with Her Majesty ends officially.

Yesterday I was almost entirely lazy, dealing with a couple of minor issues via email, and spending the rest of my time electronically filing stuff where other people will be able to find it after I've gone.  At about half past three, I logged off, shut down my laptop, and then packed it back in its case, ready to be returned to the office on Monday.

I may have heaved a deep, satisfied sigh as I did so. 

After that, while waiting for my gorgeous guitar teacher to arrive, I tidied and rearranged my study, which feels much bigger now that the work ephemera is gone.  I've chucked out* all the work-related papers I had kicking around, and the draft copies of legislation that I used to have to refer to.  And hey, there's loads of space on the shelves all of a sudden.

I've also packed my Rickenbacker into its case and stashed it under the bed, freeing up a large gap in here.  I will, of course, soon fill that gap with other stuff, but just for today I am enjoying the sense of light and air that has been manifest in here since I put my laptop away.

Today I also cleaned under our bed.  Brrrr.  That's a task you face with a steely determination and a recently-emptied hoover, I can tell you. 

The things I found included: 

  • A box full of scarves, bags and evening gloves
  • A yoga mat
  • A box of assorted hair implements - velcro rollers, clips, hairdryer attachements for hairdryers I don't own
  • A pair of funky sandals I had forgotten I owned, probably bought the last time we were in America
  • Three rucksacks of varying sizes, all grey and fluffy with dust

Mr WithaY's scuba gear was also under there, but I am terrified of his air tanks so I never touch those.  He moved them all out so I could hoover.

It's all been cleaned, sorted and replaced or removed, and there is also room for my posh guitar and stand under there now.  Marvellous.

Tonight, to celebrate, we have some friends coming over for dinner.  It was supposed to be a casual supper but, as is our wont, it has escalated into something resembling a Fifteenth Century Venetian banquet.   With port.

Other news:  My iPhone is buggered.  I need to replace it but a new handset will cost me over £100.  Is it worth biting the bullet and getting an iPhone 4?  Suggestions welcome.

*Burned.  I'm not leaving work stuff in the bins where just anyone could find it and sell it to the tabloids.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


I am having a whale of a time at the moment.  I think I've been out for lunch almost every day that I've been in London for the last fortnight, and was also wined and dined on Monday night in the heart of the West End. 

My lovely mate Tall Richard took me to the RAF Club for dinner.


It was marvellous. 

There are many beautiful paintings of aircraft, as you'd expect.  Also chandeliers and brass fittings everywhere. And flunkies, guarding the door, and minding your rucksack if you happen to have come straight from work.  Mine was much admired.  Apparently they don't see many pink flowery ones. 

I was particularly taken with the huge stained glass window.  As I had completely forgotten to pack my camera, I took a few fuzzy snaps on my phone:

Please note the professional almost-joining of the two halves.

You're welcome.

There is a long corridor lined with original artwork from the Royal College of Heralds, one for each Squadron (I think), all very lovely.

Here's one up close.

But my very favourite thing about the place was that everything - everything - at dinner was emblazoned with the club crest.  I bet if you conducted an intimate examination of the staff, they'd all have it tattooed on them somewhere.

The coffee cups.

The wine glasses.

The wine.  And very nice it was too, by the way.

Even the after-dinner chocolates.


Tall Richard and I ate a huge and marvellous meal, got a Death Race 2000 taxi back to his flat, then walked to the Prospect of Whitby pub for a cheeky late night drink.  And then back to the flat for port.  I think it was almost 2am when I got to bed.

Work the next day is something of a hazy blur.  Clearly I am too old to be out partying on a work night.

Tomorrow I am going out for lunch, and then our Gloucestershire mates are coming over in the evening (hopefully minus the garden-trashing spaniels) so I will have to knock off early to get home in time to see them.

And then, after that, it's my last day EVER on Monday next week.  Blimey.

Other news:  We've got a fucking mole in the garden. 

Not in the lawn.  Not in the flowerbeds. Not even in the bit behind the shed.   No.  He has made his little moley home in the middle of our flourishing vegetable bed. 


He's been disrupting our radishes.

His days are numbered.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Glimpses of life

The week in snippets.

Sunday.  A quiet half-hour in the WithaY household, sipping tea and discussing the Vikings.

Me:  Would you fancy going to Valhalla when you die?

Mr WithaY (after a thoughtful pause)  I don't know. It sounds a bit raucous.

Me:  So, you'd prefer a quiet corner, not one of the carousing tables?

Mr WithaY:  Yes. I'd go if there was a chillout room.

Monday.  Arriving at my sister's house, as previously arranged via text, to spend the evening with her and the family, and enjoy some quality family time. And a lie-in on Tuesday.

The look of shock on her face when she opened the door was a picture.  Apparently she'd completely forgotten I was coming.   We decided to get an Indian take-away (brave, given my recent stomach upset, but you'll be glad to know there were no ill effects) as there were apparently only 4 burgers in the fridge.  Heh.

Tuesday.  Watched a flustered man in a pink shirt struggle to open his box of salad to eat on the homeward journey, lose patience, jerk frustratedly at the lid, and successfully tip grated carrot, beans, couscous and salad dressing all over himself and the table.  He muttered "...fuck...." sheepishly, scraped the mess up and sat there all the way to Basingstoke in a salad-dressing-smelling shirt.

Wednesday.  You know, I can't remember a single event from Wednesday?  Not one. Perhaps I spent the day asleep.  Or locked in a cupboard.  Or in another dimension.  In all events, I have nothing to offer.  Sorry.

Thursday.  Arrived home from work, to a house with a strange smell.

me: Can I smell vinegar?

Mr WithaY:  (proudly)  Yes!  I've been pickling!

Me:  Oh.  (with some trepidation) What have you pickled?

Mr WithaY:  Ash keys!  Look!  

He ran into his study and returned triumphantly, waving a small jar with, yes, pickled ash keys and a garlic clove floating in it.  Lord.

Me:  Oh.  Um.  Well done?

Friday:  Today has been all about fishwatching.  We've had seven fatalities so far in the last week - two of the new samurai gourami, two tiger barbs, a leopard cory and two neon tetras.  It may just be unfortunate coincidence, but Mr WithaY will be checking the water chemistry tomorrow to see if something has gone badly wrong.  Over a year with no sad, last, long flushings, and now seven.  In a week!  Gah.

Oh, and I had a guitar lesson which - forgive the term - ROCKED.  We played Sweet Child of Mine AND Freebird. 

Fucking rock and roll, man. 

Rock and roll.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Still got the blue(bell)s

We went for a walk in the woods the other week.  The woods by which I live.  The bluebells were out, and it was gorgeous.  In the absence of anything thrilling to tell you, here are some pictures:

I made a mental note of where the huge logpile was for possible Winter firewood foraging raids*.

We went with some friends and their charming dog.

There are little tiny white wood anemones mixed in with the bluebells, very pretty. 

Beech trees in Spring leaf.  I love that colour green. 

We saw a tree with a woodpecker's hole.

I do love how the colour of bluebells changes from the single flower, where it looks quite dark, to the huge swathe, where it is much paler.  Why is that?

It was all very pretty, and once again made me profoundly glad that I live here. 

Other news:  I've been really poorly with a hideous stomach bug for the best part of a week.  It laid me low for 48 hours, seemed to go away, then came back with a vengeance again for another 48 hours.  Today is the first day in several that I feel like myself again.

Yesterday - our wedding anniversary as it happens, 17 years, not that I'm counting or anything - I spent almost the entire day either laying on the bed with a fleecy blanket over me, sipping water and feeling dreadful, or curled up under the duvet, glaring at Grand Designs on TV with one squinty, tired, red eye. 

So yeah, that was all a bit pants.  On  the bright side, Mr WithaY gave me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers** which was a lovely surprise. 

Also, I made a few enquiries about selling my Rickenbacker.  I seldom play it, and I was sat here the other day thinking "I need more room in here to do my sewing.  There are just too many guitars, dammit." 

From there it was a short step to ringing a well-known guitar emporium and asking how much a second-hand Rickenbacker 620 12-string would go for.


If you look at the Rickenbacker website, there are no prices listed, as they have a mega waiting list for their guitars.  Anything up to (and beyond) 2 years is not uncommon.  If you order a guitar from them, you pay them what the price is WHEN IT IS DELIVERED, not when you order it.  So in 2 years it could have gone up a fair bit.

If you look on eBay, the average asking price for a guitar the same as mine is about £1500. 

If you look at guitar shop websites, expect to pay anything from £1450 to £1750.

So imagine my chagrin when I was told that the retail price for a Rickenbacker 620 12-string is "about £900.  So we'd offer you about £600 for it."

Their reasoning for this very low offer is that "the demand for Rickenbackers has dropped way down because of the waiting time."


I think I'll hang onto it for now, thanks.

Anyway, to end on a cheerful Spring note, here is some May in flower.  The hedges round here are full of it.

*If I actually tried thieving any of the Longleat Estate's wood, I reckon I'd be thrown to the lions. 
**For our anniversary, not because I had a hideous stomach bug.  He tends not to celebrate outbreaks of the shits.