Things are not good at the WithaY house right now. Mr WithaY has succumbed to a really unpleasant sinus infection, AND conjunctivitis in both eyes. He has spent much of the last four days blinking painfully through a haze of eye-goop at me, his eyes red and sore and scarily like an old-fashioned vampire's. A vampire with a Y in his name. A vampyre, in fact.
We were supposed to go and see Omid Djalili at Salisbury City Hall last week, but by that mid-morning it was clear that Mr WithaY was in too miserable a state. Plus he wouldn't have been able to see the stage with his scary red goopy eyes. We were able to pass the tickets to a friend of a friend who apparently enjoyed the show, so they weren't wasted, but it was a disappointment.
I think this is a continuation of the cold he went down with on Boxing Day. It never seemed to clear up properly and has recently decided to migrate into his sinuses and torment him for a few more weeks with a charming mixture of vile-tasting snot, eye-ooze and violent spasmodic coughing.
Mother in Law WithaY came to stay for a few days, which had been long-anticipated and looked-forward-to, but a combination of the vile weather and Mr WithaY feeling terrible meant that we weren't able to do some of the things we had sort-of planned. Mother in Law WithaY lives in the South of France, quite near the coast, but also handily near the mountains, and she is used to warm Mediterranean weather, interspersed with the howling wind known as the Tramunta, which blows for either 1, 3 or 9 days at a time.
Arriving in England in the coldest month of the year - we had snow, even - was therefore a bit of a culture shock. She rang to let us know she's arrived home safe and sound at the weekend. Apparently there was snow and a 95mph wind blowing, so perhaps the English weather had decided to go on holiday to Catalonia.
The region she lives in is full of teeny little mountain villages, usually surmounted by a huge fuck-off Cathar castle, like this one at Castelnou. We climbed up to the top once, and were able to look down at the birds lazily circling on the warm updrafts in the valleys waaaaaay below us.
They have a cheerily cavalier attitude to health and safety at their old castles, the French, or possibly just the Catalan French, at least. It's as if they are saying "If you're stupid enough to go and peer over the edge of that friable, windswept thousand-foot high precipice, don't blame us if you are never seen again, Monsieur."
I like to imagine a local police detective viewing the shattered remains of yet another photo-opportunity-seeking tourist at the bottom of a deep wooded valley with a Gallic shrug and a resigned sigh.
But I digress.
The reason I think things are bad* for us right now is that we are cursed. CURSED.
Last week, in a fit of enthusiasm and feverish tidying (mother in law coming to visit and all that) I was emptying out some of the many boxes and bags of sewing ephemera which we cleared out of Father in Law WithaY's house, and which I couldn't bear to see tossed into a skip, as threatened by the house clearance people. I found many, many mother-of-pearl buttons, which I will be able to use, also spools of thread, some of them still in their original cellophane wrappers, a giant tangle of embroidery silks which were beyond any sorting, and several reels of perished elastic.
We also found this:
Tucked in the bottom of a box of buttons, broken thimbles and rusty needles, I found what looks like a teeny little Hand of Glory.
It really is teeny. Look:
That coin beside it is an old pre-decimal sixpence, dated (as you can see) 1958. It too was in the box. A sixpence is about the same size as a modern 5p piece, maybe a bit smaller.
What did we find? Any clues? Is it something we ought to seek advice from the Bishop of Bath and Wells about having removed from our home? Will a delegation of hobbits and a dodgy Wizard rock up at the front door and tell me I have to carry it to Mount Doom to destroy it? Or what?
*"Bad" in this context means "one of us suffering a distressing but entirely curable ailment which with any luck will have cleared up by next weekend."