Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Three beaches

I've been to the seaside.

Several times, and in two different countries. Yes, get me.

The first was a day trip to the Dorset coast, along with Mr WithaY and the dog.  Despite it being autumn, the weather was absolutely gorgeous.  It was so nice that I even braved the water and went for a paddle.

Look at it! It's like July!

Mind you, I lost all feeling in my feet after about 30 seconds in the water. Also, I forgot to take a towel, so had to put my shoes and socks back onto cold wet sandy feet.

The dog had a whale of a time digging in the sand, and running in and out of the sea.  See note about lack of towel, above.

We walked the length of the beach, intending to sit outside the cafe and have fish and chips, but all the local smug newspaper-reading bastards were already there, refusing to move, watching passers-by with narrowed eyes that clearly meant "This small cafetiere of coffee WILL last me for the next hour, so fuck off out of it, you sad wannabe table scrounger.  And your little dog too."  We went home and had tea and buns instead.

The next beach trip was to Brighton, with my lovely sisters.  We stayed in a hotel right on the seafront, and were able to watch possibly the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen from our bedroom window.  Yes, all three of us shared a room. It was hilarious.  And noisy.

We drank cocktails, walked MILES across Brighton, around the shops, through the Pavilion gardens, up hill, down dale, along the seafront and even round an amusement arcade where we won a selection of tat for shoving hundreds of 2-pence pieces into those tipping point machines.

The weather (again) was excellent, dry and warm enough to make a trip on the Brighton Eye fun.

The view from the Eye looking out across the Pier, amusement arcade at the end there.

And the view inland, with the building that housed The Hungry Years heavy rock nightclub taking left-of-centre stage. I loved going to that place when I was young and thin. Well, thinner.  

I know sunset photos are a bit of a cliché, but just LOOK at this. It was just fantastic, all three of us took turns gawping out of the tiny window above my bed to take photos.

The third beach trip was in the South of France.  Mother-in-Law WithaY was 80 in November so as many of the family as possible went over there to help her celebrate.  Mr WithaY and I stayed in a small hotel in a place called Banyuls, where our room overlooked the sea. It was absolutely lovely.  The place has a rather funky modernist feel to it, and the food was truly excellent. 5/5 will visit again.

It was rather like being in a Jeeves and Wooster story, though, what with the sea lapping gently all night, and splendid aperitifs before dinner each evening. Not that I'm complaining, dear me no.

The view from our room.  Lovely.

The giant wine barrel at the top of the hill.  We did buy some local wine, and brought it back very, very carefully in our suitcases.  It all arrived unscathed, as did the pate, chocolates, turron ( nut delicacy not unlike peanut brittle) and black olive tapenade we crammed into our bags.

I discovered that I speak fluent* French!  For the first time in my adult life I had no worries about making myself understood to real proper French people. I told the lady in the supermarket that "nous somme touristes" and she gestured at the shopping in what can only be described as a laconic Gallic manner, and sighed deeply, as if to say "well DUH!"

This new-found fluency has much more to do with confidence and, I suspect, lack of shame, than actual skill,  I got to tell a shopkeeper " suis desolee" when they told me the fuzzy felt slippers I was admiring weren't available in my size.  That's something else crossed off the bucket list.

Note the small metal square on a pole in the bottom right of that photo. It is a conveniently-placed frame through which you can admire a perfect view.  What a great idea.  There were many of them scattered around the place.

This is it up close.

And this is the view, through the frame.  Nice, eh?

As you see, seasonal November weather. For Collioure. So, we ate perfectly-cooked fish by the bucketload, drank the finest wines available to humanity and walked alongside an azure sea in the sunshine. Not a bad way to spend a week.

In the midst of it all, we got to see Mother-in-Law Withay, brother and sister-in-law, niece and various old family friends, so that was good for the soul.  A birthday lunch in the glass-box restaurant at the hotel overlooking the sea was enlivened by a rattling thunderstorm coming in over the mountains, complete with end-of-the-world rain.  You get a lot of weather for your money down there.

Other news:  Still very sad. Trying not to be.

*very basic C-grade O-level French

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

In which I share sad news

Well, this is a post I really hoped I wouldn't have to write for many years.  My beloved, lovely, Mum died last month.  It was very sudden, and unexpected and a huge shock to us all.  She was only 70, which is (as people keep telling me) no age at all, but her health had become very poor in recent years. As you may remember, we all caught the flu when she was here at Christmas, and I don't think she recovered from that fully.

I'd been down to spend the day in Sussex with her, and we had a pleasant relaxing time together, I ferried her to a few medical appointments, we had tea, watched all the various afternoon TV shows she liked, then treated ourselves to an Indian takeaway for supper, before I headed home again in the late evening.

That night she became ill, called an ambulance and was admitted to the superb St Richard's hospital where they tried to find out what the problem was. I was worried she might have had a heart attack, but after a day or two of tests they said she had "an infection" later specified as cellulitis.  Mum had cellulitis several times, a complication of a longstanding diabetic ulcer on her foot, and despite it being a nasty thing, I was relieved as she'd been treated for it successfully before.

To cut a long and sad story short, despite getting the best possible care, she passed away a few days later, with her family around her.  It was peaceful, dignified, gentle, and she was in no distress, which is about as much as any of us can hope for I think.

We held the funeral on a gloriously sunny day in August, and many friends, family and members of her church attended to pay their respects. I will miss her more than I can say.

I take comfort from the thought that she is reunited with my Dad, who died so many years ago, and who she loved all her life.

Grief is a strange thing.  I have hours, and now even half-days, where I feel fine, almost as if I have forgotten what has happened, and then a wave crashes over me and I am inconsolable.  I know it will get easier, but my God, it's hard at the moment.

I was supposed to be down in Sussex this week to help my sisters sort out some of the paperwork, but as if by magic, I went down with a chest infection at the weekend, and have spent the last 48 hours in bed, coughing wretchedly.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I have avoided the Black Lung since I stopped working in London, and now it reappears.  Thankfully, it seems to be receding again within a week, unlike the 3-month visitations of yore, but it scared me badly.

Two positive things:

1)  Our holiday in Japan, which was booked a while ago, is now a shining beacon of "something to look forward to" even more than it already was.

2)  I joined a local spa/gym at a country hotel nearby a few days after I went down to visit my Mum and going swimming there has been very helpful.  I recently sold my Rickenbacker 12-string, so had some "extra" money in the bank, and used it to pay for a year's membership and I am so glad I did, as it means I have somewhere to go that has no associations with anything else in my life. It helps.

Friday, 19 June 2015


Events of note at work so far this week:

  • Group of Japanese tourists arriving at 7am, buying fuel for their car, and then photographing each other outside the shop, collapsing in helpless, excited laughter at our coal bunkers.  
  • Man buying coffee from the coffee machine and then demanding I add more coffee, as it wasn't coffee-y enough.  I was tempted to chew up a mouthful of coffee beans and spit them into his drink, but I managed to refrain, and merely made him a fresh cup, which was apparently "fine."
  • Being handed a crumpled five pound note with wet cowshit on it.  This happens far more often than is acceptable.
  • Man buying a pasty, then remaining at the till to harangue me (and other customers) about the terrible recent case of a young girl who was found dead after a row with her family. He was bellowing "She was hanged!  There's more to that than we're being told!" at a polite man trying to pay for his diesel for quite a long time.  
  • Being asked many technical questions about putting oil in a car by someone who has no idea whether their car is a petrol or a diesel, and aren't even sure if it needs oil, but "a light has come on so it probably does."  All this while a long, impatient queue of people builds up behind them, while they ponder what they actually want at their leisure.
  • Woman wanting a gas canister, then wanting to do complicated stuff about changing from one canister size to another, which only our managers are allowed to authorise, and then getting hugely annoyed when told how much the canister she asked for in the first place costs.  There was a degree of huffing and flouncing, which made the man in the queue behind her roll his eyes expressively at me.
  • Woman running into the shop and asking me "Did I just put petrol in my car??" When I said no, she said "I've been swimming in the sea, it's messed with my head!"

Ah, people.

In other news, Mr WithaY and I (and the dog) went to visit some very dear friends down in deepest Sussex earlier this week.  They live in a cottage on a rather excellent country estate, so we went for several dog-walks through the meadows and woods.  Their dog is a charmer, and he and ours played together most endearingly.  Our dog retired to her basket when we got home, and slept for about 18 hours solidly.  She can't party like she used to.

I wanted to take photos of The Big House there, because it is a beautiful (possibly) Elizabethan manor house with a Horsham stone roof, but I felt that  might be a bit intrusive and gawky, so you will just have to imagine it.

We travelled down in Mr WithaY's new truck, which is far more comfortable than the LandRover was, and much more practical. It's a double-cab pick-up with a roof on the pick-up bit at the back, so there;s room for 5 people and tons of stuff too.  He's very pleased with it.

But what happened to the LandRover, I hear you ask?


Several months ago, Mr WithaY was off to the woods to work, where he planned to be for a long weekend.  He packed all his kit into his car, said a fond farewell to me and the dog, and headed off.  Some hours later, I was at work, and he came into the shop to ask if he could borrow my car.

"What happened to yours?" I enquired.

"Crashed it," he replied somewhat tersely.  I gave him my car keys, with a stern injunction not to crash mine too.  He disappeared again, returning several days later with a sad tale of bouncing off a woodland track at 10 miles an hour and hitting a tree.

Unfortunately, the age of the vehicle, and the substantial nature of the damage inflicted - lights smashed, bonnet crumpled, side panel dented, bumper broken - meant that the insurance company wrote it off, hence the need for a new truck.  The tree, you will be pleased to hear, was undamaged, not even getting a dent in the thick moss covering the trunk.

Oh, and Mr WithaY was fine too.

While Mr WithaY was away over that long weekend, we had a new fence put up.  It replaced the horrible tatty broken fence which ran along the side of the gardens, front and back.  A team of charming young landscape gardeners came to erect it* and worked like Trojans from morn** till night***, pausing only briefly for cups of tea.

On the eventful Friday afternoon when Mr WithaY had broken his car, I was in the house, having been at work all morning.  There was a knock on the front door.  One of the gardeners stood there, looking anxious.  If he'd had a flat cap on, he'd have been tugging nervously at the peak.

"Hello," I said.  Have you finished already?"

"No," he replied.  "We've dug a hole for the last fencepost, but it's full of water."

"Oh, never mind about that! Our water table round here is really high. I bet it'll be fine."

He agreed with me, and said they had some finishing off to do, and could sort out the last bit of fence in an hour or so, once the water level had dropped again.

An hour or so later, there was another knock on the door.  He looked positively anguished.  The flat cap would have been clutched in nerveless hands, wrung with despair.

"Come and look at this," he said.  That's never good.  I followed him around to the side of the house where the fencepost hole was brimming with water, and a stream had formed running down onto the back lawn.

"Fuck."  I said.

He nodded sadly.

To cut a (very) long story slightly shorter, it turned out that our water main runs down that side of the house, and in digging the hole, they had managed to somehow disturb the pipe and cause a massive leak.  Several hours of panicking, phoning plumbers, phoning Wessex Water and trying to build makeshift dams with breeze blocks followed.

Thankfully, Wessex Water were able to come out the following day and fix the problem, but they suggested that if we ever win the Lottery we might consider having all our external water pipes replaced.  Cheers for that.

It is traditional for some domestic disaster to occur when Mr WithaY is away, so I'm pretty used to it now.  I ought to make a Domestic Disaster Bingo Card, and keep myself amused guessing what will happen next.


**About 8am-ish
***About teatime

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

I Spy

An overheard game of I Spy in the shop yesterday, between a boy of about 4 and his slightly older brother.

Younger boy:  I spy with my little that's with...BLUE!

Older boy:  Is it this?  (Holding up a small bag of Skittles, bright red in colour.)

Younger boy:  No.

Older boy:  Is it this?  (Holding up a caramel Freddo bar, definitely not blue.)

Younger boy:  No!

Older boy:  Is it this?  (Pointing at a bag of beef crisps.)

Younger boy:  (by now hugely excited) NO!

Older boy then wandered away, tiring of the sport.

Younger boy:  I'll help you!

Older boy:  Ok.

Younger boy:  It's somewhere in Space!

In other news:  Mr WithaY and I have bitten a large, expensive bullet and booked the holiday of a lifetime.  We are going to Japan next Spring.  This is a long-held wish, and we decided that if we wait until we can afford it, we'll never go.  So we went and booked it at the weekend, and now it's really happening.

The catalyst for the trip was this:

Forgive the dreadful quality picture, I stupidly scanned it, rather than just taking a photo, like a sensible person would.

I bought this book in 1985 in Winchester, as it was required reading for my degree, used it throughout the course, and it has lived quietly in one of the many WithaY bookcases ever since.

For no reason, a few weeks ago whilst idly browsing eBay, I thought "I wonder if anyone else has one of those weird Bell Jar books for sale?" and searched for it.  Nothing on eBay, so I Googled it.

Readers, I found out a couple of interesting things about my old book.

1)  It's jolly rare.  According to a Sylvia Plath website - this one - there are only 8 copies known to exist. I don't know if that means mine is Number 9, or one of the existing 8.

2)  The last time one was sold in the UK, it went for quite a lot of money.

Well, what would you do?  I sat there for a few minutes, looking at the Bonhams photo of the cover of the book, which was almost exactly the same as mine, and then went in to Mr WithaY's study, where he sat researching Neolithic sporrans, or some such arcanery.

Me:  Look at this picture.

Mr W:  Oh yes.  A book.

Me:  Look how much it sold for.

Mr W:  Heavens!

Me:  Yes.  I've got one of those.

Mr W:  What?

Me:  I've got that same book. Upstairs.

I ran upstairs, located the book, ran (carefully - with my track record) back downstairs and showed Mr WithaY.  We both looked from my book to the Bonhams website, and back again.

Me:  I'm ringing Bonhams in the morning.

I rang Bonhams, where I spoke to a charming chap in their books department.  I told him that I had found their auction page about the Bell Jar uncorrected proof.

"Oh yes?" he said, politely.  I got the impression he was lounging negligently in a fine quality leather club chair, possibly smoking an untipped cigarette in an amber holder.

"Yes.  Well, the thing is, I've got one of those, and I'd like to sell it please."

In my head, he sat up abruptly at this point, dropping his cigarette onto the green leather of his desktop.*

Anyhoo, the upshot was, that he told me they had a sale coming up in June, and that if I could get the book to them for evaluation in the next day or two, they could include it, assuming it was what I thought it was.

I posted it to them that afternoon, they telephoned me the following morning to say it had arrived, and that they were happy to include it in the sale, and so, with much excitement, I waited for the sale catalogue to be published.

And here it is:


So, if there are any avid Sylvia Plath collectors who read this, or you know anyone who has loads of money and a suitably-shaped hole in their library, please tell them to bid.  It's funding my holiday to Japan, at least in part.

*Yes, yes, yes, I'm well aware he was probably doing nothing of the sort, but I don't get to London much these days, and it's all morphed into a Bertie Wooster/Mapp and Lucia fantasyland now in my imagination.

Saturday, 23 May 2015


We get all sorts of people in the shop.

When I am working a late shift, it's remarkable to see the number of customers who dash in for last-minute emergency beer or wine before we shut for the night. On sunny afternoons we get quite a few people calling in for booze for impromptu barbecues on their way home from work.  There are one or two who come in for small bottles of cheap vodka, and who I suspect are not going anywhere to drink it.

The one who stands out for me this week though, is the Drunk Socks Man.

He came in for the first time mid-afternoon, buying a four-pack of chilled cans of cider. Fair enough. It was a sunny afternoon, and sitting under a tree with a cold cider would be very pleasant.

Two hours later he came back and bought another four-pack.  Ah. Maybe he has some mates there too, and they're all enjoying a cold drink together.

Another two hours passed. By this time I was on my own in the shop.  He reappeared, this time drunk. Very, very drunk.

"Hello my petal!" he said cheerfully. I said hello back, ignoring the over-familiarity. Well, you have to sometimes.

He selected a single bottle of beer and brought it up to the counter, then dug into a pocket for cash.  I told him how much it cost, and he squinted at the handful of change, old receipts and oddments he was waving about in front of me.

"Have I got enough there, darling?" he asked.  I told him no, he didn't.

"Well can you do me a deal then? Can I have it for *rapid counting of the coins he held* £1.28?"

I said no sorry, we wouldn't do that.

"What have you got that's cheaper, then?"

By now, I had realised just how drunk he was, and was beginning to wonder how I was going to get him out of the shop if he got stroppy when he discovered that I wasn't going to sell him any more drink.   Cunningly taking the bottle of beer back to the fridge on the pretext of looking for something cheaper, I was able to convince him that we didn't sell anything alcoholic that he could afford just then.

"How about if I give you a cuddle? Can I have a deal then?"

Oh fantastic.  The "drunk bloke is irresistible to women" stage has been reached. I declined the cuddle and got back behind the counter, wondering how much longer this was going to continue.  He stood there, swaying a bit, then had an idea.

"What if I give you my socks?"


"Look.  Here.  You can have my socks."  He tried to hand me a pair of balled-up socks which he pulled from another pocket.

I declined politely.

After a few minutes of loudly telling the next customer who came in how terrible it is to be an alcoholic - the customer agreed politely whilst paying for his diesel - the drunk left, staggering over to the pub.  He did tell me "I'm always around if you need me, darling," before he left.  How reassuring.

I waited with some interest, and a little anxiety in case he came back to the shop.  A police van then drove onto the forecourt and parked up, I waited for the police driver to come in and buy sweeties. They're buggers for sweeties, police.  However, the driver simply stayed in his van.

The drunk left the pub very soon afterwards, and started making his way up the road towards town.   The police van immediately pulled out into the main road, the driver got out and spoke to the drunk. I watched, interested, as they had a long chat, the drunk smoking a cigarette.   A short time later a police car arrived, and took the drunk away.

You don't get that in the Civil Service.

Thursday, 29 January 2015


Many of our regular customers in the shop wear what is loosely termed "Country Attire."  This may consist of a filthy pair of John Deere overalls, or ancient Wellington boots over waterproof trousers, or rigger boots and moleskins.  A lot of them wear shooting breeches, as they are involved with one of the local shoots.  Many customers are keepers, or beaters, or even guns on the shoots, so it makes sense.

Last weekend I was at work, serving a very elegant lady.  She was in raptures over the local honey, and the fact that we sell part-baked baguettes.  As I packed her stuff and took her money we chatted about this and that.  Whilst this was happening, one of the regular customers came in, and I handed him his newspaper from beneath the counter.  He smiled and said thank you and walked away.

I apologised to the lady for having interrupted our conversation, but realised she was staring in wide-eyed amazement at the departing customer, who was walking back to his car.

"Are you alright?" I asked her.

"I'm fine," she said, then she laughed.  "Did you see his TROUSERS?"

I glanced out of the window at the chap, who was sporting a fine pair of tweed breeks, which probably cost a fortune.

"Um.  Yes." I looked at her, she was still laughing.

"I didn't think anyone actually wore clothes like that!"  She was genuinely amused.

I asked her where she was from.



Wednesday, 28 January 2015


Ah, technology.

Once more I am able to converse on the telephone. Once more, I can surf the myriad wonderful shores of the Internet. Once more I can dick about on Facebook.  Once more, we discover that life is not like Star Trek.

Last Saturday, about teatime, I was sitting on the comfy sofa, dealing with some mindless nonsense on my iPad, eBay, possibly, when the gloomy message "You are not connected to the Internet" popped up in the middle of my screen.  I tried refreshing the screen.


I went into Settings and tried to reconnect to the relevant WiFi thingy.


I turned it off and on again.   The last resort.

Nope.  Well, bollocks.

On further investigation (going upstairs and glaring at the blue lights on the BT Homehub box) it was clear that my Internet connection was broken.  Mr WithaY emerged from his study, blinking in the light, and asked if there was a problem with the phone, as his Internet wasn't working.  A second investigation revealed that the OTHER BT Homehub box (yes, yes, yes, we have two, long story, probably going to get rid of one this year) wasn't working either.

The handset on the phone in the hall displayed the message "Check Line Cord" which we know from experience means Serious Issues With The Phone.  As we live in the Village Of No Mobile Reception, we couldn't ring BT to let them know, so left it till the next day, hoping that the phone line might have magically sorted itself out overnight.

I went to work on Sunday morning, and was not particularly surprised when a neighbour from further up the road called in to ask if our phone worked.  The shop phone did, but I told him our home phone was out of order.

"So's ours! And all the neighbours' on either side! AND the phone box!" he told me.  He'd already been on the (mobile) phone to BT to report the fault, which meant finding a spot at the top of the hill by the church where there's intermittent reception, and then spending almost £10 on his emergency pay as you go mobile whilst BT kept him on hold. He wasn't happy.

One of the more endearing quirks of reporting a fault to BT is their insistence that you listen to their instructions about resolving faults at your end.  They ought to call it It's All Your Faults.  They insist that you check that your phone isn't unplugged, or the dog hasn't eaten your WiFi box, or the house hasn't burned down while you weren't concentrating, and only then will they agree to send out an engineer.  Even then, you have to agree to pay a huge fee (almost £200!) if they find that it's Your Fault.

Anyhoo, the fault had been raised with BT, so I rang them as well, told them that our phones were also affected, and agreed to hand over a huge sack of cash if it turned out not to be their problem.  On leaving work, I spotted a BT engineer doing something at the base of the telephone pole on the corner. I wandered over to see.

Me:  Hello.  Have you come to fix all our phones?

Engineer:  Hello.  Yes.

Me:  So what's the problem?

Engineer:  Well.  Look.

The engineer gestured at the thick black cable that runs up the length of the phone pole.  It had been neatly cut in half about a foot from the ground.  A myriad of small wires poked out of the two severed ends.

Me:  Ah.

Engineer: (wearily) Yep, this is me for the next couple of hours.

He declined the offer of a cup of tea, so I left him to it.  By the time it was dark, his van had gone, and so had he, and the broken cable was all patched back up.  However, the phones still weren't working.

I went to work on Monday morning.  To my non-astonishment, a neighbour came in to ask if our phone worked.  I told her it did, and asked if her's was out of order.

"Not exactly," she told me.  "My number is now in Jean's house.  And Jean's number is ringing in my house."


As more people came into the shop, it became clear that a terrible, terrible thing had happened to our phones.  We all had each others' numbers, but nobody knew who had which, or where they were calling.  I tried calling both our numbers from the shop phone but they just rang endlessly so I gave up.

Once again, BT were called.  Once again I had to agree to give them all my money if the fault was mine.  I explained that at least 12 houses were affected, and that it was most likely that the problem rested with the massive severed cable that had been sellotaped back together inaccurately.

Early on Monday morning, a BT engineer appeared at my house.  I explained the situation at length.

Me:  BT have run line tests and said my phone is fine, but look - there's no dial tone."  My voice might have gone a bit squeaky as I waved the dead handset about.

Engineer:  (backing away slightly) phone is dead.  And yet we have a good line signal.  (He looked at his electronic handset thingy, then back at my dead phone.)

Me:  YES.  My phone number works, just not in my house!

Engineer: Ok.  I'll get on with this then.  (More fiddling with his tricorder) Ah, your phone is ringing at a Mr Sanders' house.  Do you know him?

Me: (coldly) No.

(He went back out to his van, possibly to have an aspirin.)

An hour or so later, both our phones were working, and we had Internet access once more.  Hurrah.  The engineer stood on the doorstep chatting cheerfully as we said our goodbyes.

Me: And will you be going to all the other houses now to sort them out too?

Engineer:  Um.  What other houses?

I told him about all the neighbours' phone issues, and the phone box.  He was appalled.

Engineer:  I only have two call-outs for today, and neither of them are in this village!

Me:  Well, there are at least a dozen houses with this problem.  And the phone box.

Engineer:  So why haven't they reported them?

Me: No phones! No Internet!  No mobile reception!

When I went to work that afternoon, there was a huge BT cherrypicker truck with a bloke deedily reattaching wires at the top of the phone pole.  It was there quite a while.

In other news, I am now working full-time in the village shop.  I really like it.  There's a shift pattern which suits me well, as you do four days on, two days off, so your days off vary from week to week, and even on the days you work you either have a morning or an afternoon to yourself.

The first couple of late shifts I did were nerve-racking, as you have to lock everything and set alarms and so on, but once I got the hang of it, it was fine.  It's sociable and friendly, and apart from my feet hurting at the end of a shift - there's nowhere to sit for most of the time - I like it very much.  I daresay my feet will adapt.

A customer came in the other day, bought a few bits and pieces, and then gave me a handful of change to pay for it.  As he dropped the money into my hand I realised it was sticky. Very, very sticky.

Me:  Ewww! What's all over this money? Why is it so sticky?

Customer: (who was very, very Welsh)  Oh, sorry love,  That's just orange juice.

Me:  Really.

Customer:  Yeah. Had a bit of an accident in my cab, see.  Sorry about that.

Me:  Orange juice.  Hmmm.

Customer:  Yeah, it is, honest.  Go on! Smell it!


Thursday, 8 January 2015

Glorious victory. And inglorious ailments.

Hello, happy 2015 etcetera etcetera etcetera.  To be fair, I have very little clue what day it is, never mind what year.  This is down to the usual Christmas/New Year bewilderment that happens every year, but also because this year, for a change, we all got really ill over the holidays.

I don't know why I refer to them as "the holidays," given that Mr WithaY and I no longer work a standard Monday to Friday pattern.  Every day we're not working could be described as a "holiday."

Anyhoo. We had all kinds of plans for Christmas, all sorts of parties and events we were planning on going to, or hosting.  Day trips, even.

Mr WithaY and I went to the Bath Christmas market, where we bought gee-gaws and trinkets and trumpery*.  These included:

  • A wooden trivet made of slices of wood all set in some sort of resin, which looks like an arty photograph.  I love it.  
  • Some beautifully soft grey and blue lambswool fingerless mittens which I wear almost constantly outside, 
  • A stained glass Christmas tree decoration from a very young, very silent, Belarusian nun.  
  • A wreath made from dried apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks and (I think) Scotch Bonnet chillies, which now hangs in the front porch.  
We shopped for food, we made sure there was Champagne for Christmas Day, we moved furniture to ensure the tree would fit in the sitting room.  The decorations went up, the house looked festive, we were ready.

Things started well with several members of the extended family arriving for the weekend before Christmas, much jollity and dog-walking, and a tremendous curry where we all sat at a great big long table and ate a vast selection of lovely food.  The remainder of the family arrived the next day and there was more hilarity, dog-walking, exchanging of gifts and a buffet.  We do like a buffet in our family.  Mostly because you can have three slices of ham if you want to, AND a sausage roll AND some celery AND a bit of cheese.

The majority of the family went to their respective homes again, leaving just Mr WithaY and I, and my lovely Mum here for the Christmas period.  The first few days were perfect. We went out a bit, drank lots of tea, ate lots of delicious home-made food, watched some Christmas TV, and looked forward to the Big Day.  I went to work on Christmas Eve, Mr WithaY and Mum stayed in and watched a DVD together.

By the time I finished work at 6pm, I was feeling very odd.  Dizzy. Hot and cold.  Headachy.  I got home, and the others were feeling much the same.  And that, dear readers, was that.  We all went down with the flu as if felled by hammers, and for the next three or four days hardly moved.

Mr WithaY and I, whilst feeling dreadful, were able to eat a little, and even make cups of tea and so on, but poor Mum just got worse and worse, to the point where she ended up staying with us for an extra week, and was then only taken home on New Years Day to go straight into hospital. Thankfully, after a week of top-notch care, she has returned home and seems to be much better. but it was a horrible time for all of us.

Mr WithaY and I have both been left with horrible racking coughs, and intermittent high temperatures, but we are both much better than we were.  I have no energy, and even walking the dog around the village, or pushing a shopping trolley round the supermarket leaves me shaking and exhausted, but hopefully in a few days that will pass too.

The good news is that I have lost a stone, for the first time ever over Christmas, and am definitely less podgy than I was.  A few days of eating normally will probably put paid to that, but it's nice to begin a New Year feeling like I am already on the right track.

 Other news:  Prior to the Great Flu Outbreak, I was the proud winner of this:

The Stonehenge volunteers had their Christmas party, and held a Great British Bake-Off competition, where people were invited to submit cakes for JUDGEMENT.

I made this, a coffee cake with home-made apricot jam in the middle, and butterscotch chocolate ganache icing. Mr WithaY added the Neolithic deer drawing:

And it won!  I assumed, when Mr WithaY came into the pub to tell me (I was at the work Christmas meal, so wasn't at the Stonehenge event, clashing dates, sadly) that there had only been one or two entries, and we'd all won a cup.

Oh, but no.  No.

There were apparently about 30 entries, and the judges did it all very seriously, tasting everything and making their decision very carefully.


Hurrah!  Here's the glorious cup in situ, dominating the room:

I am hoping I get to keep it forever, rather than having to return it next year.   That reminds me, I must add it to our insurance.

So.  The flu.  A quiet and very worrying Christmas.  A lingering annoying cough.  No other news.

Here's a lovely picture of the dog that my Middle Sis took on one of our family walks.  I really, really like it.  It shows you exactly what a friendly, sweet-natured girl she is.  And the dog is nice too.

Here's to a good New Year, and that nobody gets the flu again.

Oh, and once again there was no Dinotopia on TV.  Outrageous.

*you have to talk like that in Bath. It's the LAW.