Showing posts with label not a domestic goddess. Show all posts
Showing posts with label not a domestic goddess. Show all posts

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Playing Chicken

I went to my first ever village planning meeting the other week.  Well, I say planning.  It wasn't really.

It was a consultation exercise, chaired (I use the term very guardedly) by the Parish Council, to discuss the planning impact of a proposed new agricultural development a mile or two down the road.  There's a disused chicken  farm, which has been disused for at least four or five years, maybe more; the owners now want to redevelop the land to put a new all-singing, all-dancing chicken farm there.

When I say "all-singing, all-dancing" I don't think that'll be the chickens themselves.  I may be wrong, of course.

Anyway.  The plans said that there would be a large number of lorries travelling through the village (narrow roads, few pavements, already awkward to get through when there are large vehicles coming the other way) which was hotly contested by the increasingly furious village people at the meeting.  There were also concerns around the removal/disposal of "foul waste" - chicken shit, I guess - and presumably dead chickens that failed the assault course and swimwear sections of the final rounds of their training.

The meeting was loud, poorly-managed and grumpy.  Things were not improved by the arrival of the local pretend police at the start of the meeting, sauntering in casually in their stab vests.  Nice touch.  Nothing like some not-really-police-officers arriving in uniform to reassure the disgruntled attendees that things will all be lovely.

So. The upshot of all the ill-tempered arguing was that the people who own the current chicken farm are pretty much adamant that they will be developing their property, and it will be a huge battery "broiler chicken" farm before much longer.

At one point the chap representing the developer said "Well, it's all very well to protest about it, but you all like this sort of chicken!" to which there was a loud, sustained roar of "No we don't!" from the audience.  It was like the world's most middle-class pantomime ever.

I'm not vegetarian, or anything like a vegetarian, but I do buy eggs and meat that are British, free range and locally-reared, preferably from one of the independent butchers we have in town.  I am aware that I am fortunate in being able to make choices based on my personal ethical preferences, rather than price.  It was, however, very amusing to see the look of dismay on the chicken farm owner bloke's face when he realised that most of the people glaring at him were not his target market for two-for-a-fiver chickens.

In other news, I went to the market this morning.  No lemons this time, sadly, but there were bargain tomatoes.  A huge boxful for a fiver, which have been transformed into nine large bags of chopped tomatoes (stashed in the freezer) and four jars of extremely spicy chutney.  I followed a recipe which was called "Spicy Tomato Chutney", but would more accurately be called "Suicidally Hot Tomato Sauce, Eat In Very Small Doses, It Would Help If You Like Mexican Food."

They were lovely, and not one was blemished.  This is about a third of the box.

I also bought a large lump of fresh root ginger and four huge aubergines (for another fiver) which I plan to turn into (respectively) apple and ginger jelly, and a moussaka.

Maybe two moussaka.



The weather continues to be shit, with torrential rain and hail at regular intervals.  Today it's windy as well, just for some exciting variety.

Last week, while Mr WithaY was away, I went through a bit of a miserable episode, mostly my own fault for not going out and doing stuff.  I was busy with some sewing work - proper for-someone-else sewing - and thus ended up not leaving the house (or garden) for about three days, and by the time I realised why I was miserable, I was really miserable.  I self-medicated with chocolate and Futurama, and made a full recovery, you'll be glad to hear.

I also made a determined effort to get on with some of the boring housekeeping jobs which I have been putting off for ages.  I have a voice in my head which says "You might as well do the ironing, you're already grumpy," and I tend to listen to it.

So, with a zesty spring in my step, and my sleeves rolled up purposefully, I took the arm caps off the big sofa and handwashed them.  This was by way of a test, as they have labels saying "Dry Clean Only", but I wanted to find out if they would fall apart, bleed colour or shrink to buggery if they were immersed in water.

You'll be relieved to know that they didn't collapse into threads, lose all their colour or turn into jaunty egg cosies, so I stepped things up and put the actual sofa covers into the washing machine, with a devil-may-care attitude.

That's how I roll.  Like a 1930s housewife, with a bad-ass attitude and a Dyson.

Wrestling the covers back onto the cushions took longer than it should have, and would probably have been a prizewinning video clip on You've Been Framed, had I had the foresight to film myself doing it.

Which reminds me.  The other week, before the weather went all shitty, I was out in the back garden, pegging out some washing.  In a bizarre Norman-Wisdom-esque sequence of events, I managed to get my glasses caught on the rotary washing line as I was turning it round, half dragging me along, before flicking my specs into the currant bushes.

You couldn't make it up.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Contains nuts

We're in the middle of a spell of glorious Spring weather here, sunshine, clear blue skies, chilly evenings which make the warm day feel even better.  Marvellous.  It's lovely to sit in the garden with a cup of tea, watching the bees and butterflies doing their thing in among the flowers.

hello tree. hello sky. hello clouds.  all are full of joy in the springtime.

This is my little herb garden where I sit in the afternoons and drink tea.  It's very pretty, in a "things in pots" kind of way, I think.  The sad squished looking things in the smallest pot are oriental poppies which I am trying to grow from seeds which I saved from the one that flowers in the garden already.  They don't seem very happy.

This weekend we planted more stuff - I know, I know - including some sage plants, half a dozen sweet pea plants, a new climbing rose bush and a dozen little lavender plants.  I have decided that I will try to do more rose and lavender flower-drying this summer, weather permitting.

Also at the weekend, it was the grand Cake and Craft and All Kinds of Other Stuff Event in the village hall.  There were a few of us there with stalls, ready to sell our various wares to the clamouring public. There was a HUGE cake sale, with dozens of different cakes available, as well as cakes you could buy just a slice of to have with a cup of tea and a chat with your neighbours.  I'd like to point out that my coffee and walnut sponge cake went very quickly.  Yes, it was THAT popular.

Unlike my Clementine and almond cupcakes which paled into insignificance next to the gorgeously glittery decorated cupcake offerings of the village yummy mummies.

The event was very successful.  Dozens and dozens of people came along, everyone seemed to be either eating cake or carrying round cakes to eat later, and we raised a good chunk of money for Sport Relief, which was the aim of the exercise after all.

The village hall looked very cheerful and festive with all the bunting.  I took this before the start, hence the lack of people.

And, best of all (for me, anyway) I sold a few things from my little craft stall.  I chatted to people, I saw neighbours I haven't seen in ages, and I picked up one or two commissions for later on in the Spring, so a good afternoon all round.

Mr WithaY and I celebrated that evening by buying a Chinese takeaway with my profits.  We'll never be rich, but we will be full of Chinese food.

Oh, and I won the raffle.  Twice!  I have been taken to task* for accepting two raffle prizes, but my reasoning is that if I have bought 25 tickets, statistically I am likely to win more than once.  I therefore feel justified in accepting two prizes.

Had I won a third time, I would have been gracious and said "No, no, no, please...put my ticket in the bin and let someone else have a turn."  But two prizes? All mine.


Anyway, one of the prizes was a big box of chocolates.  Like I'd have abandoned that.

Is there a formal laid-down raffle prize etiquette anywhere?

One of the other raffle prizes was this:

A Gruffalo cake!  Brilliant.

In other news, at the garden centre where I bought my new climbing rose and the lavender plants, they had some slightly mental moss rabbits for sale.

Look at the eyes of the one on the right!  He's clearly crazed and dangerous.  He'd be carving his way out of the garden with a trowel before you knew what had hit you, I reckon.  Brrr.

I do like the garden centre.  You can get pretty much anything you want, as long as what you want is deranged.

A giant metal cockerel, standing 6 feet high?  Check.

Paving slabs with artistic interpretations of fish embedded within them? Check.

A statue of Atlas, supporting the world on his mighty stone shoulders?  Check.

Frantic whirling plastic solar-driven butterflies, to strike terror into the heart of any pet? Check.

A solemn Aslan-type stone lion, looking mournfully at you from across the yard?  Check.

Dozens of ornaments made from cutlery?  Check.

Plus they have an aquatic centre where you can buy tropical fish, or marine fish, or snakes, or this...a rain forest in a box.

There's a tiny pond at the base with fish swimming, and then above that there's steamy, foggy mini-jungle with little frogs in.  Brilliant.

In other, other news, I had a go at making peanut butter last week. Why, dear readers, did I decide to do that?  Fucked if I know.

For some reason it seemed like a good idea, and we all know how those ideas generally work out, don't we?  I bought several pounds of shelled (but not skinned, crucially) peanuts and searched out some recipes on the Internet, which, as we also know, never lies.

I roasted the peanuts, and then realised with a cold horror that I had to get all the red skin off them.  Fuck.  That took three hours, and left me with blisters on my thumbs.  Then it was time to put the shelled and skinned peanuts into the food processor.  Well, in fact, as I discovered when I re-checked the recipe, you are supposed to put them into the blender.  I, however, failed to clarify this small but telling detail, and spent 45 minutes watching a pale yellow concrete-like substance forming with painful slowness.

I added peanut oil, as some of the recipes suggested, which didn't seem to help.  I re-checked the original recipe I had used and realised I ought to be using the blender.

Coaxing the thick, gritty, warm peanut-crete out of the food processor and into the blender with a flexible spatula is a memory which will stay with me a while.

Once I started it blending, however, the texture changed quickly to something almost peanut-buttery, and I was greatly cheered.  I tested it, added a dash of salt and a spoonful of honey, an then whizzed it for a bit longer.  It was clumping together around the blades at the bottom of the goblet, so I poked it with my spatula and then turned the blender all the way up to eleven.

Readers, it did its best.  It tried.  It really did.

There was a sudden strong smell of burning, then smoke poured out of the motor.  I turned it off at the wall socket and removed the blender goblet.  Mr WithaY (who had been popping into the kitchen at hourly intervals to ask "how's it going?" before laughing uproariously at my crap peanut butter-making) manfully carried it out into the garden in case it went up in flames.

We left it out there for an hour to think about what it had done.

I decanted the peanut butter into jars.  It's paler than the shop-bought stuff but actually tastes rather good.

I won't be making it again, I think, though.

*Hello Laurie!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Master Chef

Hello virtual mates!  Hello hello hello.  Yes, it's been a while, hasn't it? 

Every time something has happened which I have thought would make an interesting and/or amusing blog post, I've self-edited in my head until I think "Actually, it would be dull and a bit shite, so I won't do it."

Bad habit to get into.  Baaaaaad. 

So, what has been going on in my life since the last rambling set of unrelated semi-anecdotes I inflicted on you all?

1)  A wedding.  Remember I told you about the hen party?  Yeah you do.  Mr WithaY went to the related stag party the following weekend - beer, watching a rugby match, curry, beer, whisky, sleep, nausea and pale fragility for the next 48 hours - which he said was "fine." 

As an aside, whenever I ask him how something was, it was usually "fine."  Sometimes it was "ok,"  occasionally it was "a bit weird," but in the main his go-to review of all social events at which I am not present is "fine." 

Many years ago, he went to a re-enactment event in Cornwall without me.  It was one I had been really looking forward to, and to which practically all our friends were going. 

I had appendicitis, which for about two years was misdiagnosed as "a stomach bug" or "food poisoning" or even "a dairy allergy" and this was during that dark, miserable (but skinny) time.  Eventually I had to be rushed to hospital to be operated on, and was able to gloat, pointing at my stitches and telling everyone "See?  I TOLD you I was ill."

Anyhoo, this particular weekend I was vomiting and dizzy and feeling awful, so I said I wasn't going to go to Cornwall.  Mr WithaY offered to stay home and look after me, but I said no no no, you go, you've been looking forward to it, have fun, you just enjoy yourself without me.  So he did, the bugger. 

He returned home on Sunday evening, sunburnt, muddy, bruised, exhausted, and I said "Well?  How was the weekend?  Who was there?  What happened?"  And he said "Yeah, it was fun." 

I interrogated him for the best part of the evening.  Who was there with who?  Were there any relationship breakups?  What scandal and gossip?  Was anyone injured on the battlefield?  What outrages were committed in the pub?  Tell me!  TELL me! 

In the end I gave up and rang a female friend.  We had a two hour conversation where she filled me in on all the many and varied events of the weekend.   Gah.  Blokes.

So, yeah.  The wedding.  It was lovely.  But, lordy, I have never been to a wedding where so many people cried.  It was like some airborne chemical had been sprayed into the room to make us all weep like children whose hamster just died.  The bride walked in looking stunning, in floods of tears, which set all the women off.  The groom started choking up as he said his vows, and ended up weeping, which set all the blokes off, which then set all the women off again.  There was one small child there who took exception to the "noise" in the room, and she started weeping loudly, until her poor mother took her out, and spent the entire service weeping on her own in the bar as she was missing the ceremony.

Honestly.  It was a soap opera wedding in emotional terms.  The sun shone for the photographs, everyone looked lovely, including the specially-bathed mad spaniels, and the food was incredible.  They'd arranged a Blues Brothers tribute band for the evening, who were excellent, and I think pretty much everyone there had a dance or two. 

We were staying the night at a pub/hotel locally, along with a dozen or so of the wedding guests, so it ended up being a convivial team breakfast the following morning, then a huge mob went to the newlyweds house and drank tea, then huzzah, off to the pub for lunch.  Mr WithaY and I finally got home at about 4pm.


2)  I've been making stuff. A neighbour asked me to make her some fabric-y bits and pieces.  We bartered.  She gave me a pedicure and some gorgeous nail polish (she's a beautician, not a foot fetishist,) and in return I did her the cushion covers and a noticeboard. 

I like barter. 

The photos don't do justice to the colour of the fabric she wanted me to use, or to the perfectly-matched ribbon and fabric I found for the criss-cross straps and fabric-covered buttons.  That I made.  Yes I did.

Today I have been finishing off the last cushion cover, and will take a picture of that too, just for completeness.  I bet you can't wait.

3)  Future business plans for the WithaY household are taking shape.  I won't go into detail now, for fear of jinxing things, but I am feeling positive about the future.  Plus we paid off half our mortgage this week with some of our redundancy money.  Yay.  Watch and learn, Greece.  And Italy. 

4)  We had friends round for Sunday lunch last week, and I decided to have a go at making a sticky toffee pudding.  I've never made one before, and was inspired by the delicious one I was given for my pudding at the wedding reception. 

I followed the recipe to the letter - to the LETTER - and the end result was perfect.  Rich, sticky, dark, sweet and fruity* with a light yet dense texture.  The sticky topping was perfect too, the cream, butter and sugar sauce formed a dark toffee-coloured emulsion, thick and gooey and smelling of caramel and butterscotch. I poured a little onto the pudding as it baked and it formed a sticky, unctuous topping, as specified in the recipe.  Which I followed TO THE LETTER. 

The main course was roast pork, with a selection of vegetables, stuffing balls** and roast potatoes, served with delicious meaty gravy.  Mr WithaY made the gravy, and it was perfect.  Thick, rich, dark, savoury little flecks of pork meat floating in it from the roasting dish, just enough fat to make it cling to the food, not so much that it was greasy. 

We ate our pork and vegetables, enjoying the delicious gravy.  We enjoyed the delicious gravy so much that the gravy jug was almost empty.

I asked Mr WithaY to refill it from the pan on the stove top, as he was nearest to it.  He jumped up with alacrity and returned in a moment, the jug practically brimming.  Mmmm delicious gravy. 

One of our friends poured a generous helping of gravy onto her greens.  I picked up the jug and went to do the same.  I sniffed at it, a sudden cold thrill of suspicion running through me.

It smelled like butterscotch.

Mr WithaY had refilled the jug from the wrong saucepan.

I was mortified. 

Our friends declared that greens with pork and butterscotch sauce was wonderful, so, possibly influenced by the wine we had been swilling down, I tried it.  And you know what?  It was bloody lovely. 

For pudding we had sticky toffee pudding with pork and butterscotch sauce, and that was bloody lovely too.

Last night, all on my own, I made up some more cream, butter and brown sugar sauce and had it with leftover sticky toffee pudding.  It wasn't the same. 

*much like me, except for the rich part. 


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Basket case

It's amazing what can cause stress, isn't it? For me, it used to be the whole getting up for work and travelling halfway across the country for work thing.  Not now.

Now it's all about bookcases.


Thousands* of them.

In my house.

It's all part of the final push to get Father in Law WithaY's house sold - the contracts are exchanged this Friday - so we have been clearing the last things out.  Our friend with a van** came over last night and he and Mr WithaY went back and forth to Dorset a couple of times to bring everything back.  The last time we were down there, I thought we'd pretty much cleared everything out, but it seems I was wrong.  Oh, how very wrong.

It took two trips, one with a van AND a LandRover, the other with just the van, and now my house looks like Steptoe and Son live here.

In the style of Hello Magazine, allow me to show you around my gracious home.

As you enter the house, you are met by an original arrangement of furniture in the hallway.

Bookcases.  Here, let us walk around them and admire them more fully.

They certainly add to the overall cosy feel of the place, I think.

Step into the sitting room and admire our library.  In a trailblazing and somewhat daring move, we aren't using the bookcases to store the books.  No, we prefer to use boxes.  On the floor.

Why yes, that IS a book about King Tutankhamun on the top there.  Every home should have one.  In fact, I will sell you this one if you want it.  Hell, you can have it for free.

Back into the hall, squeeze past the bookcases and step into the kitchen.  I'd offer you a seat at the dining table, but as you see, we are currently hosting a modern art installation. It's called Too Much Bleach and Four Tea Services.  I'm not certain what the artist is trying to say with it.

Can you see what is lurking on the bottom left corner of the table?  It's a rather teasing shot there, but I won't keep you in suspense longer than I have to.

It's a Wurzels album!  On vinyl!  In Mono! 
And it has sleeve notes.  Forgive the terrible photograph, my hands were shaking.

I can't decide whether to bury it at dead of night under a rowan tree, put it on eBay or have it framed forever.

Turning away from the art installation, we see the eclectic mix of kitchenware across every work surface.


And of course, big jugs are always nice to look at***.

Back into the hallway - another glimpse of those bookcases - and let's peek into Mr WithaY's study.  Mmmm.  The perfect relaxing little corner to sit and study, or listen to music****.

I have spent much of today hiding upstairs, ineffectually tidying up my own study, which I am turning into a sewing room.  So far all I have managed to do is shove my sewing table into the corner, with a nasty CRACK as one of the legs got stuck on the carpet (the table's, not mine) and slide my new computer desk into place. 

I keep telling myself it's all temporary.  This too will pass.  And all that stuff.

Until then, I will be in here, where there aren't dozens of bookcases, bizarre records and boxes of frankly mental belongings in every corner.  Well, there are, but at least they are all mine, and I know why they're there. 

*Not thousands.  But more than I am comfortable with.

**Hello Ed!

***Apologies, big boob porn seekers

****Or play Portal 2 or Call of Duty. 

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Craft FAIL

Remember I was banging on about how unsuccessful that tie-dye experiment was?  And how ghastly the bedding looked after I'd finished dicking about with it?

I wasn't kidding.

You can just about make out the unpleasant bruise-like quality of the colour mix.  Please note the enhancing effect of the sickly yellow circles.

Mmm.  Sweet dreams.  Do the yellow circles look like unfortunate stains to you?  They do to me. 

Is that a patch of paler green in the top right hand corner?  Why yes, I believe it is.  What a delicious colour contrast.

Perhaps the pillowcases will look a bit better.

Or perhaps they won't.

The whole lot was discreetly wrapped in a bag and placed in the village clothing and fabric recycling bin while nobody was about. 

I hope that someone, somewhere gets some use from them, although frankly I can imagine frozen Third World rough-sleeping beggars turning up their noses at the whole sorry mess.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Mellow yellow

Yesterday was astonishing.  I sat and watched the BBC news reports from Japan with horror, which got deeper and deeper as time went on.  Waking up today to news of nuclear reactors exploding just seems unreal somehow. 

The footage of that enormous whirlpool way out at sea, with the fishing boat fighting to get out of it was like something out of a disaster movie. 

To try and raise my spirits, I thought I'd try to do something a bit creative today, what with my developing life plan to become a creative dynamo and all. 

The other day as I was performing some unrelenting domestic drudgery, I found a set of bedlinen that looked a bit drab. 

Plain white, a duvet cover and four matching pillowcases, all trimmed with sort of broiderie anglais stuff around the edges.  Pretty in an uninspiring kind of way.  Also, it was looking a bit tired somehow.  Clean, and everything, but just not living the bedlinen dream any more.

Mr WithaY and I had already decided to go to Salisbury this morning, so I thought I'd pick up some fabric dye and attempt to tie-dye it.  The bedlinen, not Salisbury. 

What was I thinking?

We packed away the traditional brunch of Eggs Benedict in Patisserie Valerie, performed a rapid synchronised scoot round several shops to pick up various essentials, and then hey ho to the fabric shop.  Mr WithaY needed to buy some orange fabric to make armbands.

Don't ask.  I promise to take photos when all can be revealed. 

While he was speculatively examining every roll of fabric in the shop, I decided to get some wadding, fabric and ribbon to make a posh notice board out of a scabby old cork board.  That's my plan for tomorrow. If it works I will take gloating photos.

I also decided to get some fabric dye for my tie-dye experiment.  How hard can it be?  Hippies manage it, after all. 

I bought a box of yellow, and a box of vibrant blue. My plan, such as it was, was to tie up the bedding, dye it yellow, undo the ties, re-tie it all slightly differently, dye it blue, and thus end up with a gorgeous mixture of white, yellow, blue and ahahahahahaaaaa GREEN in a random yet stylish pattern all over it. 

The first part went ok.  I spent bloody ages tying multiple bits of string artfully around the pillowcases and the duvet cover, then bunged them in the washing machine with the yellow dye and half a kilo of salt.  I even had to make a special trip over to the garage to buy extra salt.  That's how seriously I was taking this.

Mr WithaY was busily making armbands on the kitchen table, so we both had a cup of tea and watched the bright, bright yellow water in the washing machine. 

The washing machine finished, beeping at me bossily.  I took out the gorgeous yellow bedding.  I untied the string, waiting to see the lovely patterns, and there was nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Fuck all.  The entirety of the fabric was bright yellow.  Mr WithaY squinted helpfully, trying to be encouraging.

"I think there's a sort of paler bit there in the corner." 
"Really?  Where?"

"Right in the bottom corner...oh.  Now you've moved it I can't see it any more.  Is that a circle of white in the middle there, though?"

"Might be...maybe...."

I sighed sadly and put the beautiful blue dye and yet more salt in the washing machine, then spent at least seventeen hours (maybe longer) unpicking the wet string and re-tying it into careful patterns.   I was hoping that where there were some paler white-ish bits, the dye would be blue, and where it was nice and yellow, there would be green, and where the string was, would stay yellow. 

I remember having to spend ages in art at school dicking about with colour wheels and so on.  Yellow and blue make green.  Definitely.

I wasn't very good at art, mind.

I am now the proud owner of a set of khaki bedding, spotted with distressing yellow circles, much like little rings of sickly toadstools here and there on the forest floor.

Fuck it.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Today was the day that disaster struck.

Yes, disaster.

You heard me.

Settle down, dear readers.  Gather your loved ones close and get comfy.  This is a tale of HORROR.  Of WOE.  And of astonishing, catastrophic breakages. 

I was planning to post up some photos of our new kitchen curtains today.  I know how to live, eh?   I decided a few weeks ago that the thin, feeble, pale, unlined curtains that graced our kitchen and dining room were too depressing and crap at insulation, and that They Had To Go.  I ordered some fabric samples from Next Online and showed them to Mr Withay.  He nodded at all of them, and said more or less the same thing to each one:

"That one's fine."

This, I believe, roughly translates as: "For the LOVE OF GOD stop showing me curtain fabric, woman.  I don't care.  Just pick one, and let me be.  Jeez."

I may be mistranslating slightly, but I think that's the gist of it.

We* made our final fabric selection, I measured the windows carefully and sent in the order, and within 7 days our new curtains had arrived.  All lined with lovely thick blackout insulation, and much, much warmer.  Mmmmm cosy.

We still need to get some more curtain rings as we miscalculated the quantity, the new curtains being much heavier than the old ones, but they are up (mostly) and look lovely.  You can't see the saggy end due to my astounding photography.  I haz skillz. 

Oh, and to prove I am a complete domestic goddess, I also ordered some matching cushion covers.  Yeah.  That's how I fucking roll, man.

So, enjoy the beauty of my (apparently) retro curtains while you may.

The disaster happened today.

I was in the kitchen as it was just getting dark, closing the curtains - aren't they lovely? - when I heard a strange noise, like chinaware clinking.  I looked around dopily, then the big cupboard door slowly opened of its own accord. 

Before I had time to do more than go "Whut??" a dish slid gracefully out onto the floor.  It smashed.

I went "WHUT??" again, and then started screaming in horror as an entire shelf full of china, cast iron and marble slid onto the floor in a sort of avalanche of kitchenware, everything breakable smashing into a million billion pieces.

I think I screamed for about 5 minutes solid as the slow, unstoppable slide continued.  The noise was incredible, and it just kept on going.  Then I stood there looking at the heap of smashed stuff on my floor.  Then I went a fetched a broom.  Then I went to find a cardboard box.  Then I fetched the dustpan.

And then I started crying.

And it was at that moment that Mr WithaY came home from work, to find his lovely wife weeping uncontrollably in the kitchen as she shovelled up the pulverized remains into a cardboard box. 

Look away now if you are of a nervous disposition. 

You may remember that blue plate from previous blog postings when I was bragging about my baking.  No more, my friends.  No more.

Look, I have codified it for ease of reference.  I can't help it, I'm a Civil Servant.  There's a ton of other stuff in there too but I couldn't fit all the text on the picture.   Plus I got bored with the labelling thing. 

Our 6 pint cast-iron Le Creuset casserole dish fell out, and amazingly didn't smash the floor tiles.  There are several large unslightly chunks missing from the enamel on the dish, though, and one handle is busted.  Good job it didn't land on my foot, I suppose.

So, all a bit shite really.

Turns out that the shelf was held in place by 4 little metal and rubber plug thingies, and one of them had weasled its way out, dropping the front of the shelf and causing the Avalanche Of Unnecessarily Destructive Force.


Mr WithaY is going to hammer some batten up over Christmas.  That'll learn it.

I'm still in shock and will need to have medicinal brandy forced between my lips from time to time until I recover.

Otherwise, things are good.  Lots of snow on the ground, and looking forward to Christmas.  Yay. 

*Well, he didn't object to the one I picked.

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.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Plumb crazy

We've had the plumber round. 

The WithaY bathroom is was a thing of beauty.  Spacious, well-lit, an excellent shower, a large, deep bathtub.  We even have a view of the woods, and the meadow, and the river.  Lovely. 

It's worked well for about 6 years or so, give or take the odd slight leak.  Right up until earlier this year, in fact, when the door to the shower cubicle started to stick as it was slid shut.  Of course, you have to close it all the way or when you turn the shower on, water will piss all over the floor and eventually bring down the kitchen ceiling in a rain of dirty water, limestone floortiles, plasterboard and dodgy crud crammed between the joists.  So, something to be rectified.

Before we went on holiday I rang the plumber to see if he could come over and take a look. He's very good, our plumber.  Thorough.  Yes, that's the word. 

One way and another we didn't manage to find a mutually-convenient date for the new shower cubicle to be fitted until after we came home.  Oh, and while he was here, I thought I'd get the bath taps repaired, as one of them has been a bit dodgy for ages.  Kill two birds with one stone, that kind of thing.

The plumber came.  He looked at the shower and told me it was a standard size, but an unusual shape.  He looked at the bath taps and told me that they were an unusual size and an unusual shape.  He looked at the tiles on the walls and told me they were an unusual shape.

I have a freakily unusual bathroom, it seems.

The nice, thorough, plumber told me that he could order in all the parts (taps, shower cubicle, fittings etc) and get the job done over a couple of days.  As I am still off work* as I still can't drive**, this week seemed the ideal opportunity. 

It all started in earnest yesterday.  At 0800.  Eight AM.  In the morning.  I was already up and showered and hair-washed as I guessed that the shower would probably be out of action overnight, and I greeted him with a cup of tea and a cheery smile.  He scampered upstairs, strewing dustsheets in his wake and got right down to business. 

There was a good deal of crashing.

After a while I stuck my head round the door, and almost screamed in horror.  My beautifully-tiled shower had several tiles missing from one corner.  Not part of the original plan.  The plumber said "Don't look at it!" and ushered me out.  I asked why the tiles were missing.  He said that they'd come off the wall when he took the shower cubicle off, because they hadn't been stuck on properly. 

Now, we had already had long complicated discussions about the tiles.  I love those tiles.  They are one of the things I really like about the bathroom.  We don't have any spare ones, and I had resigned myself to the fact that the tiles around the bath would have to be replaced, probably with something different.  The original tiles were too hard to track down, what with their freaky shape*** and all.

So the fact that four of them had been removed from one corner of the shower was a bit of a fucking problem, really. 

I went and made a cup of tea, genuinely upset by this turn of events.  Yes, I know, I'm a contender for one of Belgian Waffle's First World Problems posts. 

The plumber said he would carefully chisel off the tiles around the bath and we'd be able to use some of those for the shower.  He was careful, but I think using a chisel is not always the best idea on a plasterboard wall.

Even if it's got tiles on it.

Additional ventilation?  Extra storage for bath necessities? Somewhere to post a letter from the bank you don't want to read?  Suggestions appreciated.

Things got really interesting after that.  As he removed the bath taps, artfully positioned and a work of glorious modern gleaming chrome, he announced that they had originally been plumbed right into the wall, then cemented over.  He was going to have to change that, in case we ever had a problem.


We can't use the shower.  We can't use the bath.  I may have to wash my hair in the toilet. 

On the bright side, he went to a specialist tile shop, showed them one of the now-useless tiles from the shower and they told him they could order some in, even though they are a freaky shape, a non-standard size and have been discontinued.  We had high hopes for this afternoon, but nothing had arrived by 6pm.  Fingers crossed for tomorrow, eh?

If anyone wants me, I shall be in the garden, washing my feet in the birdbath.

*Starting back on Monday in London, working at home tomorrow and Friday, hurrah!

**The ankle.  Remember? Yeah you do.  Possibly fractured, possibly not, still swollen and revolting to look at., thanks for asking.

***Rectangular.  I know!  Crazy!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Money well spent

There was great excitement earlier this week when the washing machine man came round.

Well, we asked him to. 

It's not like he just turns up unnanounced and demands tea and biscuits.

For a while* now, the washing machine has been making terrifying clanking rattling noises.  Intermittently  Not all the time, not every time we use the machine, not even every time we do the same kind of wash.  That rare delightful thing, a truly intermittent fault.

It came to a head last weekend.  I'd put a load of washing in, and the machine was rattling and graunching as though it had several tons of gravel inside it.  A sharp crash, like metal on glass, reached us and Mr WithaY, a man pressed to breaking point, leapt to his feet and then to the phone.  Ten minutes later, we had a hot date with the repairman.

He turned up as promised on Wednesday morning and got straight down to business, refusing my offers of hospitable refreshment.  Tea? Coffee? A cold drink?  Digestive biscuit? Toast?  Anything?  Just please FIX IT. 

I had to restrain myself from clutching at his lapels.

He turned the machine on.  No clanking.  He turned it off.  He turned it on, but on a different wash programme.  Silence.  He looked at the dials with a furrowed brow.  I put the kettle on.  He turned it** off, then on, then off again.  I made tea.

We looked at one another in silence, frowning, him in genuine puzzlement, me just joining in to be friendly.

"Can you fetch me some towels?" he asked.  Perhaps he needed to mop his fevered brow as he figured out what was wrong.  Or maybe he got confused when he saw the kettle boiling and thought someone was having a baby.

Anyway, I went and fetched a couple of big towels which he loaded into the machine, before turning it on again.

There was a terrible rattling, graunching noise.  Success.

He looked at me with some relief and said "Ah yes, I know what that is."

He turned it off, drained the water out and pulled the filter out of the bottom of the machine.  He ferreted about up in the innards, which seemed rather indelicate, then extracted a 5p piece, holding it aloft in triumph.

"There," he said.  "That was getting sucked into the [[tech]] and making it [[tech]] which is why it was [[tech]]."

"Aaah,"  I said.  "Was it really?  Gosh."

"Yes.  That'll be a hundred pounds please."

*At least six months
**The washing machine, not the kettle

Sunday, 10 January 2010


I've got used to the snow now, and I rather like it.  Everything I can see from my window looks somehow exotic and mysterious, transformed by the change in light and colour.  The sky is overcast today, but yesterday it was clear blue, and made the snow glow purple as the sun was setting. 

Plus it's entertaining watching people picking the their way to the garage or the recycling bins.  Mr WithaY spent a chunk of yesterday afternoon shovelling snow from the paths around the house, and scattering rock salt (part of the mighty hoard of out-of-date foodstuffs we obtained from Father-in-Law WithaY's house) to try and make it safer.  I think it's starting to melt a bit now, but more is forecast.  Mind you, as we know, the weather forecasters make it up as they go along.

Today was a big day for the aquarium.  Mr WithaY went to the Fish Emporium and came home with two female Dwarf Gourami, which were introduced to the rest of the tank this afternoon.  The male Gourami was prodding the bag they were in with his nose while they were being brought to the correct temperature, and since they were tipped out into the tank he has been chasing one or both of them like a fish possessed.  Mr WithaY had already rejigged the contents of the tank so that there are plenty of places to hide, so I don't think anyone will get too stressed.

All the little shrimp seem to have gone into hiding.  Apparently they do this for weeks on end, reappearing unexpectedly. I look forward to it.

Other news:  Very little.  I have barely stuck my nose out of the front door for a week.  Tomorrow I need to go and pick up my note from the doctor, so I will probably pop to the shops and pick up some groceries, because I am going bonkers, frankly. 

I think I need a new keyboard for the PC as well.  The keys are sticking a bit, and given that I pound away at them, I expect they are worn out.  I get told off sometimes for typing too loudly.  One friend accused me of using a toffee hammer.  I think it's because I learned to type on a portable typewriter, not a computer, and never learned to do it properly. 

Oh, I finally finished the scarf I was knitting for Mr WithaY.   I had intended to make tassles for it as well but my attempts were woeful, and I gave up.  I will iron it and see how it looks, and if it looks too naked I will have another go.  I'm not optimistic. 

I also finished the course of antibiotics I have been on since Monday, so with any luck my lung is no longer infected and the horrible coughing will diminish.  This is week 6, and I am very, very tired of it.  As you can probably tell by the distinct lack of sparkle in recent posts. 

Normal service will be resumed soon.  I hope. 

Friday, 8 January 2010

Reading between the lines

It's still snowing on and off, in short flurries of fine ice-dust.  I wonder what "the Indians" would make of it.  If you Google the phrase "Little snow big snow" it picks up several Canadian blogs, but I wasn't able to find any actual source of the phrase.  I still like it a lot.


This is hilarious.  I think I could probably have done it just as well myself with a thick black pencil and some grey crayon.  I might try it later.  You just take a picture of someone famous and then draw in as many wrinkles, eye bags, grey hairs and liver spots as space allows, it seems.  I wonder how much "Washington-based forensic artist Joe Mullins " got paid for this stunning piece of work. 

Maybe I should commission a portrait. 

I rather like this as well.  If you can't be arsed with the link, it's a story on the Telegraph website saying that Facebook and Twitter users are "buying more friends" in an attempt to look popular.  Exactly how insecure do you need to be to:

(a) worry about how many friends you have on Facebook/Twitter and

(b) to go to the trouble of "buying" more in? 

I'm a firm believer in quality over quantity, which probably explains why I have a comparatively low number of friends on the old Facebook.  I think with only one or two exceptions, they are real life friends anyway.  People I have actually met.  In the flesh.  With talking and looking and everything.  Incredible, really. 

Social networking.  It's a fantastically lazy way of keeping in touch, and showing everyone the holiday photos without all the driving.  As it is, I can't keep up with everyone, so more would make life even more complicated.  And who's impressed anyway?  I can't imagine what the intended audience for these people is.

Other news:  The Black Lung continues to make me cough till my eyes dry out, but with the added delightful bonus of gagging and spitting.  Yeah, I bet you wish I had a live webcam link, don't you?  I am on the mend I think, but it is bloody horrible.

The cleaners made it here this morning, despite the snow, and were most impressed as I hacked and retched painfully through a conversation with them. 

 "Oooh, listen to you - you should be in bed!"

I was sent up to my study while they chiselled 4 weeks worth of crud off the downstairs of the house.  As they were leaving I had another huge coughing fit, and they stood and watched me sympathetically.

"Good job you don't have a weak bladder," said one.

"Oooh yes, if you did you'd have more than that cough to worry about."

"I was fine before I had my children.  Now, I daren't cough.  Not like that, anyway."


Sunday, 3 January 2010


If you were wondering why it had all gone a bit quiet over here, it's because I still have a fucking chest infection, and feel like shite.  It went away for a few days, then came back with extra phlegm and coughing just to remind me how great it was first time around.  So, back on the phone tomorrow morning to try and get an emergency appointment with the doctor, more antibiotics, and probably some steroids to help me breathe.  I am SICK of it. 

I have had it for over three weeks and it is boring, painful, alarming and disgusting in turn.  Lucky old Mr WithaY gets to hear me cough, choke, splutter, gag, retch and then swear about once every six minutes.  How nice for him.

On the plus side, my finger is healing up nicely.  I will have an Interesting Scar to add to the many others.  Don't you agree, scarred knuckles make a woman look extra-specially elegant?  I bet Audrey Hepburn had knuckles you could grate cheese on. 

Added to the docker's cough I have going on, I am quite a catch, let me tell you.

Other news:  We have more fish in the aquarium.  All the "old" fish are still alive, and the "new" fish are looking cheerful too, so we are very pleased.  Mr WithaY has been doing all the scientific stuff with pH testing, and water changes and gravel sucking* and the like, and so far, so good.  We now have:

5 x freshwater shrimp
7 x glowlight tetra
5 x leopard cory
6 x pentazona barbs
1 x dwarf Gourami

We also had some teeny snails, but Mr WithaY hoiked them out and disposed of them, bloody freeloaders.

Also, the dishwasher was blocked**.  We've had it for about  4 years, and it has always been great.  A simple arrangement, but it works.  We put dirty greasy dishes in, a little while later it beeps, we take nice hot clean dishes out.  It's like having a robot slave in the kitchen, which, frankly, is what I was hoping would happen in the Twenty-First Century. 

Anyhoo, today it beeped, I opened it and instead of hot clean dishes there were hot wet dishes and several inches of hot grey water in the bottom of the dishwasher.  Gah. 

I did what any self-respecting modern woman would do: removed the filters, then poked ineffectually in the water-filled hole with a long spoon before going to ask Mr WithaY to fix it.

We both considered the problem from all angles, poking with the spoon in between discussing probable causes of the blockage, and how much a plumber would cost if we had to call one out next week.

After an hour or so of this useless flapping about, Mr WithaY decided to pour a bottle of Mr Muscle sink unblocker into the dishwasher and leave it for 15 minutes, as per the instructions.  Once the 15 minutes were up, we ran the empty dishwasher on a Rinse Cycle, congratulating ourselves on our amazing fixing skills. 

It beeped.

We opened it.

We closed it again hastily, great clouds of toxic, corrosive Mr Muscle bubbles spilling up from the drains, in danger of seeping out of the edges of the door.

We looked at one another in horror. 

"We've fucked up the dishwasher!"

"No we haven't.  It's just a bit....frothy."

"How are we going to get rid of all that deadly poisonous foam?  We can't put our hands in it or we'll strip ourselves down to the bone!"

"Hmm.  Let's run another rinse cycle and see what happens."

Mr WithaY is a fan of the "Let's See What Happens" school of thought.

We ran another rinse cyle.  Then a third.  We poured several jugfulls of tap water into the dishwasher, hoping to wash away some of the Foam of Death.   We ran another rinse cycle.  After what seemed like many hours of this, the foam level subsided by inches. 

We were winning. 

If you've never stood in a kitchen on a Sunday afternoon listening to the noise a dishwasher makes as it drains, trying to establish what a free-running drain sounds like, you've never lived, that's all I can say. 

*I think there is a more technical term for it, but it escapes me.

**I didn't say it was interesting news. 

Sunday, 27 December 2009


Today you get a photo bonanza*.  It's a rather eclectic mixture, as I haven't uploaded stuff from my camera for a while.  Lucky old you, eh?

In chronological order we have:

1)  The festive decorations outside the garden supply and aquatic shop.  The deer are there all year round, Santa is a seasonal addition.  I think the red noses are also seasonal, but to be honest I am not sure now I look at it again.

2) A seemingly innocent diorama spotted in the window of a charming dolls house shop in Chichester.  I did a double-take, then sneaked a photo.  Whoever dressed the window is a genius. 

Yes, she is wearing a basque and stockings.  And, as Mr WithaY pointed out, her nipples are very realistically painted.  Sorry about the flash bounce but you get the idea.  I think everyone ought to go and buy miniature furniture and whatnot from the shop by way of applause. 

3)  Some rather impressive icebound cobwebs on a garden ornament at Father-in-law WithaY's nursing home.  It was on the day of the Terrifying Ice.  At least it was pretty. 

I did a close-up as well, it was so beautiful. 

Like Narnia.  But in Wiltshire.

4)  Fish!  We have more fish in our tank.  Today we went and got some freshwater shrimp, which move at the speed of light around the tank; all the other fish are shit scared of them, it seems.  They will eat algae and help keep the tank clean.  We got five of those, they are very pretty, and, despite being fish, very appealing. 

We also got five Leopard Cory, which zip about like mad things, often crashing into the shrimp.  They also eat algae, so we will have the cleanest tank in the world, with any luck. 

Just in case we don't, though, we got a glass cleaner thingy which is powered by MAGNETS. I feel like a super-villain now.

I took more, but Mr WithaY has banned me from using the flash so they were all blurry and shite.  Sorry.

5)  Readers of a nervous disposition may wish to look away at this point. 

As I have mentioned previously, we have the remains of a large roast turkey in our kitchen, along with half the population of the UK**, I imagine.  Look:

Mmm, leftovers.

I decided to make a curry (using the Malasian curry mixes sent by Middle Sis), duly donned an apron, picked up the carving knife, and set to with gusto.

Too much gusto.

See that single slice through the leg joint at the top of the picture there?  If you look closely you will see*** that there is a finger-shaped gap in the underside of it. 

I literally made the first incision, the knife slipped and I made a huge deep cut in my left hand index finger.  Fuck me it bled.  There was blood on the floor, on the butchers block where the turkey sat, on the edge of the turkey plate, on the knife, on my slippers, in the sink.  None on the turkey, though. 

I ran to the sink, put my hand under the cold tap, and shrieked for Mr WithaY.  He was cleaning the fishtank gravel so had to stop that, dry off and then run into the kitchen to see what was going on.  His first question was "What have you done?"   I thought it was fairly obvious, what with the huge fuck-off knife and all the blood, but no.

The knife in question:

It's about 10 inches long**** and razor sharp.  Given my track record, I am lucky I didn't manage to stab myself in the head with it, I suppose. 

Mr WithaY was initially very sympathetic, but has more recently taken to waggling his stump at me and making "But did I tell you about this?" noises at me if I whinge that my finger hurts. 

So.  No curry making.  I sat on the sofa and watched the original version of "Miracle on 34th Street" instead.  Much nicer. 

Cold turkey for supper, I think. 

*Sorry, no cowboys though.

**I mean half the population also have cold turkey in their kitchen, not that half the population of the UK is IN our kitchen.  That would be inconvenient.  We'd run out of chairs after 8 of them arrived. 

***No you won't.

****15 if you're a bloke.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Perchance to dream

The endless rain and dull grey skies are making me tired. So very tired.

It might, of course, be partly due to the fact that I was still awake at 0400 this morning, seriously wondering if I ought to get up and do something constructive. I'm not sure what that "something" would have been, mind.

Ironing would have been noisy and steamy, thus disturbing to Mr WithaY, who was fast asleep. He is not a fan of noisy, steamy activities at 0400 unless he is an intrinsic part of them, and we are on holiday in a posh hotel, after an evening of fine wine and delicious food.

I could have read some work stuff, but I dismissed that idea as "too bloody dull." I could have read a book, but I couldn't be arsed to get up and find one that I wanted to read.

Baking a cake (despite my recent whinging about my fat arse) would have meant making delicious smells* through the house, also likely to wake up Mr WithaY. I suspect that even the most delicious of cherry madeira cakes would be insufficient to pacify him if I woke him in the wee small hours by baking one.

So, I lay there for a bit, then, too tired to get up and be useful, too awake to sleep, till I eventually dozed off. Then I had a great lucid dream episode, which was entertaining. No idea what it was all about now, but it was one of those dreams where you can control the action to some extent. I love those. You know you're asleep, but you also have enough of your brain still awake to be a film director in your head. Sometimes I dream that I have woken up, though, which is bizarre. Then when I really wake up, I am all confused.

My sisters used to sleepwalk when they were younger, possibly they still do. We all talked in our sleep, which I certainly still do. More unnervingly, I also laugh in my sleep. I once seriously freaked out my room-mate at college by laughing for over an hour whilst fast asleep. She said she just sat up in bed, wide-eyed and trembling, watching me in horror, expecting my head to rotate 360 degrees, or my entire body to levitate.

She once had to stop me climbing out of the window, having watched me open it and throw my boots into the garden. Again, no idea what caused that. I lost my alarm clock. She told me a few days later "You put it under your mattress, that night you threw your boots into the garden." Ah yes, of course I did...yes, here it is, safe and sound. Poor Clare. What a lot she had to put up with. No wonder she never kept in touch**.

Mr WithaY (and assorted mates who have had to put me up over the years) say that I have also woken them in the dead of night by screaming in my sleep. How nice for them! When they wake me up, terrified and distressed, I have no recollection of it, or indeed what made it happen. Not weird at all then. The perfect guest.

Speaking of which, time to go and prepare things for dinner. We have some mates coming round. Marvellous.

*Oddly, we both hate being woken by any kind of smell. Although a delicious one might be a nice change.

**To be fair, neither did I.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Black like a raven's wing

It's been a rather odd day today, one way and another.

The shitstorm from Hades aftermath continues to make life more stressful than it ought to be, despite people being very helpful.

I did some ironing in the late afternoon, trying to use displacement activity as a means to stop myself fretting. It worked up to a point, but while I was doing it, I ended up watching "How Clean Is Your House" again. Gah. There were two episodes, back to back, including an update on the idiots who lived in ankle-deep shit that I saw the other week.

A year on from the first programme, they live in slightly less shit, but are still idiots.

Had a fab guitar lesson tonight, which lifted my spirits considerably. We played a very nice version of "Paranoid" which was great fun, I learnt the riff for "Communication Breakdown" and we played (and I sang) "Son of a Preacher Man" a few times, and it sounded lovely.

So yay for music being a soul reviving joy in a dark bleak world.

I'm hoping the weather tomorrow is dry as we need to get the hedge out the back tided up. It's encroaching wildly into the garden and makes the place look dreadful. It'll only take an hour with the hedge cutter* but we haven't had a dry enough window of opportunity for about 3 weeks now.

And, of course, we have a Village Fete competition entry to start thinking about.

*assuming we have no trips to Casualty, of course

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


This week I have been back at work. I have been out for just over 4 weeks, and it felt very odd going back up to London. The journey was ok though, I listened to the excellent Chris and Thomas on my iPhone on the way up, and slept, and looked out of the window and played solitaire.

I started walking from Waterloo, but by the time I got to Westminster I had lost my enthusiasm and hopped on the Tube the rest of the way.

In the time I've been away, we have moved back down to the first floor (Second Floor, American readers...the one up the stairs from the Ground floor. There's a clue in the name.) The new accommodation is cramped, noisy, hot and lacking in storage space. Just like the place I left last year then. Fan-tas-tic.

Everyone hates it, there is nowhere to put anything (paperless office my arse) and the coffee machine is nowhere to be found.

I don't actually drink coffee very much but it is still distressing to see colleagues wandering around the floorplate forlornly, mugs in hand, whimpering sadly as they go through caffeine withdrawal.

On my boss' advice I phoned up the departmental counsellor, who kindly agreed to see me that afternoon. That was tough. She was very kind though, and helpful, and gave me leaflets on Coping With Shite* and I am going back to see her next week. If it helps, I'm all for it.

I fell asleep on the train and slept all the way home, waking up in a panic in Salisbury wondering if I'd missed my stop and was halfway to Exeter.

I have worked at home today and yesterday and am back into London tomorrow. Work have been marvellous, but my God they must be tired of me by now. I feel like every week has provided a new, freakishly horrible, drama to disrupt life and add to the huge hot bale of stress I am now carrying around on the back of my neck. Which is nice.

Other news: The cleaning team came on Friday and did a good job. They were apologising as they left that they hadn't got round to doing the ironing, but to be fair they had slaved over the vile filth in the kitchen and bathroom, both of which were left spotless.

One of them said to me "Once we get on top of the place we'll have time to do some extra jobs." This got me thinking of stuff to ask them to do**. Excellent. I have come up with a few ideas, but more would be nice. Suggestions welcomed, obviously.

In fact, I felt so guilty at the thought of them having to tackle the appalling mountain of WithaY ironing that I spent an hour and a half yesterday evening doing a load of it, whilst watching reruns of "How Clean Is Your House". Some people really do live like pigs.

There was a couple who were repeatedly described as "former London high-fliers" who now run a farm in Kent. They both looked like leftover hippies, and their house was ankle deep in shit. Literally. The floors (and they were carpeted floors at that) were encrusted with mud, hair and dung. Lovely. Even their bedroom floor. And these were allegedly intelligent people. Fuckwits.

I was outraged, which is a good state of mind to be ironing in.

The weather today has taken a turn for the Apocalyptic. High winds, driving rain and the constant sound of squealing tyres and blaring car horns all combine for a relaxing background ambiance as I try to read the 450 emails in my work inbox.

Ah well. Could be worse. And when it is, I will let you know.

*I think. I'd need to look at it again to confirm the title

**Top of the list is repainting the dog shed, followed by chopping kindling, then clearing out the garage. I'm not sure our contract covers that, I'll need to check.

Sunday, 12 July 2009


Continuing the green theme, today we went down to Father in Law WithaY's house to do a bit of clearing up and so on. The drive was waist high in weeds as we drove up, so we decided to try and tidy up a bit.

It's funny how much longer a drive appears when you are weeding it by hand, than when you drive up it.


Sunday, 5 July 2009

Clean clean

Today I have mostly been tidying up. Not from any sense of shame at the hideous slovenly state of the house - I have managed to suppress that after years of practice.

No, it's to make the place look tidy for next week.


Because, dear reader, we are finally admitting defeat and addressing The Staff Question. As a result, the WithaY house will benefit from the professional attentions of a cleaner, once a fortnight.

It has been dawning on me over the last few months that doing my new job, which entails 3 14-hour days a week in London and two busy days working at home, I have neither the time nor the inclination to spend the evenings and weekends doing the ironing, washing, cleaning etcetera. Mr WithaY is an absolute star, and does the vast majority of the cooking, but even so there is a lot left to cover.

Mr WithaY is very busy with work too, and away from home a good deal one way and another, as well as having Father-in-Law WithaY's house, garden etc to manage, so he doesn't have the time either.

So, what's the solution? Why, pay someone else to do it, of course.

As a result, I have had that episode of The Simpsons* in my head - the one with Steve Martin, where Homer takes over managing the rubbish disposal, with the slogan "Can't someone else do it?" Maybe it's residual guilt for being too crap to manage my own home.

Regardless of the small inner voice saying "Shame on you, you lazy good-for-nothing hussy, are you not even doing your own ironing now?" I am going ahead, and the cleaner starts next Friday.

Other news: The WithaY courgette harvest is doing well, we have had several off the two plants already, and there are more flowers forming. I have a fine (if small) crop of basil holding its own in the garden, and the chives aren't entirely dead.

There are also several thriving Mystery Plants which we grew from seed. I have no idea what they are, so will take a photo when I remember and see if any of the keen gardeners out there can identify it for me.

They had a Green Day** at work and dished out vegetable seeds, so I took some home, and these were some of the results. I have no idea what they are, as they were in a little screw of paper; I am thinking possibly chard. But I don't know. I tasted the leaves and they aren't obviously poisonous, always a bonus in a vegetable.

The fiery phoenix is still looking mighty fine out in the garden, you'll be glad to hear. I am now eying up Rosemary the Sheep speculatively***.

*"Trash of the Titans" - I love the internet. There's an answer for every question.

**Ecology, not music

***In an art way, not a dodgy West Country sheep-botherer's way.

Sunday, 8 March 2009


It's snowing again! Blimey. Drove home this afternoon from bestest mate's house through some amazing special effects wrath of God hail and rain, and now it's snowing.

Saw my lovely Mum a couple of times over the weekend, she seems to be making good progress and was in much improved spirits, which was great to see. The care she has been getting is (mostly) excellent, the less than excellent stuff has been duly reported and dealt with by the rest of the hospital staff.

Went out for dinner on Saturday night with bestest mate after calling in at the hospital and had a HUGE bowl of Pasta With Stuff at Prezzo's. Was very nice, but far too much, so had to leave quite a lot, which I hate doing. Which is why I have such a fat arse, of course.

Saw Middle Sis and Youngest Sis, and resepctive families, which was nice too. Everyone was feeling much happier, as things are improving so much. Youngest Sis's little dog was very entertaining too, frolicking about and being an idiot.

Mr WithaY is still away, having decided not to come home for the weekend, as it would be a ridiculously long round trip. I think he is home on Friday next week. No idea, though, what time. And given my track record, it might well be that he gets home on Saturday, or Thursday night, or a week on Wednesday. So I am feeling a bit lonely and sad.

He managed to ring me one night last week to tell me how it was all going. Apart from having to get into a river, which was "bloody freezing" and falling off a log, or down a hole, out of a tree or something, and bruising himself considerably, it's going terribly well, apparently. So that's good to know.

Had a bit of a hissy fit earler when I went to cook some supper and couldn't light the oven. Cursed and swore, then remembered Middle Sis telling me that her new cooker (v similar to mine) had the same problem until the clock on it was set correctly. Ahahahahahaaaaaaaaa. We had a power cut the other night, didn't we? And I hadn't set the oven clock since that happened. So, I pressed buttons on the cooker at random till the clock numbers changed, then managed to light it. Hurrah.

Half an hour later, hot fish galore. Mmmmmmmmm.

And, assuming we don't get a foot of snow overnight, up to London tomorrow for another week of big city frolicks.