Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Flora Helps

What with one thing and another, the last two weeks have proved rather trying, and as a consequence I have been feeling testy, irritated and marginally annoyed with life.

And I have learned that when I am feeling like this it is best to avoid blogging, because my pen IS my sword and it could have erred towards sharpness which would not have been good for the spirit or my karmic piggy bank.

However, after much propping up from an excellent hubbie and a marvellous long-time friend, I feel once more clear-headed and focused, and tickety-booness reigneth large, and lessons learned have been noted for future reference.

And so this morning I have been carpet wrestling. Someone (can't think who) thought it would be an excellent idea that as we were redecorating our bedroom, then why not redecorate Andy's study AS WELL, including paint and carpet, the whole hog as it were? Marvellous! Get it all done at once! Surely we could fit two rooms' worth of 'stuff' into my arty-crafty writing room, couldn't we? Yeah! It'll go, no probs!!

Well, there was some overspill into the living room. There was a lot of squishing and squashing going on at 6.30 this morning. And then Andy left for work, and it was up to me to remove two lots of carpet and underlay from the two respective rooms before the carpet fitter chap arrived with the new carpet.

It was okay though! I had a helper...

Monday, 31 March 2014

Home Alone and Safe

Well, here is a quick video of Primrose and Daisy's new secure run. We are planning to plant climbers around it so it becomes like a romantic arbour-type edifice, but for now, here it is in all its naked glory! Les femmes poulets, as you can see, are very impressed! Or probably not.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Give It Some

Heather has been scooting out of the house at 6.30 a.m every day to attend the gym, returning an hour later and eating copious fruit for breakfast. I have been very impressed with this dedication to her health and told her so.

'It's because I am participating in Give It 100,' said she. And when I looked confused, she said, 'It's a website thing. You sign up and do something new for the duration of 100 days. Every day you record a one minute video of your progress and share it on either Facebook or Twitter.'

So I had a look. People are signing up to challenges like losing weight, learning a language, creating art, getting fit, and one video I found was of a fairly youngish looking man attempting to work towards touching his toes!

All you have to do is persevere for 100 days. I suppose it is like a training programme to get into a new life-long habit. I gave a brief thought to what I could do if I took part in the 'Give It 100' challenge and I came up with 1) learn the piano 2) learn Italian 3) try a new veggie recipe every day 4) write another novel. I resisted the urge to think of 5) eat a doughnut every day 6) increase my TV viewing 7) smuggle more hens into the back garden. 

Number 4 - write another novel - is actually 'rewrite a novel' because when I was sorting through some notebooks and folders the week I discovered the first novel I wrote back in 2002 called 'Duck When The Boom Swings' and whilst parts of it are ridiculous, parts of it are highly amusing and I think it might be worth a rewrite, if only for my own entertainment. The first version was rejected by several agents and publishers and, I seem to remember, sent me into a spiral of miserable dejection, but having just tried to read a Zadie Smith and thought, 'How in the name of Roobarb and Custard did THIS get published, let alone win prizes?' I have decided to get back in the writing saddle proper and persevere. I haven't done much 'proper writing' recently having been caught up in other stuff, but with lighter mornings now upon us, more writing time has been presented and I should take advantage thereof. 

I hope you Mums out there have enjoyed your Mothering Sunday. I got a lovely bouquet of flowers - stocks, roses and, most unusual, rosemary which I shall eat over the next few days because I do like a nibble on a spike or two of rosemary but you have to be careful not to overdo it as it can have repercussions on blood pressure. I was taken to see the Muppets Most Wanted film (including bag of Maltesers) and then to Dobbies for lunch. All very lovely. And entertaining, as just before we went into the cinema Heather turned to me and said, 'Do you need to go to the toilet?' And I said, 'Twenty years ago I was saying that to you!' and she said, 'I'm just getting into practise for when you start dribbling like a loon and can no longer walk properly.' Sigh...my first mortality warning...!

And the hens have their new run. In an attempt to add 'enrichment' to their new daytime space Andy also built them a swing. I came downstairs this morning to find Andy in the back garden in his slippers and dressing gown attempting to put Primrose and Daisy on the swing. He had the look of a man determined that hens should enjoy having a swing and should learn to use it immediately. Primrose clung on, turned herself around, stared at him as if to say, 'WHY have you put me up HERE?'  and then, 'Remove me - IMMEDIATELY!' because she was clinging on and did not seem brave enough to jump off herself. So he built them a rigid perch too, which they have also studiously ignored. But at least now they are safe from foxes.  Unless foxes start carrying heavy duty wire cutters. In which case we could be in trouble again.

And yesterday, the Plasterer Chap came and sorted out all the dodgy plaster in our bedroom so we now have a lovely new smooth wall. At one point, when he was filling up his buckets with water from the kitchen tap, he eyed up the veggies I had just roasted and asked what they were for.

'I am going to mix them with couscous,' said I. 'I'm vegetarian.'
'I've got a mate whose a vegetarian,' said the Plasterer Chap. 'He only eats fish.'

Now you will be pleased to hear I stayed very calm. 'In that case,' I said, 'he isn't a vegetarian, is he? Vegetarians,' I continued, 'DO NOT eat fish.'
'Really?' said Plasterer Man. 'But it's not like fish are animals, is it? They don't feel pain, do they?'
'Yes they are and yes they do,' said I. 'Which is why vegetarians doesn't eat them. Your friend is a pescetarian. Or a hypocrite. Ahahahahahahahaha!'

Ooooh, that drives me mad! Vegetarians who say they eat fish! Grrrrr!! 

And here we are, clocks jumped forward an hour. It is almost 8 p.m and just about growing dark. I love this time of year! And I shall leave you with a landmark - my granddaughter Kayleigh, in her first school photograph! Have a lovely week everyone! 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Chicken a la Rocket!

Sometimes a chicken can be a gardener's friend. And sometimes not...

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Plastered, Caged and Pooped

No, not a firm of dodgy Victorian lawyers, well, not as far as I know, but a three word summary of today.

On Sunday evening, a very nice lady from The Happy Chicks Company telephoned to inform us when the new and large fox-proof hen run for Daisy and Primrose would be delivered.

'It will arrive at 6 o'clock on Tuesday,' she said.
'Good,' said Andy. '6 o'clock.'
'In the morning,' said the nice lady. 'You will be the first delivery of the day.'

6 a.m? Six in the morning???

And true to their word, at 6 this morning a very cheerful gent arrived in a very cheerful bright yellow van, and delivered unto us a large chicken run.

I had already been awake for around three hours prior to chicken run delivery because a) I am in crazy hot flush mode at the mo and they usually start somewhere between 2.30 and 3 in the morning, and b) my hot flush mode has unfortunately been co-inciding with Andy's recent snoring mode. Whether I am flushing because I am waking to snoring, or I am hearing snoring because I am waking to hot flushing I do not know but it's not a good combination either way. 

And I might be triggering Andy's snoring by my constant flinging off and flipping back on of the duvet, or The Hot Flush/ Freeze Down Menopause Duvet Dance as I call it. Either way, Macbeth (as they say, because it's nice to squeeze in a literary reference every now and then just to remind myself I'm a qualified English teacher) was properly murdering sleep last night, what with the flushing and the snoring and the half- listening for the alarm so we would be up in time to take delivery of a hen run. 

I don't like alarms. They scare the bejeezus out of me and I can't help but think that starting a day with your heart racing nineteen to the dozen cannot be a good thing. And I am a pretty consistent 6.15 a.m wakee anyway, so unless I need an early start, which is rare, I do without any alarm setting. 

So, I was all crumpeted and cuppa tea upped by 6.20, not to mentioned showered and ready to go. So I did some marching on the spot in front of early morning TV (something else I never do - watch TV in the morning) and by the time I went to work I had almost completed my regulation 10,000 steps a day. 

Fast forward to 4 p.m. I arrived home from work fully intending to have a 'zzzzzzzz' but got distracted into other things and before I knew it, Andy was home and going straight into the garden to erect the hen run. So, down with the Eglu run, down with the current fencing, out with the power tools and 'Grrrr! Let's be manly and build stuff!' I was inside cooking dinner, plus a jam sponge pudding because something was telling me we would both be in need of a jam sponge pud before the day was done. 

And of course, the run building did not go according to plan, it was growing dark and cold, and the hens got confused at their bedtime because their pod had been moved and they were standing where it should have been saying, 'Where's the pod?  We want to go to bed,' and I was going, 'You and me both, but an adult woman going to beddy-byes at 6.10 p.m is ridiculous and besides, I don't want to miss Sewing Bee,' and Andy was going, 'Your pod is down on the patio, you stupid hens,' because he was getting a bit narky because the cordless drill was running out of oomph and cord, and well, we decided to call it a day, so Andy reconstructed the pod and little run and I went inside to dish up dinner because, quite frankly, I was being a useless carpenter's mate.  

And then Andy went back outside to scoop up Primrose who was still pod confused and had squished herself up against the garden fence in an outward-bound-without-a-tent-camping kind of way, and I said, 'Go into the pod, you idiot. We have just spent a lot of money on a new run for you because we don't want you to be noshed by a fox which is exactly what will happen if you sleep al fresco.'

And now it is 8 p.m and I am already for Sewing Bee but Sewing Bee has been pushed back an hour in favour of Lambing Live, which is okayish because it is a nice thing to watch and far better to be pushed back by a lamb than, say, being pushed back in favour of stupid football or motor racing or golf. But I don't know if I am going maintain consciousness until 9 p.m for Sewing Bee because in the last 24 hours I've had three and a half hours of sleep and I am POOPED! 

'But what about the 'plastered' bit of your blog title?' I hear you cry. 'Surely you haven't taken to imbibing of the fermented grape to get you through the day? And you a committed tee-totaller, too.'

No, I say. Plastered refers to yesterday. When the plasterer came out and replastered the chimney breast. For one third of the price we were quoted by that builder I told you about last blogpost. 

And jolly nice it looks, too. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Economy Run

I have become disillusioned with Sainsbury's supermarket. Now, this may seem a small disgruntlement in the whole scheme of The Plan Of The World. In the grander scheme of things there are many issues bigger than my irritation that Sainsbury's seem to be employing some dodgy stealth price hikes and refusing to answer their insurance customer service telephone machines because some of us have sustained water damage and want to redecorate our hall and stairs.

And before you ask, no, we STILL have not managed to get someone to fix our roof. Roofer Number 7 arrived last Sunday, stared at the roof, said encouraging things like, 'Yeah, small job, shouldn't be a problem, will ring you tomorrow and let you know what's happening,' and here we are, 6 days later and still NOTHING, and quite frankly I have reached the point of NO LONGER CARING and DESPAIRING of the roofing trade in Britain.

However, we do have a plasterer coming to do our chimney breast on Monday and he is also going to replaster a wall in our bedroom because Andy set to upon some very old shelving last week, and in his setting to (which involved hefty hammers and iron bar levers and bashing and crashing and one damaged hand) the wall now looks wrecked but the scruffy old shelves are gone and have opened up a lovely new space ready for me to charge in wearing my interior designer hat and say, 'Eau de nil Regency birds and apple blossom on that wall, I think, with Mimosa Lemon eggshell for balance on the opposite,' or some such malarkey. But definitely NO grey, Jessica.

And here is another point of irritation which had me swearing and hopefully will lead me back to my point re: Sainsbury's - the builder who originally came to quote for the roof repair and for the plastering work appears to have taken us for mugs in that his quotations and the work he said needed doing proved to be about 93,000,000% higher and more extensive than what actually needs doing and what it actually will cost. Hence me trying to contact Sainsbury's insurance to cancel the claim we put in. And hence us not having to live on beans on toast for the next 10 years. And hence me treating myself to some Super Chunky Wool and size 12mm knitting needles in order to knit a massive cardigan pour moi! (I have felt like a Borrower knitting with broom handles and rope - it has been enormous fun!) I have written to Sainsbury's asking them to cancel the claim. I have also voiced my displeasure at their inability to man their customer services properly. I can only think they are using the profits from keeping people on hold for half an hour plus to subsidise the claims they are having to pay out. 

I am livid with this builder. Well, I am not livid now because I managed to get the sweary ranty stuff over and done with in the space of two hours one evening last week. Andy was highly amused, because I don't do sweary and ranty very well. Anyway, I am mightily relieved we are now talking of spending hundreds, rather than thousands of pounds to repair all damage. I am embarrassed I trusted this original builder person BUT have made note for future reference along the lines - 'You cannot always trust people you know and make sure you get a second opinion from a man called Tommy.'

Back to Sainsbury's. About a month ago, we decided to investigate Aldi supermarket. And what an eye opener that proved to be. Okay, they don't have the range that Sainbury's offer, well, not at the tiddly store near to us, and you have to be Ninja quick when it comes to going through the checkout because their checkout people are highly efficient at locating bar codes, but for fruit and veg and all other basics, they beat the bigger supermarkets hands down. I reckon we've saved about a tenner a week by doing most of our shopping at Aldi.

And the experience is quicker, too. No dilly-dallying, no 'experience the ambience'. It's just in and out in super quick time and marvelling at how far £40 will go. I like that. After nearly 30 years of running my own home I know what I want from a weekly shop and being confused by twelve different types of granola is not one of my wants.

So I shall continue to use Aldi for our main shop with the occasional nip into Sainsbury's to get things that I like that only Sainsbury's do like their Fine Milled Oatcakes and Basics Berry Mix Frozen Fruit.

And I shall do mostly knitting this weekend because knitting with enormous needles and enormous wool is enormous fun, and GrandChild Number Two is due in 6 weeks time and I have started 3 things for her and completed not a single one of them.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Local Radio for Local People

I love local radio, don't you? Radio Kent is my listening choice in the morning, mostly because I can't bear Jon Humphries being a loud, grumpy curmudgeon on Radio 4 as no-one should be that shouty as dawn rises. Actually, Radio Kent has its own loud, shouty and rude presenter in the form of Julia George, but don't get me started on her or I'll never stop. She is self-opinionated, she interrupts her guests, she is aggressive, she...

'I thought you weren't going to get started on her?' says Daisy who has popped by for a borrow of some butter and to let me know she is off to Tai Chi later but Primrose says she will sit in for the post man as I am expecting a delivery of Super Chunky wool. 

'I wasn't,' says I. 'But it just happened, because I stupidly mentioned her name and now I can't stop thinking how much I dislike her and she should be locked in a cupboard until she promises to be calm down and be nice to people.'

'That can be arranged,' says Daisy, who has dodgy relations in the Maidstone underworld who are a bit handy with a three day old baguette.

Anyway, for the last two days, Radio Kent has been obsessed with two stories - one being the news that 20,000 new houses are due to be shoe-horned into Maidstone in the next few years because of 'increasing demand' and the other being the closure of Manston airport. (Oh, and there seems to be a lot of talk about a budgie this morning but I am glazing over on that one.)

Now, I am outraged that Manston airport is closing. Because I have found out that it was purchased last year for one pound, yes ONE POUND and if I had known it could be acquired for so little money then I would have bought it and filled it with chickens. In fact, I would have gone even further and offered a fiver just to secure ownership. A pound for an airport? Ridiculous. And obviously something dodgy going on, too, which not doubt will emerge in the wash at some point.

And as for building 20,000 houses in Maidstone, well if ever there was an incentive for us to move then this is it. I have two questions - who are these 20,000 families who actually want to come and live in Maidstone in the first place (as Heather once pointed out when she was a student living in Norwich, you don't realise how s*it Maidstone is until you live somewhere else)? Because if they are THAT desperate then they can buy ours. And secondly, why don't the council just NOT build these houses because if they aren't they, then there won't be a demand and what little breathing space there is left might just be saved.

Of course, I have combined the two stories and solved both problems. Build houses on Manston. 


But what I really wanted to comment on this morning was the Radio Kent presenters' recent and irritating habit of using what I call 'inspirational business speak' when interviewing people. This morning, Claire was interviewing someone about Manston and she asked a question and the guest answered it and tried to move on to another point and Claire stopped him by saying...

'Let's just kick this one into longer grass.'

What? I am assuming she meant, 'Let's discuss this point further.' But hey, why use plain and easy to understand English when a ridiculous phrase of inspirational business speak will do.

'Kick this into longer grass???'

So, today I have decided that I may 'Boil that egg a little longer,' or 'Chew the taste out of THAT bit of gum.' Or maybe 'Decorate that option with some hundreds and thousands.' 

Don't ask what any of those mean - I have no idea. I am merely going with the flow of inspirational Radio Kent!