Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Under the Stars...or the Tent...or the Beehive...

So this morning I opened the kitchen blind and was greeted, as usual at this time of the year at 6 in the morning, by total darkness. And I thought, as I usually do when greeted by the dark, 'Why are you getting up in the dark? Why aren't you still snuggled in bed? Why aren't you getting up with the sun rather than before it, as Nature intended?' And then I thought, 'Oh yes. Work.'

And as the sun came up, the garden lightened and I thought, 'Must go and let Pumphrey and Slocombe out of the pod.' The pod, if you remember, has been moved into the cosiness of the greenhouse in order to give the hens extra warmth and shelter from the looming wintery nights.

And I glanced into the garden and saw Mrs Slocombe mooching down the garden from the direction of the willow arch which is now devoid of leaves and awaiting pruning. (Andy is keen to get hold of some willow prunings - he is going to make a Christmas wreath for the front door by doing a spot of artisan-type willow weaving.)

And I thought,'Someone's already let the hens out. That saves me a job.'

But I couldn't see Mrs Pumphrey. And she usually sticks out like a bright white sticky out thing in the morning gloom, what with her being hugely voluminous and sparkling white of featherage.

And do you know why I couldn't see Mrs Pumphrey? Because she was still inside the pod that was inside the greenhouse with both doors closed.


'Yes!' shouts Mrs Slocombe from the mini-hen spa I've set up in the bathroom because I feel guilty for being a bad chicken-keeper and putting her at risk of darkness/ coldness/ marauding cats/ marauding foxes/ marauding burglars. 'I could have been murdered in my feathers!'

'But you weren't,' I say, serving her a glass of champagne and bowl of Twiglets.
'But I could have been,' says Slocombe. 'I was in the DARK all NIGHT on MY OWN!'
'What I want to know,' I say, ' is why you weren't in bed when I came to close the pod and shut the greenhouse?'
'What I want to know is,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'is why you didn't waggle your arm about in the pod like you usually do when you can't see me, so you can check I am in bed by the power of touch.'

This is true. Mrs S is a dark grey hen and I have trouble seeing her if I don't shut the pair of them away until after dark because I am late home from work. I usually have a poke around to make sure they are both safe. I didn't last night. I have no idea why not.

I am a bad henkeeper.

'Yes you are,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Add more hot water to the Jacuzzi, if you please. And peel me a Ferrero Rocher.'

'So where did you spend the night?' I say. 'Under the beehive? In your tent? Behind the eucalyptus tree stump?'

Mrs Slocombe glares at me, huffily. 'Are you mad??' she says. 'I got a taxi and went to the Travel Lodge in town. They're sending you the bill. I made copious use of room service. And I pinched a bathrobe.'

I sigh. I suppose a hefty hotel bill is small price to pay for a unscathed alfresco hen.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Deadline Deadhead

Well....we did it! Andy and I worked like mad things on Sunday, and with five and a half hours to go, we completed the Much Malarkey Manual 2012. It has been uploaded to Lulu, copies have been ordered and a discount secured. It was touch 'n' go, and for a week or two we thought we'd have to abandon our publishing project because of stupid things getting in the way, like being a teacher and a vet, but once I had secured the services of Dr Millicent Funderbust to write the Foreword, it was all systems go and we did it!!

After school today, I had to 'tolerate' (and boy did I tolerate) a 'training' session (and I use the word 'training' with a heavy side serving of sarcasm) about...well, actually I don't know what about because the session was delivered by a man who was a cross between David Brent and Alan Partridge (aha!) and I was completely transfixed by the whole idiocy of him and it.

He kept saying things like, 'You need to listen to the little voice inside your head,' and 'you need to develop your identity so it's okay to say that you choose not to feel bad/ sad/ hacked off about things.' And 'You don't have to live by your script.' (What????)

I said that if I got home and found one of my cats had died, then actually, I would want to feel sad. The little voice inside my head said, 'Be a writer, you moron.' It also said, 'how about trying to get a job in a grammar school? That's a good idea.' The other voice inside my head said, 'Don't forget about the mortgage and paying Dave the Plumber for the bathroom.'

My script has gone to Lulu and is currently being printed.

This man was also very egocentric. He had A LOT to say about himself. And he also came across as being very bitter about his first wife. I guess he didn't mean to, but he did. He had issues. That's when he started sounding like Alan Partridge.

And halfway through whatever it was he was talking about, the little voice in my head was saying,' Don't forget you have 44 GCSE mock exams to mark by Friday.'

So I brought the essays home with me, fully intending to cancel something like, well, sleeping tonight in order to get some of them marked. And then I remembered what Alan David Partridge Brent said about having choices and developing the feeling of being comfortable with the choices we make so I made the choice NOT to mark the essays tonight and if they aren't done by Friday it will be fine to say to SMT, 'It's okay, I chose not to mark them by your deadline and I am comfortable with my decision, and I'm allowed to because Alan David Partridge Brent said so.'

What SMT will say I daren't guess.

And as for my identity...well, yes, I AM Dr Millicent Funderbust, but don't tell Andy or he'll claim back my expenses.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Renovations Day Two Hundred and Twelve

The tiles are on the bathroom wall. Except for the tiles that we ran out of (black floral on whit - I told you I was no good at maths) and that I've had to order more of which hopefully are being delivered tomorrow because I paid extra for delivery so they bloomin' well better had or there will be trouble.

The sanitary-ware that was in the hall is now in the bathroom, but piled in a corner of the bathroom and not in situ in a usable sort of way.

The cooker is still looming large in the kitchen awaiting installation on Wednesday. The wall against which it will sit was stripped bare of its faux wood covering yesterday by Andy and his crowbar friend. The old cooker was dragged kicking and screaming into the middle of the kitchen and the surrounding underneaths, tops, bottoms and sides cleaned by me and Mr Cillit Muscle Bang so Matt the Gas Fitter doesn't think that a complete slattern runs the kitchen.

The resulting bared wall - lumpy and bumpy with ominous looking wires sticking out hither and thither- has been measured and assessed for tiles. More tiles. Which will cause more tile angst for me today.

The three drawers to the right of the old cooker have been demolished to make space for the range. Which means new homes to be found for their contents. Which meant the larder cupboard needed sorting out. And the three drawers on the other side of the cooker. I am looking at the walls and ceilings. I am thinking - 'Let's hang stuff from the walls and ceiling. Let's get a pan hanger.' I am looking at the kitchen ceiling and thinking, 'I need to repaint that ceiling.'

Pandora Kitten vomited up the stairs yesterday. Or possibly down the stairs. I'm not sure which way she was facing at the time. Anyway, there's a distinct possibility some intense carpet cleaning might need to take place soon.

The school is still refusing to change my tax code because they still say they haven't received confirmation from the Inland Revenue. The Inland Revenue say they have sent confirmation twice. I am stuck in the middle being a bit tearful about the double incompetence of it all.

There are ten more pages to edit for the Much Malarkey Manor Christmas Hen Diaries 2011. They have to be done TODAY so we can get a printing discount from Lulu.

I've done the ironing.

I've got a bit of a funny tummy.

It's raining in a not very nice way.

And if anyone asks me at school tomorrow if I've wasted another ten hours of my weekend writing pointless lesson plans that I don't even look at when I'm teaching, then I am very likely to a) scream b) laugh hysterically or c) throw a pretend faint in the hope of being sent home.

Then I'll have time to paint the kitchen ceiling.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Renovations Day Three

(N.B Renovations Day Two passed by in a blur of going to work, teaching all day and then having to stay until 8 p.m for the Sixth Form Open Evening, in order to drum up trade for next September and, hopefully, secure my job.)

So, I arrive home late last night to find the hall looking like a plumber's merchants. Cardboard boxes containing various pieces of sanitary ware in various states of disassembly, block the pathway to my exciting delivery of the day...the NEW RANGE COOKER!! (Well, what would you get most excited about - a toilet or a lovely oven? Even if the toilet is one of those that butts straight onto the bathroom wall in a smooth and streamlined way thus avoiding annoying gaps beyond the behind that are difficult to clean. And I'm still talking toilet here. And not other forms of behinds.)

And there she was! In the middle of the kitchen. No, not the new toilet. I told you, that was in the hall. Please keep up. No, the new range cooker. It's HUGE! Actually, it's bigger than I thought it'd be. It's cream and shiny and you could stuff it with a whole flock of Christmas geese.
The cats have adopted it already as a glorified cat bed. And there's even a little storage section for putting your premature lambs in to keep warm. If we had any premature lambs. Which we don't. But one can never be too careful.

Upstairs, the bathroom has gone from apocalyptic building site to minimalist cube. Today, I came home to find the bathroom accoutrements still cluttering the hallway. I went to see what progress had been made and it seems that the electrician had been in, as the bathroom light was disconnected. I'm rather bemused about where the extractor fan is going to be located, because I had this crazy idea of a massive hole being bored through the wall into the outside world, thus allowing steam to escape, but no such hole has appeared nor looks like it is going to. I think Dave the Plumber said something about the extractor being linked to the light fitting somehow. It all sounded like mystical plumbing magic to me.

On the tile front, as if I haven't suffered enough tile trauma, we have decided that the black flower tiles on white and the white flower tiles on white need a plain black, very thin border tile to go on the wall betwixt them, in order to delineate them, so to speak in interior design parlance. So another trip to the DIY doo-dah shop is required. I may need to take tranquillisers before hand.

I am still thinking teal 'n' purple for the accent colour.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Renovations Day One

Up early this morning to finish clearing out the bathroom ready for Dave the Plumber to set to and work his magic. Andy had made an initial assault on it yesterday whilst I made what turned out to be a reckless sunny Sunday visit to the local garden centre Christmas decoration department with a small child aka Kayleigh, who insisted on being in charge of the shopping basket. Think small child with no spatial awareness + basket nearly as big as small child + artistically placed displays of delicate glass-type decorations + crowds of people = not my best idea of the year.

But we did get to see some real reindeer. That was exciting. Ish.

Anyway, got home, blood pressure slightly raised, to find old bathroom cabinet, bathroom shelving, towel ring, blind and towel rail flung on the gravel outside the front door, ready for a tip visitation. Storage cupboard was moved downstairs to second bathroom (thank goodness we have two bathrooms - we'd be stuffed otherwise), assorted bottles, loo rolls, cleaning equipment etc etc were crammed into every available space.

I was gently mocked by a certain person whose name rhymes with Handy because I insisted on cleaning the bathroom before Dave the Plumber arrived. Well, I'm jolly glad I did because I got home this evening to find the remains of our old bathroom - loo, basin, shower cubicle etc etc - on public display in the driveway. At least I can still hold my head high amongst the neighbours for having a pristine pan.

I ventured into the upstairs bathroom to see progress so far.

It looks like...well, like derelict building site. It's very empty. There are bits of wall falling the wall. A wooden floor has been revealed. A wooden floor in a bathroom? Good grief. Actually, it all looks a bit grim. I think I might have to leave it for a few days before I make any further visits.

Anyway, I don't know how long this whole malarkey will take. I am hoping I shall be able to adopt an air of serenity that will mean most of the dust, debris and chaos will waft over me like a serene and wafty thing, and in, what, a couple of weeks we'll have a lovely new shower room and the journey leading to its finish will seem nothing but a distant nightmare, I mean, memory.

I might distract myself by shopping for a bouffant luxury fluffy mat for the floor. Or some new bouffant luxury bath towels. Or a nice pot plant that will appreciate the whole steamy atmosphere. It might be a bouffant pot plant. Can one get bouffant pot plants?

'We need an accent colour,' I said to Andy.
'A what?' he said.
'Well, the room will be black and white. It'll need a spot of colour to lift it,' I said, going all Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen on him.
'I have no idea of what you are speaking,' said Andy.

So that'll be me choosing the accent colour then.

I'm thinking cerise. Or a jade green. Or purple. I like purple.

As you know.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Ear, ear

So, I've had my new smart phone with the touch screen doo-dah and tippity-tap whizziness for nearly three weeks now. It has many pros. For example, I can check my e-mail in the flash of a flashiness, and no waiting for a laptop to crank itself up and decide if it can, nay indeed wants to, connect itself to the Interwebbly.

I can text very easily. It has a programme called 'swype' which involves, well, swiping one's way back and forth across the keyboard like a mouse on ice-skates. It has caused me no end of entertainment. Also, the starter package I got had 3,000 free texts with it to use in the first month. I am battling gamely to get through the allocation, but have to say I've only managed to use 87 so far. And that's going some for me. Another 2, 913 to go. I'm not sure I'll get through them. Not without developing some digital disfigurement anyway.

I can find out where I am on a map. Generally, I find I am right here. Or sometimes there. I can Google on the run. I can remind myself about things I am liable to forget by using an assortment of bells, whistles and ding dongs. I can also download games like 'Clouds and Sheep' although it has been causing me some angst because my sheep keep eating poisonous mushrooms before I can get the weed killer out, and then they walk around in a state of fuzzy green burbleness looking tres ill until I spend 5 points on an inoculation to make them all better. And then the stupid things stand under thunderclouds and get themselves electrocuted by lightning. I am sure real sheep can't be that stupid. Surely not?

I can take photos. I took one of Tybalt. He looks like a cross between Oscar Wilde and Vlad the Impaler.

I also have 3 hours of free phone calls. And today I made one to a delivery company who left a message on the house phone yesterday saying they had a heavy delivery for me and would I call to arrange a suitable date and time? And their office hours were 9-4 which is no good for those of us who work from 7.30 - 5 and can't use the work phone to make personal calls. So I used my smart phone and some of my free minutes. (The heavy delivery turns out to be the black 'n' white floral Laura Ashley bathroom tiles - they are arriving on Tuesday, along with the range oven which I am VERY EXCITED ABOUT! And I suspect, as the plumber starts the bathroom refit on Monday, that there will be a lot of plumbing equipment kicking about. And the occasional loo. And basin. And showery bits. There's going to be a certain amount of chaos chez le manor on Tuesday.)

And it was at this point that I discovered a con to the smart phone. Because I was put on hold for a while by the delivery company whilst they located my heavy load, I had the phone pressed to my ear for a few minutes. And when the call was over I was left with a moist imprint of my right ear on the surface of the phone.

Ooo-err. That can't be hygienic, surely?

And whilst it was interesting to see an imprint of my ear, which I've never seen before so there's a first, I can't help but think I should start carrying a packet of antiseptic wipes around with me should anyone else's ear other than mine own shell-like come into contact with my phone and, well, you know, bugs 'n' germs 'n' stuff. Bleuch!

As it was I had to buff away for a while with a tissue to remove my own sticky residue.

But aside from that, the phone is fun! Oh, and purple. Which is always good in my book!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Mercury in Retrograde

I think, although I'm not sure, that Mercury, Planet of Communication, must be in retrograde at the mo, because since Saturday we have experienced, here at the Manor, a variety of forms of miscommunication.

'Yes,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'I, for example, sent a communication to the kitchens yesterday evening for a plate of warm buttered toast and Marmite and a pile of profiteroles with toffee sauce and for some strange reason, my order never arrived.'
'Strange indeed,' says I.

Anyway, this weekend I tried to order a range cooker from an on-line electrical appliance store. I wanted to place the order by phone because I had a couple of questions I wished to ask. Like would it be able to handle a Christmas goose without me having to shove it in sideways and give it an extra heave-ho with my foot.

I phoned the free-phone number. The website said that they aimed to answer all calls within 20 seconds of connection. After ploughing my way through the mass of 'Press 1 for...' option button doo-dahs, I was connected to some VERY LOUD music where I was deafened for 15 minutes and, with no sign of a customer service person, I decided to hang up.

I e-mailed their customer service department, and an automated response said someone would be in touch within 24 hours. 48 hours later, someone DID get in touch, apologising and saying that if I called their free-phone number, a customer service bod would be pleased to take my order. Doh! By now I had decided a) this was a shonky on-line company who didn't have any electrical appliances at all and were trying to steal my credit card details and b) I didn't want my hearing damaged further by their VERY LOUD music, so I ordered the same range cooker for the same price from Boots (I know - weird!) and got £27.36 worth of Boots points to spend!

Next, for some reason known only to AOL, we lost our internet connection for 2 days. Andy ran the gauntlet known as 'Technical Support' where the Level 1 operator refused to be sidetracked from his script, probably because the support line was a premium line and they were earning some money from us. Andy was then transferred to LEVEL 2 support, who said that it WASN'T our connection, it was a problem with the phone codes in our area (?????) which AOL was working hard to rectify. Andy was cross because a) why didn't the Level 1 technician know this and b) the Level 2 man was probably lying just to get rid of him.

Today, by some miraculous process, the internet is restored. And has there been any communication from AOL? Like an apology? An offer of refund for the two days we were off-line and the hour long phone call to their premium cost Technical Support line? Have there heck!

Next again - do you remember the saga of my pensioner tax code? Well, I got a new and correct tax code through the post 3 weeks ago. Toute de suite I took it to work where it was duly photocopied. Today, the finance lady tells me they haven't received notification from the Inland Revenue and they can't put me on the correct code until they do which means that AGAIN this month I'll be paying too much tax, but it's okay, she said, because it should be sorted by the end of December and it'll be like getting a big Christmas bonus when I get the refund.

I wanted to shout, 'NOOOOO!!!! It's not a bonus! It is, and always has been, my hard-earned money. And I need it NOW because I've just spent a fortune on a new range cooker and tiles for the bathroom. And if YOU hadn't inexplicably changed my tax code in the FIRST PLACE, then I wouldn't be having this aggravation now! It's all your fault, you bunch of incompetents!!! Aaaarghh!!!!!'

But I didn't because there were children present.

So I phoned the Inland Revenue AGAIN, who said they had sent out a notification to the school at the same time they sent out mine so it should have arrived. We checked addresses etc. The nice man said he would send out another. It should arrive in the next 7 days. It better had.

A courier has 'delivered' two boxes of Christmas pressies from Amazon by flinging them in a wild and careless fashion over our 7 foot fence and into a puddle on the other side. Luckily, the contents were undamaged, but I'm hoping the same courier hasn't been booked to deliver our bathroom tiles, or we could be in trouble with his maverick ways.

On the plus side though, communication with Dave the Plumber has been good, mostly because he has a very organised wife, and communication with Matt the Gas Man, who is installing the range, has been good mostly because he is a cheerful and obliging type with a diary.

And lastly, dear readers, I am sorry that my blog comments box has been spammed this week, and I hope no-one has been inconvenienced by clicking on the comments and ending up on some dubious website. I have deleted the comments.

And the communication I wish to send to those who spam is a) you are NOT welcome at the Manor, and b) well, b) is unrepeatable.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

On the Tiles

Dave the Plumber is due to start refitting our upstairs bathroom next Monday. This has thrown me into what is commonly known as 'Tile Panic.'

'We supply everything else,' said Dave. 'All you need to do is decide what tiles you want.'

All? ALL??????

I am assuming that, being a plumber of enormous experience, Dave is aware of the gazzillion types of tiles there are OUT THERE in the Universe. It not a case of having a choice of, say, three, and you can discount one immediately because it is avocado green. Oh no! I spent all last weekend fretting over tiles. I looked at around ninety seven websites, all with different tiles/colours/ textures/ sizes/ delivery times/ delivery dates/ costs/ inc VAT/ ex VAT/ etc etc until my little brain froze over and I considered installing an outdoor bathroom where tiles would be unrequired.

Eventually, because I am a big Laura Ashley fan and I love flowers, I chose some Laura Ashley flower tiles. Black flowers on white and white 'n' silver on white. But what combination to have them in? I then spent all this week taking the bathroom by surprise by opening the door suddenly and throwing a vision of a variety of black/ white/ patterned/ plain tile combos at the various bits of wall (metaphorically, of course, not literally - that would be crazy, not to mention loud and messy).

Andy tried to help. He made suggestions which he knew I'd reject, bless him, but then he seemed suddenly happier when he realised the tiles were LARGE tiles and not TIDDY tiles, I don't know why. And he said I should choose the tile combo because basically he really couldn't be bothered with interior design.

Neither could I at that point.

I even prayed to St Beenqueue, Goddess of la Toilette, for guidance. She suggested black on white half way up the walls from the floor and white 'n' silver on white for the top half of the walls except for the shower cubicle which should be white 'n' silver on white all the way from top to bottom! Crazy!

I said, 'Okay,' because now I can blame it all on her if it looks hideous.

And don't get me started on the measurements.

'How many should I get?' I asked Dave.
'Enough, plus 10%,' said Dave.

I brandished my tape measure. I made a wild guess and I added 10%. I remeasured the bottom bit for the black on white, then the rest for the white 'n' sliver on white, and then I made another wild guess and ordered the tiles before I could think about it too much. Fingers crossed. Oh, and I think I deserve an A level in Maths now, thank you very much.

We're off to the DIY shop now - to get flooring. And a mirror and a blind. Oh, and some tiles for the kitchen because we've decided, sod it, we're going to get a range cooker and we need to retile behind the space where it will go.

I can feel another tile panic coming on. The kitchen is in shades of green. P'raps avocado mightn't be so bad after all...

Friday, 11 November 2011

A Load of Bull

Mrs Pumphrey says...

'The Lady of the Manor has had a bit of a rough week. On minute she's being told she's in danger of being classed as a 'rubbish' teacher, the next she is being told she is a great teacher and the school love her. She is, as you can imagine, mightily confused and just a tad hacked off with the whole work thing. So tomorrow she has decided to have an 'art and craft' day. She is planning to knit a Nativity, to the background noise of a variety of possibly Christmas-themed DVDs. She is NOT to be disturbed...'
'She will be in possession of some sharp needles,' interjects Mrs Slocombe.
'Indeed,' says Tango Pete, who has arrived for a sleep-over-Strictly-Come-Dance-with-a-Cockerel' weekend.

'So I have stepped in to deliver today's blogeroo,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'And where is the Lady of the Manor?' says Mrs S.
'Holed up in her writing room with a bowl of frozen raspberries and a very loud CD of Queen,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'The raspberries will do her good. Give her teeth something solid to gnash upon.'
'I like a bit of Queen,' says Tango Pete. Mrs Pumphrey and Mrs Slocombe stare at him. There is a stony silence. A ball of tumbleweed bowls across the kitchen floor. Somewhere, in the distance, a wolf howls.

'Anyway,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'what's the blog for today, Jim?'
'Jim?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Yes,' says Mrs S. 'You know, like years ago when Jimmy Young used to rule Radio 2 and he had a little squeaky voiced character called Raymondo who used to say, 'What's the recipe for today, Jim?' and then 'This... is do!'
'I'm not cooking,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'I know that,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'I don't get it,' says Mrs P.
'Never mind,' says Mrs S. 'I expect you aren't the only one.'

'TODAY!' says Mrs Pumphrey, loudly, in order to gain ownership of the conversation once and for all, 'is Martinmas. And many years ago, in Scotland, there lived a farmer who had an unusual cow.'
'Was it a cow shaped like a chicken?' says Mrs S.
'No, it was a cow shaped like a cow,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'What was unusual about it was that its name was Hawkie and it insisted on being serviced by an elf-bull...'
'Not by Halfords?' says Mrs S.
'No,' says Mrs P.
'Is an elf-bull connected in any way at all to the elf-service?' says Mrs S.
'Just shut up,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'The elf-bull lived in the river and it was small and had fur like an otter...'
'Was it actually an otter?' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Was Hawkie in need of some elf-service spectacles? Ahahahahahahahahaha!!!'
'You are so irritating sometimes,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'The elf-bull was very fertile and Hawkie produced fine calves every year. But one Martinmas Day, the Scottish farmer decided that Hawkie was looking a bit old and haggard so he thought he'd sell her at the Martinmas Fair.'
'How ungrateful,' says Mrs Slocombe.
'And Hawkie got to hear of his evil plan,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'So she broke the wall to the barn, called all her calves together and they all went to the river and jumped in!'
'To be with the elf-bull?' says Mrs S.
'Probably,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'The details are non-specific.'
'So what did the farmer do?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Spent the rest of the day searching for the moral,' says Mrs Pumphrey.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Gun Powder, Treason and Plop.

The hens are building a bonfire in the back garden. It's quite a small bonfire as I have banned them from using the stepladder after Mrs Slocombe used it rescue a balloon from a telegraph wire about a month ago and ended up dangling from the wire herself, the balloon fluttering gaily to its frredom in the great beyond.

'I told her not to go up there,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'I told her she'd had one too many gins and flip-flops are unstable footwear for ladder climbing, but would she listen?'
'What?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'See?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'I do,' I say, 'but you're still banned from using the stepladder. Health and Safety.'
'So what do we do now?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'We want a proper bonfire of enormous height and magnitude, not a poor excuse of a small cushion of twigs.'
'Stack chairs,' I say. 'One on top of each other. I'm not allowed to use a step-ladder at school to put up classroom displays, so I stand on a chair instead. Sometimes I put a chair on a desk.'
'Much safer, then,' says Mrs P.
'I'll say,' I say. 'I barely wobble at all.'

So there is a chair stack in the garden at the moment and the bonfire is taking on gargantuan proportions. Well, gargantuan when you're only 18 inches tall. Still small by my 5 feet 6 standards.

'You've never bothered with celebrating Guy Fawkes Night before,' I remark, as the chairs slip away from each other and Mrs Slocombe disappears from view somewhere behind the remains of this year's hops.
'Guy Squawkes,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'Not Guy Fawkes. Guy Squawkes.'
'I assume from this you are boiling for a story of important historical relevance?' I say.
'You bet,' says Mrs Pumphrey.

Once again, it seems, the chickens got there first...

'Twas back in 1605,' begins Mrs Pumphrey. Mrs Slocombe emerges from the undergrowth, straightens her bodywarmer and restacks the chairs. 'And a plan to overthrow Parliament was afoot. Clandestine meetings in dubious dark corners in even more dubious taverns had been occurring for weeks. Civil unrest was building, and it was all to do with the Corn Laws.'

'Weren't the Corn Laws introduced way after 1605?' I say. 'Like, a couple of hundred years later?'
'Yes, well, that's just typical, isn't it?' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'We chickens try to be organised and nip these things in the bud, and look what we get for our trouble. Ignored, that's what. If humans listened to chickens, the world wouldn't be in such a sad and sorry state.'
'Pardon?' I say. I am distracted by Mrs Slocombe who is now climbing back up the chairs with what appears to be a small wardrobe attached to her, backpack style.

'Anyway,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'The plot was set to blow the Houses of Parliament to kingdom come, and the hero of the hour was to be Guy Squawkes, who drew the short straw from the hen's nest.'
'Should hens be playing with gunpowder?' I say.
'Another myth,' says Mrs P. 'The plan was to use powered chicken plop. Much more eye-watering.'
'This is true,' I say. 'And would explain 'gunpowder, treason and plop.'
'And this is where the hole in the plot appeared,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'There should have been 5 bags of dried ploppings, enough to lay an incendiary trail from the cellars all the way up to the throne where King James parked his Royal backside.'
'Where was King James during all this?' I say.
'Having toffee apples and sausages with Shakespeare,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'They were working on the script of Macbeth. Oh, and burning a few witches.'
'Oh,' I say.
'So there was only enough ploppings to go half way along the corridor, about as far as the members' bar,' says Mrs P. 'Unfortunately, Guy Squawkes was rather fond of a flagon of ale, so when his ploppings trail dried up, he caught a whiff of the brew and side tracked himself in the bar. And one flagon turned into four or five and the next the gang know is that Guy Squawkes is standing on a table singing something like, 'We're going to blow the king to smithereens and we're going to do it tonight!' at the top of his voice.'
'Kind of gave the game away, didn't it?' I say.
'Indeed,' says Mrs P.
'Didn't he meet a rather gruesome end?' I say, thinking of the ensuing hanging, drawing and quartering malarkey.
Mrs Pumphrey sighs. 'Indeed,' she says. 'He was elected MP for the London Borough of Enfield, and endured many years of surgeries dealing with a quite bonkers electorate who made unreasonable demands like free plague carts on Sundays and nuts for all.'

'I can see now,' I say, 'how British history has been sorely misrecorded.'

A loud BANG! causes Mrs Pumphrey and I to jump, almost from our wellies.

'Sorry!!' shouts Mrs Slocombe, emerging from a cloud of smoke. 'I was just testing a Roman Candle with Andy's blow torch!'
'She can trace her ancestry back to Guy Squawkes, you know,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'I'm not surprised,' I say.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Cob Nuts and Blankets

I forgot to mention two other pressies from yesterday - a cobnut tree and a wool blanket. I forgot the blanket because it's already on the sofa being tres snugglesome and I forgot the nut tree because it arrived last week and I thought it was Lego (don't ask) and it got planted in the garden at once because now is the time of year for nut tree planting.

Auntie Pollie noticed the nut tree and she said she'd be along to steal nuts as soon as they were ready. I have posted a nut-tree goblin guard at the front gate in order to thwart her in her nut-nicking mission.

Anyway, remember the Stalking Stabbing Boy at school? Well, yesterday he went for me. More verbally than physically, but it got pretty close. He didn't know it was my birthday - well, I 'd like to think he did know it was my birthday because I had written 'MY BIRTHDAY' on my whiteboard in big purple letters, which he should have been able to read but maybe his stoned-out-of-brain little eyeballs were having trouble focusing. Anyway, he was duly carted off, permanently, and an alternative curriculum in a special place and an appointment with a mental health specialist were promptly arranged.

And I was left to swelter in my classroom which is fast turning into a hot-house in summer because the heating thermostat has gone haywire but it can't be adjusted because the key to the casing that surrounds the thermostat is 'misplaced'. Lewis in Year 11 suggested I 'smash the cover, ma'am! Go on! Smash the cover!' I declined on the grounds I am now officially too old to be charged with criminal damage. Instead, nearly a week into November, I opened ALL the windows, plus the sky lights and tried to cool the room down that way. I apologise for the microcosm of global warming I am creating.

A new student is joining my English Lit class this week bringing the total to 11. I have warned him that he MUST WORK HARD to catch up and he MUST NOT FUSS about the extra work and ANY ARGUMENTS and he'll be out on his little ear. Actually, two students tried to join the group, the second one being French. Now, this shouldn't be a barrier, but I set him a little assessmentette to gauge his English Language skills, and it transpired they were generally, well, dire. In fact, my French was better than his English. So I suggested that maybe the finer points of Shakespeare and Jane Austen and a bunch of eccentric poets probably wasn't the best way for him embark on an A level education.

However, his father is VERY KEEN for him to do English Literature. But I shall stick to my professional guns. 'NON, monsieur! Pas de tout. Votre fils ne connait pas la difference between le rhyme et le rhythm. Absolutement PAS!' I shall dit.

I am glad it's Friday tomorrow. I am pooped. My power of rational thought is disappearing. I mean, coming home at 5.30 this evening, in the dark and the rain, I thought it's be a jolly good idea to pop into Sainsbugs and get a couple of bags of shopping. And then it took me half an hour to get back out of the car park into the rush hour traffic.


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Birth Day

I have been a very lucky birthday girl today!

Andy is, as we speak, in the kitchen slaving over a proper Italian meal for dinner this evening.

I received many lovely pressies - a book on travelling in Italy, Monty Don's 'Italian Gardens' DVD, a book on growing orchids, the latest Philippa Gregory novel and the latest Paul Torday novel; a CD of Caro Emerald (1940s swing-type music), a variety of scented smellies - Chanel 19, Body Shop pamplemousse and White Musk Libertine and Avon Roses, a cute storage tin with cats upon't, a cute diary with cats upon't, a cute key holder with chickens upon't, Maltesers, flowers, fluffy socks for my poor frozen toeses, vouchers for M & S and Waterstones, and a Samsung Galaxy Smart-phone with slidey, sweepy touch-pad control that will drag me into the 21st century good and proper and stop the kids at school laughing at my tinky wee flip top phone.

It's a good start to the next year of my life. I have decided to view my birthday as more of a New Year than the 1st January New Year. It seems more relevant this year, somehow, and there are less leftovers threatening to scupper my health-kick plans.

And 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to Ollie, who shares this November 2nd day with me. I shan't tell you who is the slightly older of us two, but she knows who she is!!