Thursday, 29 December 2011

Playing Games

You wouldn't think that a small person who is still three months short of her second birthday would be able to master the swanee whistle, would you? All that blowing and sliding the slider up and down in a manner that is co-ordinated enough to produce a decent sound. Yet Kayleigh has learned, and can now wander about the house making noises like a deranged Clanger.

We thought, let's try the child, who is clearly a musical genius, with something a little more challenging. Like a kazoo. Which is also more annoying, as we soon discovered when she managed to get the hang of that too, albeit in short and loud bursts. Stylophone next, I think. (She's had a couple of goes on my piano keyboard, but this generally involves using her bottom to play it, which is good neither for my nerves nor the instrument, so a return to the piano keyboard may be postponed for a few more months yet.)

On Christmas Day, the combined ages of the adults at the Manor was 181, giving an average age of 30.1666 recurring. Whilst one of us, (me!) is more than half that average again and clearly, therefore, was the most mature to deal with co-ordinating a bloomin' good Christmas dinner though I do say so myself, the rest of the 'adults' (and I use that term in the loosest possible sense), ran amok with various toy weaponry and a flying monkey that made a heck of screeching noise every time it flew through the air. They also played a variety of ridiculous games with 'suitable for ages 8 - 12 years' stamped on the boxes, and generally got very silly - silliness that resulted in at least one banged head and a stamped-upon foot.

On more than one occasion, Kayleigh looked at me as if to say, 'What on EARTH are they doing, Gran?'

That said, it was the funniest Christmas Day I've ever enjoyed! More of that, say I!

Today I went and had a haircut. I had a haircut a couple of weeks ago, and I was stupidly seduced into a bob. This isn't the first time this has happened, so really I shouldn't forget that when I am at home and have neither the time nor the inclination to blow dry a bob properly, I end up looking like a deranged spaniel. Well, usually, when this happens, I play the waiting game of six weeks or so until my next appointment and then I have myself debobbed until the next time I think,' Hmmm, a bob looks like a nice hair-do.' But this time, for some bizarre reason, I couldn't bear the wait. I went back today.
I said, 'Please debob me, and if I show any signs of heading bob-wards again, show me a picture of 'Country Life' magazine and bark a couple of times.'
'Okay,' they said.
I emerged from the hairdresser a few quid lighter and feeling ten years younger.

In the local news, a woman is in hospital following a road accident. Oh dear, I hear you say. But wait, let me fill you in on the details. The woman was 60. And a granny. She was a passenger on a quad bike.


Now, I'm all for saying you are never too old to try new experiences, but in this case I make an exception. SIXTY??? ON A QUAD BIKE????? You can imagine the scene - parent gives their child a quad bike for Christmas which in itself shows a certain lunacy. Granny says, 'I wish I was young enough to have a go on that - it looks fun.' Her son (parent of the child) says, 'Come on, Mum. Hop on behind me, and I'll take you for a spin,' and so she hops on, he revs up because he is approaching middle age and wants to show off a bit, and off they roar, leaving little Jimmy standing in their wake thinking, 'I wish they'd got me Lego instead.'

They collided with a Ford Fiesta, which suggests that one of these vehicles was travelling in the wrong place.

Trouble is, this kind of accident happens nearly every year in Kent, Lord knows why. Well, I do know why, but I don't like to say because I don't want to be seen as being er...disresepctful to certain members of the community, but all I can say is, A SIXTY YEAR OLD GRANNY ON A QUAD BIKE????

So there we go. Age knows no barriers - no swanee whistles, kazoos, Christmas malarkey and bobs.

And no quad bikes, apparently.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Quiet Inbetween

'I think,' says Mrs Pumphrey, who has joined me in the kitchen to assist with a two-handed assault on the remainder of the Christmas shortbread, 'that Christmas Day, followed by Boxing Day, should then be followed immediately by New Year's Eve. Three days - bish, bash, bosh! Get it over and done with as quickly as possible.'

'I agree,' I agree. 'It's an odd time of year, isn't it, this gap between Christmas and New Year?'

'More odd for the likes of Mrs Slocombe,' says Mrs Pumphrey, nodding towards the garden. Mrs Slocombe has declined the biscuit fest in preference of playing with her new basket ball hoop set. She is remarkably good at 'slammin' the dunk' given she is only 14 inches tall and the net is eight feet tall. (I believe 'slammin' the dunk' to be the correct term, but my American friends can feel free to put me right on this one, as I may be having a quaint English moment following the ingesting of too much spiced red cabbage.)

'She's decided she wants to try out for the women's basketball team for the 2012 Olympics,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Haven't the teams already been selected?' I say. 'The Games are only 200 odd days away now.'
'Oh, I don't know,' sighs Pumphrey. 'I'm just humouring her at the moment. I managed to dissuade her from applying for the beach volleyball on the grounds that a chicken's bottom is never going to look good in a thong.'
'And for that the world will be eternally grateful,' I say
'Are the Games really that close?' says Mrs Pumphrey. We have finished the Christmas shortbread and are now moving on to the Christmas cheesey crackers and leftover red pepper houmous.

I confirm that they are. I know they are imminent because Andy and I went for a walk in our local park yesterday which is currently being transformed with new paths and carparks, and the dredging of streams and the felling of trees and the landscaping of well, er...landscape. The local council might say that this massive project is for the benefit of us local people, but I know full well that if the Olympics weren't happening an hour up the railway track, then our park would be left in its usual state of fairly ordered parkiness rather than being transformed into a super-duper 'we're expecting masses of visitors' parkiness.

'Are you planning on being less cynical in 2012?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'No,' says I. 'But I am planning on being less reactive. I've already made a start. No Daily Mail for four days now.'
'That's very good,' says Mrs Pumphrey.

We sit in companionable silence, because that's all one can do in this quiet inbetween that buffers Christmas from the New Year. That and have a jolly good read of the books one received for Christmas. My favourite so far has been Stella Gibbons' 'Christmas At Cold Comfort Farm.' In fact, I have decided to make Stella Gibbons my Author of Choice for 2012, and have used an Amazon voucher I received to buy three more of her novels.

'So,' I say, once Mrs P has unglued her beak from the bottom of the houmous pot, 'have you any plans for 2012?'
'I'm still working on them,' says Mrs P, mysteriously. 'And now I think I'm going to slam a dunk with Mrs Slocombe.'
'It's the only way,' I say.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Very Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing you all, wherever you are, whoever you are with, a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Thank you for continuing to tune in, and for giving me a reason to carry on writing.

God bless you, every one!


Thursday, 22 December 2011


The weather has been somewhat erratic of late. A spell of very heavy morning frosts, a spell of the wet and windies, and last Friday a spell of snow which came to nothing but made the North Downs look very pretty for a few hours.

And today it is mild and bright and sunny! And the top bar bees are out and about and being quite raucous like they are wending their way home from a particularly feisty Christmas party. They are staggering a bit, if it is possible to fly in a staggering way, and the figure of eight bee dance looks a bit more like a wobbly figure of half-deflated balloon dance. But some of the gals are coming back with enormous trousers, so they are finding food from somewhere and it's nice to know they're able to get out for an al fresco bee poo, rather than use the indoor facilities.

We checked the hives at the out-apiary on Tuesday. Andy pressed his ear to each hive and reported definite humming from each. Especially the three storey hive. Very loud humming apparently. Humming like it was a hive full of a gazzillion bees.

Therefore, we are hopeful that our four colonies will survive the Winter. Touch wood, fingers crossed and all the jazz.

Actually, we have concerns for the smallest colony which was born of one of the swarms. It achieved about three quarters capacity with the help of some additional feeding at the tail end of Autumn. The Queen was laying well for a new, late season Queen. She did her best, bless her. But we think that some candy feed might be in order.
'I'll buy some now from the interwebbly,' said Andy. 'So when the weather gets really cold,' (which we think it will), 'we can pop a block of fondant on for them.'

Fondant itself is quite cheap. It is also very heavy. Like a brick. Which means that postage costs 150% more than the product itself. But hurrah! We have discovered we can make our own fondant and given I purchased a massive sack of sugar for the feeding of the bees and we have a preserving pan for the making of sugar related products, we are going to make our own fondant and sod the postage and packaging.

It's been a bit chaotic, our journey into bee-keeping. But some how, possibly under the guidance of the patron Saint of Bee-Keeping who has no doubt done a lot of eye-ball rolling at our sometimes frantic and panicked methods, book in one hand, dollop of laissez-faire luck in the other, we have survived our second year.

Andy pointed out that if the bees behave next year like they did this year, then this time next year we could well have 16 hives.

Good grief!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


...not only have we had a spooky bathroom haunting this week, and me 'losing' my keys, I discovered yesterday that I had been wearing my pants inside out all day! What's all that about then??

Andy has started jogging. I'm not sure if he will want you to know this as it is a NEW thing but what brought it on is that Andy and I have been on a healthy eating plan for the last three and a half months and I have lost two stones and Andy has lost three! But we have reached what I believe is called a 'plateau'(which, ironically, rhymes with gateau), plus it is nearly Christmas and dieting over Christmas seems to smack of 'BAH HUMBUG!' to me. So Andy has decided to unplateau himself by doing more exercise and,hopefully, off-set some Christmas cheer AKA many, many pigs in blankets to boot.
'Can one have too many pigs in blankets at Christmas time?' I say.
'No,' says Andy.
'Are pigs in blankets like worms in duvets?' says Mrs Pumphrey, who has started shopping for the hen Christmas dinner doo-dah.
'I expect so,' says I. 'It's all dead animal carcass, isn't it?'

I have decided to stay a la plateau for a couple of week because I am reaching that point where if I lose too much more weight I am going to become haggard and gaunt and my cheeks will meet up with my knee caps and I'll look like a melted Salvador Dali monstrosity. Plus, I had a minor thrilling moment on Monday when I was able to purchase a pair of knee-high boots from a normal shoe-shop rather than a shop for larger ladies where they make boots with elasticated tops to fit around larger than average calves. I have decided that as a)I now appear to have 'normal' size calves and b)my thumb and forefinger can touch when I circle them around my wrist and c) if I flick my hand too hard my wedding and engagement rings almost fly off, I can safely indulge in some Christmas stuffing in the form of a squash, cranberry and Stilton pie and the speciality Much Malarkey Manor Christmas Trifle, which is becoming a bit a family tradition.

Maybe exercise in the New Year. Because I LOVE exercise!! Ahahahahahhahahahahahaaaaa!!!!!!

Yesterday, I went to Sainsbugs for to do most of the shopping save for the goose (poor dead thing) which I am collecting on Friday. I reached the cheese section which seems to expand at an alarming rate this time of year. So many cheeses - Stilton, Brie, Cheddar with cranberries, Cheddar with apricots, Cheddar with smokey bits, Cheddar with Cheddar, Wenselydale with grit, Lancashire with hotpot, Cheshire with cats and Parmesan with er...palms, Gouda with goo and Double Gloucester with Doctor Foster. Oh, you get the idea. Too many cheeses.

And I was standing next to a lady, who was looking as confused as I at the selection of cheeses, and we both sighed at exactly the same time.
'Too many cheeses,' said she. And I agreed.
'I know what will hapen,' she said. 'I'll take all this cheese home and no-one will eat it except me and I'll end up going down the doctors after Christmas to be put on a higher dose of cholesterol pills.'

See??? See what Christmas cheese does????

Mum popped in this morning and we had a similar conversation about there being too much food at Christmas. So I gave her a single Jaffa cake with her cuppa and sent her on her way.

We're not going to go mad this year. We've both lost a significant amount of weight and actually we find we can't eat what we used to anyway, not without there being a certain amount of dyspepsia and acid-reflux ensuing.

I shall wear my new boots around the kitchen for the next week or so. If my calves start expanding ,I shall know I've gone too far.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Mrs Black is Back

You remember the resident Much Malarkey Manor ghost? The deceased mother of the previous incumbent, who objects to any house alterations we do, because she hasn't got over the fact we now own this place and she doesn't?

Well, she's been very quiet of late, especially given Dave the Plumber has revamped the bathroom and it is now all shining and gleaming like a posh hotel-type bathroom.

Until yesterday. Yesterday we had to call out the electrician because the bathroom light suddenly stopped working. The electrician came out, changed it, it worked fine.

And then the bathroom door inexplicably LOCKED itself from the inside! We thought someone was inside the bathroom, until we counted ourselves and discovered that we were all outside the bathroom. Andy had to get his tool box out to take off the handle and unlock the door from the outside.

And then the bathroom window decided it wasn't going to shut. It did, eventually, after a lot of wiggling and jiggling and poking with various DIY implements.

And then this morning I lost my car and house keys! Okay, nothing to do with the bathroom, but once a ghost starts to misbehave, they know no bounds and I think Mrs Black was, by then, intent on trying to scupper our outing to Canterbury, especially as she knew I was looking for a Christmas jumper and a pair of long boots.

We turned the house upside-down looking for the keys. Now, when I arrive home, I do either one of two things with my keys. I deposit them in the mouse bowl by the front door or I deposit them on the sideboard in the kitchen. The first option is when I have only my handbag with me and the second option is when I have shopping with me and am carrying my keys between my teeth.

I checked both my handbags - the big one and the little one. I checked my coat pockets. I checked the kitchen, the hall , the living room and the writing room. I went outside and checked the path and the driveway. No keys.

Andy followed behind me, checking all the places I checked, just in case, like you do.

No keys. I am thinking, there's a burglar waiting for us to go out and when we do he/she/scum will be in the house stealing Christmas presents and using the new toilet with dual action flush. Andy is thinking, they'll turn up somewhere. (The keys, not the burglar.)

Anyway, I found the spare car key and we decided to go to Canterbury. I was fretting quite a lot, and cursing my stupid and forgetful brain. Off we went.

And on the way, I did two things - I prayed to St Anthony to find the lost keys and I stopped for some petrol.

As I was standing in the petrol station waiting to pay for my petrol, I caught myself scanning the floor in case my keys were there. Like they would be, in a place I'd never been to before. And St Anthony kept saying, 'Your keys aren't lost,' and I kept saying, 'Well, where the heck are they then?' and the other people in the queue were slowly backing away.

I paid for the petrol. And, as I put the purse back in the bag, there, in the little side pocket - were my keys!!!!!

How many times had Andy and I checked my bag??

Yet there they were!!

Somewhere in the ether, the ghost of Mrs Black let out an old-lady titter.

I was not amused.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Cluckenchickenhoffen Kuchen

Mrs Slocombe says...

It is the time of year when hens across the world make a cake to celebrate the festive season. It is called the 'Cluckenchickenhoffen Kuchen' and I have decided to share the recipe with you, the human beings, whom I believe have a similar tradition called, rather uninventively, the 'Christmas Cake.'

'What else is it supposed to be called?' I say. 'It's Christmas, it's a cake.'
'You, at the back,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'sit still and be quiet. You wouldn't interrupt Michel Roux Junior, would you, when he's in the middle of a moment of Masterchef creative genius?'
'Yes,' I say, 'in fact, I would. If only to tell him to stop bugging his eyes.'
'Point taken,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'but you can still hush your beak. I'm in charge of the blog today.'

I sit back and shut my beak. Actually, it's a relief to allow a guest blogger to take up the keyboard, so to speak, because I have far too much else to do, including catching up on a fortnight of sleep.

'So, here we are, the eighteenth of December or, as we call it in hen world, 'Cluckenchickenhoffen Kuchen Nachten Nuiten Night,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'And in order to begin the process of making your cluckenchickenhoffen kuchen, you will need a large bowl, a wooden spoon, a sieve, a pair of secateurs, a baking tin of a least three feet in diameter, and a large wine glass.'

'For measuring out a glassful of brandy for the cake?' I say.
'For measuring out a few glasses of wine for me, because I'm going to need them after I've finished this process,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Cluckenchickenhoffen Kuchen Nachten Nuiten Night is also the night of the year when nearly every hen I know gets completely blotto. There's a lot of singing,' she adds.

'Right,' I say.

'Firstly,' says Mrs Slocombe, 'pour yourself a glass of wine. Let's start how we mean to go on. Next, open your kitchen cupboards and see what you've got in them you can put in the cake.'
'You mean, there isn't a recipe?' I say.
'Recipe schmecipe,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'This cake is a bit like Lent. You throw in whatever you've got that needs using up because its best before day is nigh. You know, like in the song, 'A-weigh for to manger.'
'As in the French for 'to eat?' I say, because the written word is never very clear on pronunciation hints.
'Indeed,' says Mrs S. 'The last verse is very specific,' and she sings, 'Beer, mincemeat, four cheeses, salami, some hay, cloves, honey,a muffin, some ice cubes and steak.'
'Stop there,' I say. 'I think I get the idea.

'So, in the cupboards at the Manor I found the following to go in the cake,' says Mrs S, taking a sip or eight of her large glass of Pinot Grigio, 'half a jar of ginger balls in syrup, a box of quinoa, a jar of malt extract minus a tablespoon and a sachet of a cereal called Crunchy Nutty Honey Bits and Boulders...'
'That was a free sample,' I say.
'...and a can of crab meat, some red lentils, a jar of Much Malarkey Manor marmalade labelled Feb 2009, a half jar of pickled beetroot. I scraped off the mould,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'It'll be fine.'
'And that's all going in the cake?' I say.
'All except the beetroot,' says Mrs S. 'I'm saving that for the decoration. I may glace it first. Are there any acute accents on this keyboard?'
'Probably,' I say. 'Though I've yet to find them.'

Mrs Slocombe opens the jar of ginger balls in syrup. She takes a sniff, then imbibes of another glass of wine to stop her eyes watering.

'Take your bowl,' she announces, 'and add all the ingredients, excepting of the garnish of your choice.' And, between sips from wine bottle number two, she adds all the ingredients to the bowl. A fizz from some dubious chemical reaction follows.
'Is there a method for going about this mixing?' I say. 'Like creaming or whisking, or folding or sieving?'
'All of those,' says Mrs S. 'Solding and fisking and screaming and whifking. Spoon your wield as you wolly gel jish.'
'Okay,' I say. 'I'm glasdI clarified that.'
'Too me,' says Mrs S. 'Cheers!'

And then there is a pause whilst Mrs Slocombe steadies herself against the kitchen table and pours another glass of wine.

'Next,' she says, 'set fire, I mean, heat your oven to electri-gas hob mark twelve and treek waters. Line your taking bin with preef-goose pooper and pour your mixture into the tin as pickly as quossible to avoid acid burns.'

I decide to take over at this point, as Mrs Slocombe is looking decidedly green around the wattles.

'How long does one cooken the cluckenchickenhoffen kuchen for?' I say.
'I generally leave it in until koke smills the hitchen,' says Mrs Slocombe. 'Is there any wore mine? Thish bottle eems a bit smempty.'
'I think you've had enough,' I say.
'I'll shay when I've nuff ahad,' says Mrs S. 'I'm not as drunk as some thinkle peep I am.'
'I think that's the point,' I say. 'You can't say.'

Mrs S raises a wing in the air as if she is about to make a strategic point. She goes a little boss-eyed and then drops to the floor like a concrete block.

I empty the contents of the baking tin into the bin, and use the oven to heat up a few mince pies, one of which I nibble upon with a cup of tea to the sound of Mrs Slocombe snoring under the table.

I think we've just experienced what a barber might call, a very close shave.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Love is...

I am tired. Very tired. It is proving to be a long haul to the Christmas holidays.

Thus was I a weary, fed-up traveller when I arrived home this evening. All I wanted to do, all I was capable of doing, was having a shower, getting changed and drinking a mug of tea. And even then I wasn't sure about my ability to stay awake long enough to do that.

And then...

Andy, my lovely, kind, sweet and adorable husband, presented me a gingerbread house! Yes, he made it himself. Today. With his own masterchef hands.
Isn't it wonderful? Isn't it great? Isn't it just a piece of pure Christmas magic?
I sat and stared at it. I nibbled on a piece of gingerbread wall. I marvelled at its little melted sweet windows, and its tree, and its almond-tiled roof.

I thought, 'Love is when a little thing lifts up a weary soul.'

I thought, ' Love is an unexpected moment of childish happiness.'

I thought, 'Love is...a gingerbread house!'

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Bah Humbug!

'I refuse,' I said on Thursday, 'to decorate the house for Christmas until I've broken up from school. Absolutely refuse.'

'It doesn't feel like Christmas,' I said to Andy, on Friday.

Well, it didn't. It was freezing cold, so that ticked the December box, and I was thinking, I'm going to have to tackle the North face of the Eiger on Sunday, aka defrost the freezer, but other than that the only Christmas excitement had been a) opening the Advent calendar doors in the morning b) lighting the Advent candle in the evening and c) forcing my tutor group to watch 'A Muppet Christmas Carol' during tutor time at school because I didn't fancy delivering the rather grim presentation provided by my Chapter head. I shan't tell you what it was about, but it would have involved a lot of awkward questions from the children, the kind of questions a Grandma shouldn't have to answer first thing in the morning when she's only recently had breakfast.

So yesterday, Saturday, we decided to go to Rochester Christmas Market. We went last year. It was good. This year, we took Chris, Leane and Kayleigh with us. The market was full of unusual foods, and artisan presents and fairground rides and people in costume pretending it was 1870 something.
Lesson Number One - there is nothing like a small grandchild gazing in wonder at people dressed up in Dickensian costume whilst trying to eat a pretty hefty chunk of ginger biscuit to put you in the Christmas mood.

In the afternoon, we went to buy our Christmas tree. Given we've had a living room rejiggle this year, space has become available for a slightly larger than usual Christmas tree. And Andy had already hinted at upsizing.
'I want a huge Christmas tree this year,' he said.
We came home with one that was nearly 7 feet tall and handsomely buxom. And as we had just paid almost £30 for aforesaid tree, we brought it indoors straight away in order to get our money's worth. And decorated it. Cor, it did smell good!
Lesson Number Two - one cannot have a bare tree dominating a corner of one's living room without decorating it and one cannot have a decorated tree in a house without the rest of the house matching.

So, with the decorations and lights up inside, it seemed crazy not to deal with the outside of the house, too. Heather and I went out into the bitter cold where I skidded about on top of the stepladder and hung lights on the weatherboard, and Heather shivered about on the path guiding the lights up to me and providing a safety cushion should I happen to topple from stepladder in a no doubt high-comedy moment.
Inside, Andy was constructing a wreath for the front door from MMM willow, holly gleaned from the woods out the back of his workplace and ivy gleaned from under the MMM front hedge. The wreath was hung upon the front door. It looks fab!
Lesson Number 3 - if you're going to decorate a house, then inside and out is the order of the day. If you leave out the outside it will only sulk. And it's nice to share some twinkling lighty wreathy cheer with the neighbours.

Thoughts ran, then, to how atrocious the postal system is at this time of year. So on went the Salvation Army band Christmas carol CD, out came the cards, stamps and cups of tea, and Andy and I spent a companionable hour writing our Christmas cards together. They were then posted, against my better judgement, in the strange little post box at the end of the road, in which (and this is a well known fact) lives a family of arsonistic gnomes who set fire to all the post before it can be collected for delivery. This means no one will get a card from us this year, but I did warn Andy about the gnomes, and he chose to ignore my warning, so it's his fault, okay?
Lesson Number 4 - Christmas cards - it's the thought that counts. Well, it'll have to this year, now the gnomes have burned our offerings.

And with the darkness descending, we switched on the Christmas lights. I went a bit fuzzy-eyed at the sight of the Christmas tree, and a bit fuzzy-eared because I seem to have developed a spot of tinnitus. And the semi-final of Strictly Come Dancing was on the telly, and it was fab 'n' Christmassy.

And this morning, I am taking a break from freezer defrosting to write this blog a) because my aged aunt has complained I've slipped behind this week and left her with nothing to read, and b) my fingers are frozen with all the scraping-ice-off-with-a-spatula malarkey and I need to bring them back to life with a bit of nifty keyboard dancing.

The freezer will soon be ready to receive Christmas goodies.

Does it feel like Christmas now?

Yes, it does!

Sunday, 4 December 2011


'And what is this?' says Mrs Pumphrey, who has dropped in to raid my wool basket for a spot of angora/ acrylic mix.
'It's my new range cooker,' says I.
'It looks like the control desk of the Starship Enterprise,' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'It is,' I say. 'Only with flame throwers.'
'And how easy is it to handle?' says Mrs P.
'Oh, no-one's allowed to USE it,' I say. 'That would be crazy.'
'So it's just going to sit there?' says Mrs Pumphrey.
'Indeed,' I say. 'Sit there and be admired.'

Okay, I know it will have to be used, I suppose, what with Christmas looming and people wanting to eat bits of dead animal and cake, but I am out there in the kitchen every evening a-buffing and a-polishing to keep my magnificent piece of cooking kit as pristine as possible for as long as possible. I may even develop some OCD tendencies. Who knows?

And the bathroom is almost done. Dave the Plumber reckons one more day and it will be back to shower heaven. I don't mind baths, but they are a lot of faff and they turn your bottom pink if you wallow for too long.

'I know what you mean,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'I had a pink bottom for AGES!'
'That wasn't because you sat in a bath too long,' I say. 'That's because Mrs Slocombe is a bad feather plucker.'
'But not any more,' says Mrs Pumphrey who has been sporting full bottom feather coverage for several weeks now, ever since her annual moult.'
'No,' I say. 'It's surprising what a well-aimed peck in the head will discourage, isn't it?'
'I'll say,' says Mrs P.

Andy, meanwhile, has been out pruning the willow. This is not a euphemism. He has been up a ladder with the secateurs, and he collected enough willow whips this morning to weave an enormous willow wreath for the front door. It is truly enormous. Of car-tyre proportions. He also wove a smaller wreath of steering wheel proportions and then he wove a Christmas tree shape of three feet high triangular proportions. I have earmarked the willow Christmas tree for the spot just outside the front door, and I intend to drape it with solar powered Christmas lights. Andy is dubious of its ability to support lights. I am willing to give it a shot.

Kayleigh has started going swimming on a Sunday morning with my Mum. She is, by all accounts, becoming a proper water baby. She is also starting to say more words and today I am SURE she said, 'Daddy at work.'

The Much Malarkey Manual 2012 has arrived, hot off the printing press. For rush job, it looks pretty darn fabulous!

The knitted nativity is looking woeful like a pile of unknitted wool. For this, I blame school.

And talking of school, my tax code has FINALLY been sorted. So the Bursar assures me. I remain to be convinced until I see my next salary slip. And there had better be a hefty size tax rebate on it.

I think Chelsee or Harry should win Strictly Come Dancing.

Andy has found a CD of Salvation Army band playing Christmas carols. I am thrilled by this because it means we can sing-along without interruption from professional singing artistes getting in the way. I love the sound of a good brass band.

My friend, Sarah, and I went to see Adam Ant in concert on Friday night. My hearing has just about recovered. Sarah is still in possession of her pants.

My friend, Sarah, and I met our friend Alison for a girlie pub lunch on Saturday. It was great! Best triple fried fat chips on the planet. We agreed we should meet up more often, especially since we are enjoying comparing notes on the ageing process so much. Alison declined to join us for the Adam Ant extravaganza. But then she is two weeks older than me and two months older than Sarah. She is clearly the grown up of our outfit.

And that's all I have to say.