Thursday, 30 August 2012

Of the Decade, Week and Day

Invention of the Decade:

A major company, whom I shan't name because if they want an advert on my blog they can jolly well pay for the pleasure, has designed a biro especially for ladies. They come in pastel shades of pink, purple and lilac because that's what us girlies like apparently; they are slim of barrel, to fit our teeny-tiny girlie hands, and they are lighter, because our girlie wrists are too weak to manage one of those enormously heavy man-biros.

Well! All I can say is 'thank goodness for that!' All these years I've been struggling with a man-biro (nasty, heavy, dull of colour things)- no wonder I've remained unpublished as a writer! This could be the answer to my authorial aspirations. A girlie biro is bound to help me manage my writing better.

But which colour should I choose? I like pink and purple AND lilac. And my indecisive girlie brain is already struggling with the decision. Perhaps I should get all three? But that means I'd have to ask my husband permission to make such an extravagant purchase. 'Why do you want three girlie biros?' he'll say. 'After all, your girlie brain can only cope with using one at a time. Too much colour might over-excite your sensibilities.'

And he'll be right of course. And I'll have to go and lie down in a quiet room until the hysterical response to multi-colour girlie-biro over-stimulation subsides and I can return to the kitchen sink without fear of cutting myself on a teaspoon.

Good grief! Biros for ladies indeed!

Mysteries of the Week:

1) Sell house and go on a grand adventure or stay put, keep jobs and sink into a pool of financially secure mire?

2) Three friends, separated in age by a mere two months, meet for lunch yesterday - why am I the only one totally white of hair colour? (Although, what exactly is going on under that red hair dye, Sarah? Eh? Eh??)

3) Just how much fur IS a cat capable of producing? Options - a chairful, a sofaful, a carpetful, a houseful?

4) Courgettes - why? How?

5) Middle-age woman + electric hedgetrimmer + stepladder = safe combo or recipe for gardening chaos?

6) Why do dress designers and manufacturers make 95% of their clothes for 'women of a certain age' from polyester/ nylon/elastane? Do they not take the hot flush into consideration??

7) 3 phone network - just what ARE you doing in Kent at the moment? I mean, I know I don't use my mobile very often, but I'd like at least to have the option to use it for things other than 'emergency calls only.' And how come you can rustle up the energy for an emergency call and not something just as important like calling my local stationery shop to enquire after the procurement of a new-fangled girlie biro?

8) How come, after 4 years (yes, count 'em! It was the 4 year anniversary on 16th August which I missed completely despite writing on my calender, '4 years of writing blog - write a REALLY good post today in celebration') of writing this blog, has no-one found it and offered me a book deal / TV programme/ film rights based on the exploits therewithin?

Operation of the Day - Phoebe having a bladder stone removed. Join me in the crossing of fingers and toes and eyes that everything will go well.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

No News Day

Am I interested in nudie pictures of Prince Harry? Do I believe it is my right as a consumer and tax payer to see these pictures published in a gutter rag, as the owners of the gutter rag assert? No, I do not. Do I believe these pictures were published to sell more newspapers? Yes, I do. Call me Mrs Cynical, but that's what I believe.

On another, less cheeky front, Andy is making excellent headway in the front garden.  I went out yesterday to gather in some more lavender for drying and found him wielding a spade upon which was a great big wedge of front lawn.
' I thought you liked grass?' said I, a tad confused that he seemed to be relocating rather a lot of it into the green waste wheelie bin.
' I do,' said Andy. ' I am merely extending the border a little to make the lawn squarer.'
This, I thought, was an excellent idea, as the front lawn has always been a bit of an odd shape. The edges become blurred when the grass gets too long, and then the grass encroaches on the border and definition becomes even more blurred, and that is what happens when you let grass do its own thing. Grass will never do its own thing when there are chickens around, of course; chickens are excellent at grass control.

But we do not have chickens at the moment. We have Andy with a spade.

The new border has been planted up with nine lavenders and four thymes. It looks rather lovely, and has very definite edges. Not a blur in sight.

Which is more than can be said for my eyes. Went to get them tested last week. I was right - they are getting better with age, and my distance prescription needs to be weaker. No varifocals needed just
yet. I wonder if Tybalt needs glasses. He sometimes misses jumps, and sometimes bumps into doors, but that is generally when he is racing around in a wild frenzy plus, because he is getting middle age spread, his bottom overtakes his front when he puts on the brakes too quickly. Think overloaded lorry and you'll get the idea.

There isn't much else happening here at MMM, I'm afraid. All quiet on the western front.  Andy is doing a lot of cooking, which means I'm not, which is nice. Took Kayleigh to the park yesterday where I had a dizzy moment on a roundabout and nearly fell off. Did some blackberrying. Took her
to a cafe for cake where she chose a Belgian bun as big as her head , then promptly scoffed a wedge of my chocolate muffin. Andy ate his chocolate caramel shortbread unhindered, then stole some of 
Kayleigh's Belgian bun, thinking she wouldn't see him but she did and shrieked, 'Nooooooo! Mine!' 
in his ear. I was far more grown up about the theft of my muffin.

Doing lots of sewing at the moment because I have decided I want to be one of those ladies in 
magazines who make a business out of their hobby, and get photographed in their workroom amongst piles of fabric looking very happy, with a mug of tea and an order from Harrods for 10,000 artisan 
toy bunnies on their books at £29.99 a shot. Had a brilliant idea this morning which incorporated 
chickens, flowers and lavender, but was thwarted in development of aforesaid brilliant idea by complete inability to put onto paper the image that was in my head. So went and sulked over some 
cross- stitch instead, which was ironic, beings as I was feeling like a grumpus. Hoping that if I leave a pen and paper by the bed tonight, I might sleep-draw the image, and wake up to a pattern ready to use a la Elves and the Shoemaker.

Reading a novel at the moment about the adventures of a man who climbs out of his bedroom 
window on the day of his one hundredth birthday, and walks into an adventure. So far he has been 
inadvertently involved in a theft and three deaths, one by elephant. It's very Forrest Gump, only with 
a hint of Sweden. Most entertaining. Tried reading a book about thinking, but it made my head hurt, 
so I passed it on to Andy, because it will be like another Ulysses by James Joyce debacle and I'll still 
be trying to get past page 23 twenty five years from now.

The Bank Holiday rain has failed to materialise; still, there's always tomorrow. But tomorrow I shall 
be engrossed with a brilliant chicken idea so I don't care if it rains.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Pastures New

Today, a teaching colleague of mine is upsticking and moving, with her husband and young daughter, across the globe to Oman. I don't blame her; she is an excellent teacher and was treated appallingly by our school, hence her 'That's it! I'm going abroad to teach,' decision, and the Omani school where she has secured a post will value her and pay her well, and put her in a lovely apartment with air conditioning, a laundry service, a chauffeur and all manner of other bonus extras. And if I could cope with heat, which I can't (three days of hot 'n' humid in Kent has turned me into the Borgia Banshee from Hell) I might feel inclined to do similar. Because it is a crazy adventure and that is what life should be.

And on another level I am full of admiration for the way in which she has organised the whole move from here to there in two months, and all the faffing that goes with it. But once she made up her mind, she just got on and did it, and a part of me wishes I could be like that - a life participator rather than a life spectator. But crazy adventures scare me - one part of my mind tells me I can do it and all will be well, because these things generally are, and another part is screaming, 'BUT WHAT IF YOU LOSE EVERYTHING AND END UP LIVING IN A BIN?'

Hence, I found myself on various websites yesterday exploring the concept of 'how-to-sell-your-house-without-paying-estate-agents-loadsa-cash-for-doing-very-little', which in hindsight of our attempted move three years ago is what they apparently did. Or did not. I've completely lost track of that sentence...sorry!

The websites stated various pros for using an estate agent:

Pro 1 - they will show prospective buyers around your house. Will they?? Ours never did. We did all the showing around, and on the one occasion we asked them to do it, it was so much hassle trying to fit the agent's timings in with the viewees' preferred time and our wish not to be there because we had stuff to do, that we ended up doing the viewing ourselves anyway and I think I may have made a half-serious comment to the agent that 'perhaps you could knock a few pounds off your fee as we seem to be doing most of the work, ahahahahaha!'

Pro 2 - the agent will vet all buyers to make sure they are serious about house buying and not merely having a nosey around because they are bored with their lives. Really? Would that be why, when we did get an offer and got to solicitors-becoming-involved stage, that the buyers suddenly vanished into thin air because no-one had bothered to check their finances were in place? Ha!

Pro 3 - the agent will take professional photos, professional measurements and write professional text about the features of your house. Oh well, excuse me, but where's my digital camera, tape measure and oh, degree in English literature? And given our agent had three goes at getting things right, I think we can manage that aspect perfectly well, thank you.

Pro 4 - the agent will liaise with other agents and solicitors. Again, I can use a telephone perfectly well, PLUS I won't waste time hanging around chatting to other agents about estate-agenty stuff like awkward buyers and sellers and the states of people's bathrooms/ carpets/ bright green wallpaper and how on EARTH do they think they will sell a house with the decor tastes of a colour-blind emu? No, I save my gossip button for gossiping about schools, thank you very much. There will be no messing about, especially as I have nearly run out of oestrogen and all the lovely, caring tweeness that goes with it.

So as far as I can see, the pros of an agent simply do not add up to the three or four thousand pounds they want in return for their 'services.' I now know that a 'For Sale' board must be no bigger than 60 x 80 cms. I know the questions I need to ask people before they come to view the house in order to weed out any sightseers and weirdos. And I know to make sure I am not alone when showing people around; my Plan B in case I should be short of human company is, in fact, Plan Bee, in that I shall wear a beard of bees 'pon my chin - that'll make people behave, I reckon!

Will we have a go at selling our house ourselves? I don't know. I think we could do it. It would be an adventure. We're not having to meet a deadline. It's all very 'when it happens it will happen philosophy.' When the house sells, it sells, be it in a week, a day, a year or never.

Anyway, 'Bon Voyage, Kim!' and may your brave decision reap you many benefits. Stay cool, and enjoy your adventure!

Hats off to you! (And then back on again, because it's jolly hot here in Kent today and us pale flowers do burn so easily!)

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Catta Mundi, Catta Poorly

'What is that?' says Tybalt, sitting on the expanse of unrolled paper because sitting on paper is what cats do best.
'It's an English translation of the Mappa Mundi,' I say.

I am preparing to take, well, poster, to be framed. Properly framed at the framing shop. Not shoved-in-a-five-quid-frame jobbie from Wilkos. I bought the poster from Hereford Cathedral when we were on holiday. I like the poster. Andy likes the poster. There has been a minor tusselette regarding who is going to have the poster in their study/ arty-crafty writing room. So to save blood shed and ensure we reach our ninth wedding anniversary, I am having it framed and it shall hang in the living room.

I explain to Tybalt what the Mappa Mundi is. 'It's a map of the world according to the people of the 1300s,' I say. 'It's how they thought the world looked, and the kind of creatures that inhabited it. Mappa means 'map' and Mundi means 'world'.

'Were they mad?' says Tybalt, who is studying the crazy wonder of the map through his monocle.
'They drew what they knew,' I say. 'Remember that travelling was a much bigger thing then than it is now. And if an explorer saw a creature that looked like a dragon, then that's what it was called even though we now know it to be a giant lizard of some sort.'
Tybalt leans back. 'Us cats have a similar relic,' he says. 'It's called the Catta Mundi.'
'I guessed as much,' say I.
'Catta meaning 'cat,' says Tybalt, 'and Mundi meaning 'Monday,' and not 'world' which is crazy because 'world' means 'world' doesn't it?'
'Mundi is Latin,' I say.
'Mundi Schmundi,' says Tybalt. 'Say it as it is, that's my philosophy. You'll be telling me the Latin for 'cat' isn't 'cat' next'.
I haven't the heart to tell him.

Whilst I am preparing to take the Mappa Mundi to be framed, Andy is preparing to take Fat Cat Phoebe to the surgery to have an operation. She is not well. Okay, she is 17, and an old lady cat, but she is also not a well cat, and investigations are required. Fat Cat Phoebe has lost a lot of weight. In fact, she is more like Thin Cat Phoebe and that is not good. She's been in and out of the litter tray like she's got her bloomer elastic caught on the corner, and she's not eating well which is another bad sign for a cat whose sole purpose in life is to eat her own bodyweight in food every week.

So off she went this morning, looking miserable in the cat basket because a) she had been deprived of the offer of breakfast and b) she hates going in the cat basket. Andy was wearing his surgeon's hat and a worried look on his face because there is nothing worse than operating on your own pet.

Three hours later, he phoned with an up-date. Phoebe is now minus three teeth. And plus one bladder stone. And feeling very sorry for herself.

'I suppose,' says Tybalt,' she'll be wanting pampering.'
'Yes,' I say. 'And a different diet. And you are not to annoy her, or encourage her into play, because you know she doesn't like playing at the best of times.'
'When you say 'a different diet',' says Tybalt, 'what exactly do you mean?'
'Well,' I say, 'something softer whilst her mouth recovers from the extractions and then something to help ease the bladder stone, or she'll have to go back for another operation.'
'So, not smoked salmon and scrambled eggs then,' says Tybalt. 'Or tuna mayonnaise and cream and white bread and butter?'
'I don't think so,' I say.
'Right,' says Tybalt. 'So Pandora has anti-fur ball food, and I have senior cat food and now Phoebe will have a bladder food.  That'll be fun at feeding time, won't it, given we all prefer each other's food?'

I sigh. That's exactly what I've been thinking. Cats never eat what you want them to eat to keep them healthy. They lounge about on the stairs pretending to be asleep before making sudden movements when you try to step across them whilst carrying a pile of ironing. They decide to use the litter tray at the exact moment you are sitting down for a meal, and they prefer to use the furniture/ your leg as a scratching post rather than the expensive scratching post you bought them for Christmas.

They lie in full sun in their fur coats until their brains are boiling; they leave black fur on white clothes and white fur on black clothes. They sit outside the bathroom shouting at you whilst you are on the loo, and they commandeer the sofas so you end up sitting on the floor.

Added to that their penchant for delegging spiders and leaving the remains all over the kitchen floor, and a complete inability to understand Latin, cats are a right pain the backside.

I wouldn't be without them!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Smarter Barter

Reading the paper this lunchtime, I noticed a snippet in the money pages that the oldest form of currency is cattle, being a bartering currency from over 9,000 years ago.

Well, having need of a few bits 'n' bobs from the supermarket and having a stray cattle or two in the back garden, I lassoed one in and hopped aboard for a bit of a bumpy ride to Sainsbugs just to see what the bartering power of a cow was.

Tied the cow to the trolley, snuck it past the security guard who was too busy being on the look out for shirtless yobs to notice us anyway, and began my wander around the aisles. Supermarket woefully lacking on information via a vis the exchange rates for cattle, so I had to guess, and hope they'd provide change to the value of chickens if the rate was good value and a top up from the spare goat I'd brought along just in case the value was poor.

Trolley half filled with shopping, I approached the tills. I could have filled the trolley right up but the cattle had left an embarrassing present a la poop in the biscuit and cake aisle and I felt it was time to leave. The tills, as usual, were knee deep in queues, and as I am pretty good with the self-service tills I thought I might as well use one of those.

Put the shopping through, no probs. Total - one cattle exactly! Well, one hasn't been on shopping duties for the past 28 years without developing a sense of guesstimating the bill fairly accurately.

So, pressed the 'Finish and Pay' button and tried to pass the cattle across the scanner. Dear reader, the scanner wouldn't accept my cow payment! After several attempts, I called over an assistant.

'This machine won't accept my payment of cattle,' I said.

The assistant looked at me and then the cattle and then me again.

'Oh, it won't,' said she. 'This machine will only accept sheep.'

'Why, pray tell?' said I, stringing the joke out as long as possible.

'Because only sheep have baaaa codes!' said the assistant.

Boom, boom!

Park Life

I have taken to going for a daily walk in the park. Rising early and setting off before the mindless, shirtless, loud-mouthed litter louts appear and spoil the view with their sheer vulgarity. The park has undergone major works this year, and many proper paths have been laid across the grassland, and new bridges built across the stream and lake. It all makes for a very pleasant walking experience. And do I miss the frisson of excitement that used to come with doing battle with nettley, brambly overgrowth, dog poop and rabbit holes lurking in the long grass, and the slipping and sliding over treacherously muddy water banks? No, I do not!

So I walk in the mornings, at a brisk pace, for 47 minutes, because that is how long it takes to get to the park, walk around the lake and get back home. And then I jog on the spot for three minutes to make it up to 50 minutes, because 47 minutes on one's pedometer is an irritating number, especially when one is has mild OCD. This is my own diagnosis. Annoyingly, when I did an on-line 'Are you Obsessive Compulsive?' quiz, the results said I wasn't, even when I tried to wangle them in my favour. Seems I just like a tidy house, all the pencils in a colour-coordinated row and for the world to be punctual.

Yesterday, I thought I saw an albatross. Half-way round the lakeside walk, there is a bridge that crosses the lake and if you look to the left, there is a little island in the lake on which is growing a gothic-looking tree i.e no leaves, looks like it's been struck by lightning but isn't going to let that beat it in teh battle for survival. This island I have named 'Rook Island' because the tree, in keeping with its gothic appearance, usually has a few rooks perched in it. But yesterday there was a much bigger bird sitting on the top branch looking very pleased with itself. Certainly not a rook. Possibly an eagle?? No. Turned out to be a cormorant. Not an albatross. Disappointing. Unless you are keen on cormorants.

Most of the dogs that run in the park fall into five catergories - spaniels, labradors, staffordshire bull terriers, jack russells and shi-tsus (is that how you spell shi-tsu? I don't want to try any other combinations in case I cause offence). I was savaged by a shi-tsu puppy this morning, if one can be savaged by something no bigger than the palm of one's hand. It came galloping towards me, full of the joie de vivre that puppies have, and I put down my hand to let it sniff, which it did, and then it gave me a little play bite and raced off with the little pirate scarf it was wearing blowing in the wind and probably causing such a teeny creature a lot of wind drag.

And there is the man who is dragged along by two cocker spaniels. The look on his face suggests here is a man under dog-walking duress; the partner of a woman who pestered him to get two cocker spaniel puppies because 'they look so CUTE with their big floppy ears and big fluffy paws', who walked them herself for all of two weeks, then discovered that walking on a regular basis chipped her expensive pedicure and getting up early was such a drag and 'you'll walk Chardonnay and Beckham for me, won't you darling?' He is a man who looks like he wants to be walking a bull dog to the pub.

And since the revamp, everything has become 'historic.' Little signs have popped up next to the rotunda, the waterfall, the mansion house, the woodland, declaring them all to be 'historic.' I'm just waiting for one to be erected next to the cafe - 'Historic eating place. Purveyors of ice cream and dodgy burgers since 1972.'  Ha!

But the ducks are the same, and the swans and the geese. And the squirrels, you can tell, are wholly unimpressed with the whole facelift because their main concern is, and always will be, nuts. Not so many rats, which I suppose is a good thing. And the foxes still do their best to empty the bins every night in search of scraps of KFC and picnic. And come the Autumn the trees will deposit their leaves on the newly gravelled paths, no doubt creating a new Health and Safety hazard. And the mindless louts will retreat indoors to sit shirtless and mindless in front of their football computer games.

Park life.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

We Love Herefordshire!

We are returned from our holiday in Herefordshire!

We ate too much good food, so we went running in the park this morning and I had a near- death experience when Andy said, 'let's go this way,' and 'this way' turned out to be a bit of a hill. Herefordians know how to make good food though, so it was worth it.

Herefordians are also lovely friendly and polite people. Try chatting about your exploding glass oven door experience with someone in Maidstone and they'll give you a withering look. Herefordians enter into the whole spirit of shock and horror with you are you relive every terrifying moment.

How many traffic jams did we encounter in Herefordshire? Hmmm...let me think...NONE! Not a single one. We always found a parking space, we travelled around Hereford city, Ledbury and all the other pretty villages and never did traffic nor crowds impede our progress. Only experience of road rage in the last week? Arriving back in Kent.

There were cows and there were sheep, and chickens and ducks and geese. And trees and hills and castles and quiet country lanes. And the market in Ludlow was a proper market, not a cheap tat market, and I know Ludlow is in Shopshire, but the people there were lovely, too!

We saw cheese being made, the Mappa Mundi, Hereford cathedral. We played in mazes and waterfalls. I even enjoyed a shopping trip to Morrisons which is somewhere I usually avoid supermarket wise as our local one is a mass of heaving, shoving bodies. Not in Hereford, though!

Oh, it is the place to be, this unspoilt county. Why aren't we living there? We should be living there.

We are going to start working on it...

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Chomped! My Theory and Other Stupid Conjectures

Last weekend, whilst 'gardening' I got chomped. Now usually, when I get chomped, the results make themselves noticed very quickly i.e massive itching followed by massive swelling, huge radiation of uncomfortable heat, and Andy saying ' stop scratching, you'll only make it worse.
Then the scent of Germoline and/ or TCP, the gentle screech of pain as I apply a hot water bottle to the affected area (heat helps dissipate the mosquito spit or whatever it is they leave behind), and the waiting for five days until it all goes down and I can stop walking about with strange bulges under my trousers or shirt.

But this chomp I didn't notice until the next day when I happened to rub the crook of my elbow and thought, 'Funny place to get a pimple,' and of course,  it wasn't a pimple, it was a chomp. A teeny- tiny chomp, well, by my standards at least.

It did not itch, it did not swell, it was not hot, it required no dealing with.

'Well,' I thought, 'how pleasant to be bitten by something and not react. P'raps I have grown out of these insect allergies at last.'

And I thought no more about it...until yesterday...when I inspected the area more closely...and discovered not one puncture wound...but....TWO!

Evenly spaced. Like a pair of fangs had done the chomping rather than the usual javelin-like proboscis.

And this has led me to believe, very scientifically,that I was not chomped by a midge or a mosquito, or even an ant or a snail ( they have teeth, you know!) but by something far more exotic.

For I now believe that in the hedge in the front garden, where the aforesaid chompee attacked my arm, there lives a...