Sunday, 23 February 2014

A New Venture

Sometimes, the Universe seems to work with you. Like when it connects you with a special person for a specific reason (which is the subject of this post but I need to have a ramble first before I settle to the business of the day) or lets you win the lottery (no, I haven't won the lottery - you have to be 'in it to win it' as they say and I am not 'in it' and have thusly saved myself hundreds of pounds over the years), or reduces THAT dress you have yearned for by 70% in the sales.

And sometimes the Universe seems to work against you, like sending leaky roofs, wobbly fences and Vodafone your way in one fell swoop, or making your cat kick your favourite teapot off the kitchen work top or causing your hair to turn grey at an unseasonably young age. 

But isn't that what the Universe is all about? Ups and downs, backs and forths, ins and outs, good and bads, highs and lows...

'Okay,' says Daisy. 'We get the drift.'
'Yes,' says Primrose. 'Just shut up and get on with it, will you? We have a Regency back chair to decoupage, and then Elton is expecting us for tiffin.'

(Oh, how a spot of Chicken Cam fame can turn the head of a once sensible hen...sigh...)

So, back to my first point. The thing about blogging is that you never know with whom you are going to connect. I have been extremely lucky. My connections may have been small (how DO people get hundreds of followers???) but they have been extremely high on quality and low on loony faction. Really lovely people, which is why I allow them to stay in the guests suites here at Much Malarkey Manor providing they remember to take off their wellies if they are entering by the front door to save the cherry parquet from scuffing. (Wellies are allowed through the back entrance but please continue to observe the weekly mopping rota - thank you!)

Anyway, a few months ago, the Universe chose to make a connection between me and CT over at And we discovered we had a link that connects a special aspect of our lives - and that is being healing channels.

I'm not going to ramble on about that aspect here because it is not the be-all and end-all of who we, as people, are but I would like to introduce you to the new blog CT and I have set up between us, heralding (toots a small trumpet) the start of a new venture for us. The blog is called (toot trumpet again) and please have a visit if you feel so inclined. I have added a link at the top of the bar to your right, for ease of access, and to show off that I am techno-savvy in this kind of stuff! (Actually it was more trial that error - but I did it, nonetheless!) 

We are calling it our 'venture' and goodness knows where it will go or what it will do, but it was something we both felt a very strong urge to do. Like when you know there is half a bar of chocolate in the fridge and even though Colin Firth is on the telly, the pull of the chocolate is greater. (I know, weird concept, but there you go!) 

So, that's all for today. Apart from this very cute picture of Tybalt sharing his chaise with Flora Bijou Mybug!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Chicken Cam For Olly

The sun is out and Chicken Cam is in play...

Friday, 21 February 2014


That's final, then. Andy and I are off to the furthest reaches of Scotland. I no longer care that Scotland is dark and cold and wet. I can only think that it will be the best place to go where technology cannot reach us. Of course, it means I shall no longer be able to blog or email, so will have to keep in touch with people by snail mail, smoke signal or pigeon post. But it will be a small price to pay for peace of mind and not having to keep sorting out problems that are not our problems in the first place.

Let me take you back to last December...(wibbley wobbley timey wimey...)

'I've been sent a letter from Vodafone,' said Andy. 'Apparently they are making changes to our account and are going to start charging us.'

'We don't have an account with Vodafone,' said I. 'We never have.'

(And I think it is probably because I am a stickler for proper English and would never engage in business with a company who are incapable of spelling 'phone' correctly. And now, it turns out, are incapable of running a service department correctly, too.)

'I know,' said Andy. 'Apparently if I don't want to continue with their service I have to write and tell them to cancel our account.'

'But we don't have an account with Vodafone,' said I. 

'I know,' said Andy. 'But I shall write and tell them this and tell them that we no longer wish to have the account we do not have with them anyway. Just in case.'

So he did. And he duly received a letter saying, 'thank you, we shall cancel your account.'

'But we don't have an account,' said I. 'How can you cancel an account we don't have?'

But nobody answered, presumably because we do not exist.

Anyway, about 4 weeks later, Andy got a phone call from Vodafone. They said,'Would you like to upgrade your account?'

'I don't have an account with you,' said Andy. 'How can I upgrade something that doesn't exist?' 

He was quite persistent, this sales guy. Andy kept saying, 'I've never had an account with Vodafone, I do not want an account with Vodafone,' and eventually the sales guy got the message and that was that.

Or not, as it turns out. For today, Andy got a bill for £10.64. From Vodafone. A red top bill, too. We aren't sure what for because a) nowhere on the bill did it say what we were supposed to have paid for and didn't and b) we do not and never have had an account with Vodafone. Also, I feel slightly aggrieved that they didn't even have the decency to send us a first bill for an account we do not have but went straight for the final demand. 

(I suspect you are picking up a bit of theme by now. I am sorry if I am boring you BUT I am feeling very testy about this having to sort out corporate cock ups.)

So Andy got on the phone. The p.h.o.n.e not the f.o.n.e. And he was getting cross because it was an automated line and it kept asking for his mobile number before it would connect him to a real person and he kept saying, 'I don't have a mobile number because I don't have an account with you,' and I was feeling anxious because he is already on 3 different types of blood pressure medication and does not need this kind of unnecessary rubbish after a long day at work. 

Eventually, through pressing random numbers, he finally got through to a call centre somewhere abroad. And fat lot of help they turned out to be. They kept asking for his mobile number which he couldn't give because he does not and never has had a mobile number with Vodafone, and the upshot is that now we have to go into the local Vodafone shop and explain to them what the problem is because the foreign call centre could not understand what Andy was trying to tell them i.e 'Why have you sent us a final demand bill for an account we do not have?' 

I am LIVID! Why should we have to sort out a problem that is not of our making, that happened in a totally random fashion, out of the blue? Why should we have to put ourselves out to go and put right something that should never have existed in the first place? How much kicking off are we going to have to do in order to get Vodafone off our backs? How many more Vodafone encounters are we going to have? 

And of course, because it has all been so random we are thinking there might be some sort of scam happening, that someone has stolen Andy's details in order to procure a Vodafone account for which we have been sent a bill. 

It is just yet another irritation that we can do without. It is an example of when living in Regency England instead of the 21st century would have been infinitely preferable and that actually, technology can be properly pants on a stick. 

I am off now to eat a crumpet. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

When I am reincarnated I want to be a snail

I do. A snail. Why? Because they carry their houses with them and their houses have neither dodgy flashing, nor blown pebble dashing, nor a hole in a tile, nor rotten wood, nor a chimney threatening to fall off the house, nor any of the other things that our builder found today when he and his builder's mate were swarming all over our roof. In fact, I doubt that snails EVER cross paths with builders in their entire lives. Why would they? I mean, once you've got a snail inside its house there isn't much room for anything buildery like double glazing, alcove shelving or a fitted kitchen, is there? 

Actually, I have just remembered the sushi bar I sometimes run for Primrose and Daisy which involves me, a brick, a paving slab and a few snails. Who very quickly become ex-snails. So perhaps if I was to return as a snail sans roofing problems I ought to be picky about whose garden I live in and make sure it's not the garden of someone like me. Who, despite being vegetarian, thinks nothing of crushing a few's for the chickens, okay? The chickens! They have protein needs. 

So, the flat roof is okay. And now moss-free. And the soil pipe (which was also under suspicion of leakiness) is dry as a bone. However, the flashing between the flat roof extension and the main house is not. Nor is a fairly big bit of the pebbledash rendering which apparently 'sounds hollow' when you hit it, which really made me want to say, 'Then don't hit it,' but I knew this would not solve the problem so I didn't. And the hole that Andy and I patched up is indeed a hole that should not be there and our patching was declared very amateur but we were forgiven because we did the patching in the rain which you aren't really supposed to do for successful sticking purposes, and I said we knew but what is one supposed to do when one has been let down by 5 roofers and one is feeling desperate to do something positive in order to try and save one's home from the vagaries of the the horrid weather. 

And our extraneous chimney which leads nowhere and does nothing is threatening to plummet to the ground if the next passing pigeon so much as farts at it. 

'We'll have to knock it down and rebuild it,' said Builder Mike. 

Now, I have much respect for Builder Mike. He is very reliable, keeps you 100% informed about what is going on, he is meticulous in his work and the words 'shoddy' and 'bodge job' are nowhere in his vocabulary. I would recommend him to anyone. But at his suggestion I looked at his builder's mate and his builder's mate looked at me and I said, 'Why don't we just take the chimney down and cap it off?' And the builder's mate said, 'That's just what I was going to say. It's not actually DOING anything is it?' And I said, 'No, it is a pointless and useless chimney that is letting water into the house.' 

And Builder Mike said, 'Of course! That makes better sense.' 

I can only assume that spending half the afternoon at altitude on our roof had made him over-excitable.

So a proper temporary repair was made over the repair that Andy and I made and, miracle of miracles, the wet patch in the hall which had returned with a vengeance this week mostly dried up within 2 hours. And even though the roof repairs are going to mean more spend out, I feel happy that something AT LAST is being done, that control has been taken by professionals who know what they are doing (as opposed to Maidstone's answer to Abbott and Costello up a wobbly ladder) and that a proper job will be done. 

In between running in and out of the house in response to Builder Mike's calls to go and stare at bits of roof as various discoveries were made, I tried to counteract building repair stress with some therapeutic arty-crafty stuff. I have convinced myself I need to be more experimental in my approach to crafting and just 'wing it' and see what happens. So I did. And this happened...

...two cushions. A bit rustic. A bit Heath Robinson. A But I reckon that if I said to someone, 'What is this?' and they responded, 'A cushion,' then I have been fairly successful in my experimental approach. And they are all my own work - eight knitted squares with hearts on, sewn together and embroidered with chain and blanket stitch. And as you can see, Phoebe is so impressed she fell asleep next to them. 

And that is all I have to say about today. Oh, apart from Builder Mike is returning tomorrow morning to replace two fence panels that fell down in the Christmas storms. More expense. But then, just as I am not a roofer, neither am I a fencer. Needs must. Needs must. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Therapy of Knit and Sew

I was glad I was sitting down when our builder told us how much the damage to our hall was going to cost to repair. To be fair to him, he had prepared me by mentioning things like 'blown plasterwork,' and 'chop back the plaster to the brick' and 'replace the ceiling' and 'replaster the brick work' and 'replace dado rail' and 'paper and paint the entire hall, stairs and landing because otherwise it will look odd.' 

But still, the fact there won't be much change from £6,000 (even typing it makes me feel a bit queasy) made me wobble a bit and visions of living on economy beans on toast for the next 5 years flitted through my head. We are, of course, going to try and claim from our insurance company, but I suspect there might be a bit of wrangling and wrangling is not something I feel entirely up to at the moment. They might pay in full, they might pay some, they might pay nothing at all which does not bear thinking about. Heather said, 'Can't you just paper over the damaged bit?' and I said we could, but the plaster would still deteriorate and eventually fall off the wall and the ceiling might come down upon us sooner rather than later because it is still very wet with no sign of drying out, and I think she was quite pleased she isn't a homeowner and all its inherent costs. 

Anyway, one way or another it has to be done. Hopefully the insurance company will pay, aside from the excess which has more than doubled because it is water damage. It is going to be a testy few months. And remember the roofer, Number 5, that I left a message with on Saturday? Nope, he didn't get back to us either. Five wild goose chases in less than 4 weeks. Is it so difficult just to call back and say, 'Sorry, really busy at the moment so can't help?' I don't think so. Perhaps it is for roofers though. 

So to cheer myself up (some might say 'or indulge in some displacement activities) I spent yesterday sewing and knitting. I finished the blanket for the new chair...
...can you see the hearts? It is a bit crumpled because Tybalt has been massaging it. In fact, he began massaging it whilst I was still sewing it all together which did not help with entente cordiale 'twixt me and him. It is double thickness, so a bit like a duvet. I was going to put buttons on it to hold the two layers together better but on reflection (and because I will have to make a special journey into town to try and find some button blanks that I can cover with fabric and I really cannot be ar*sed) I shall leave it as it is and see how it settles.

And I made a Springtime Fairy Flower Mouse...

...she is currently on her way to France, to live with my chum Vera, along with...

...a customised lavender heart filled with Much Malarkey Manor lavender and embroidered with the name of the smallholding on which my chum Vera lives with hubbie Lester and their assorted animal crew. The lavender is very strong, so I am hoping it might assist with drowning out the smell of pig/ sheep/ cow poop. 

And finally, I am tiddling about with bedroom decorating ideas which, if the insurance company are difficult about meeting the claim may have to remain as ideas, with the assistance of this book...

...which arrived this morning from The Book People (£6.99). It is the last book I shall be buying for quite some time until the hall is repaired so I am quite glad I ordered it before our builder dropped the bombshell yesterday. 

Off to make a cup of tea now. Just had a piece of Heather's chocolate birthday cake and I am feeling a bit ikky with it so I might forego lunch. Making a cushion this afternoon. It's all good therapy.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Chairs and Cakes and Builders

Our new armchair arrived today. Tybalt immediately took charge. He thanked us kindly for providing him with such a comfy seating arrangement and, as you can see from the steely glint in his eye, dared anyone else to come within buttock planting distance. Even Flora Bijou Mybug could make no further progress than a five second rest on the one of the wings. However, she has tried its potential as a scratching post. I gave her a strict talking to. I said woolly wellies would be the order of the day if she didn't keep her claws to herself. She sulked off under the chair and stropped the carpet instead.

And here is the cake that Great British Bake Off Apprentice baker Andy rustled up for Heather for her birthday today whilst I was upstairs sitting in an embryonic healing circle (more news of which to follow in the next few weeks).  Pity Heather is in London at the moment seeing 'Spamalot.' She is much further from the cake than say, me. The cake smells...ooooh, quite quite yum, and possibly more than a cake loving Mum of a Birthday Girl could resist. But resist I shall, because it would be rudeness on a paper doily to start a birthday cake without the rightful recipient being present, would it not, especially as Andy posted a picture of it on Facebook and the Birthday Girl is now aware of its existence. 

Our Builder Chap, Mike, came for a visit today. To price up a couple of jobs we want doing. He took one look at the hall wall and the havoc being wreaked upon it by the still unresolved roof problem, and said, 'I can sort that out, too, if you like.'

'If we like? IF WE LIKE????' 

With roofer number 5 failing to return our call, of course we like! So Builder Chap Mike did a spot of measuring, and chatting, and swinging the light on his laser measuring thing around the floor so Flora could play 'Chase Mr Light', and finally we feel like something is being done about our leak. I am not even going to think of the cost because it has now got to the point where it is dragging Andy and I down and we just want it sorted. 

And that's about it for today. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Oh, Pull Yourself Together, Woman!

Yesterday I was feeling grim. Very grim. Grim with a capital Grrrr. 

I don't know why. Just woke up feeling grim and thus it continued for the rest of the day. Grim, grimminy, grim, grim, grim. There was no reason for me to feel grim. I have a week off school to look forward to, with it being half term and all, and this means I can shut myself away in my craft room and tiddle about making stuff. The seeds Andy planted last week have started to sprout - rocket and primroses so far, and I suspect the chard won't be far behind and sprouting seeds mean Spring is just around the corner. And our new armchair is being delivered tomorrow. And there is a new series of 'Blandings' on the telly, I have a couple of new books to read, and I have decided on the theme of Daisies and Forget-Me-Nots' for the bedroom mood board, which means I can get mood boarding now which should be fun given I am a mood-board virgin.

P'raps, I thought, trying to analyse yesterday's grimness this morning when I was feeling muchly less grim, it is because Heather is 26 tomorrow. My youngest child is going to be 2-bloomin'-6. Where did the last 26 years go? And in two and a half months' time I shall be a Granny a deux. And my eldest child will be 28. 28! That's almost 30, for the love of Saint Matilda, whoever she might be. 

Or p'raps it is because yet another roofer has let us down by making an appointment to assess for a permanent repair to our roof and failing to appear, no call, no explanation, and although Andy and I did a good job last weekend, what with the torrents that have plummeted upon Kent this week, a little bit of water is still getting through somewhere and so the damage is spreading. I called roofer number 5 yesterday. Left a message that I hope didn't sound too desperate. No response. As yet. Trying to feel not tetchy about this. I may have to kidnap a roofer just to get someone to look at the darn thing. 

Or p'raps it is just me struggling to get to the end of another Winter and, despite all the walking I have done, my serotonin levels are running on reserve tank. Nearly there. It was gone 5.30 before it got dark here today, and thank goodness for the appearance of the sun! The warm and bright, cheerful and lovely sun! 

Anyway, I did lots of silly dancing around today when no-one was looking. I have perused paint charts and wallpaper samples in shades of blue and green and yellow and definitely NOT grey.  I have hung a new picture on the wall. I have researched the virtues of composite doors over UPVC doors as next on our list of house to-dos will be a new front door, because the wind really does whistle through the old one now plus sometimes it is difficult to persuade the old one to open without bending keys into odd shapes and also bits are falling off it which can't be good. 

 I have given myself a good talking to. I don't know how long it will last as I am finding that the older I get, the less likely I am to take notice of anyone, and that includes me. And tomorrow my youngest child will be 26. She won't be home as she is gallivanting in London. So I feel a tad redundant in the Mum Makes Birthday Cake Department. 

Ah well...plenty more else to do.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Much Malarkey Valentine

Just a quickie this evening, as Andy and I have just returned from our even-less-than-annual visit to the cinematography palace. We went to see the new Nick Frost film, 'Cuban Fury' which, once I had recovered from the shock of how much it actually costs to go to the pictures these days, I enjoyed enormously. On our way home, with the sounds of Latino rhythm pulsating in our ears (either that or my tinnitus if building itself up for another noisy interlude) we discussed the idea of starting salsa classes and are currently all fired up to do so, but once we've slept on it, the fire of enthusiasm will likely fade and I shall return to my uninspiring keep fit routine of jogging on the spot in front of Deal or No Deal.

Oh, but will I? Will I?? Or did I receive as a Valentine's gift today something that will banish the boredom of on the spot jogging and replace it with something infinitely more vibrant and exciting? 

Yes I did! Not only did Andy present me with Despicable Me 2 which, as he pointed out, is a love story, he also gave me Maracattack, the workout DVD by Miranda Hart! Oh yes! I shall be shaking my maracas tomorrow - well, I might be shaking tins of beans or some other suitable substitute as I do not yet possess your actually maracas and may need to improvise whilst I become properly maracafied. I am toying with making my own maracas - I mean, they can't be more complicated to construct than a bit of hollowed out paper mâché filled with lentils and stuck on a stick, surely? And painted, of course. I thought I'd decorate them as Minions to continue the Valentine gift theme. 

That's all. Just wanted to send Valentine Hugs to All as the weather continues on a horrid fashion and annoyingly our leaky roof saga continues too (though our amateur roof patching has made a significant improvement  to the original leak so it could be worse) and we have been let down today by roofing person number 4 which means I shall spend tomorrow trying to get someone else to come and mend things. Why don't people turn up when they say they will? And if they can't turn up for some reason, why can't they just phone and say so? So aggravating.

Ah well, tomorrow is another day. Saturday. Maracaday!!!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

A Moment of Barter

Firstly, I completely forgot to mention that Flora Bijou Mybug has had her 'lady' operation. Last Thursday she went for surgery, came home, marched from her cat basket, demanded food, then ran about like a crazy cat, flaunting her attractive lilac blue stitches and completely disobeying the doctor's advice to 'not gallop, or stretch, or leap in an extravagant way, or jump on Phoebe's head because she is 18 years old and does not like it.'

She has continued this week to behave in her inimitable wild kitten fashion. So different to human ladies who have hysterectomies where post-op everything is banned from carrying shopping bags to hanging out the washing to driving for at least 6 weeks, preferably 12. Actually, Flora isn't driving either, so maybe not so different after all.

Anyway, you know I am dipping my toe in the ocean of textile design? Well, today I did a bit of talent bartering. I offered my services after school to the textiles teacher (who is a lovely, lovely lady I have known a long time) in return for being able to absorb different textile-type/sewing/arty stuff from the atmosphere of her classroom. 

'Would an extra pair of hands help after school when your GCSE students come to do catch-up sessions?'said I. 'I don't mind how I help. I can sew a bit, and knit a bit, or I could assist with the theory side of things. You know, helping students with research and writing and the like.'

'That would be lovely,' said Textile Teacher. And then, 'Are you sure? Don't you want to go straight home after school?'

'Well,' said I, 'I really want to learn more about textile art and design, and I thought if I helped out in the after school club as a volunteer, I might pick up some useful ideas and techniques along the way. Also maybe a cup of tea and a biscuit. But if I become a nuisance, you must tell me and I shall go away.'

By this point I had been tied into an apron and handed a can of spray glue. 

'Come with me,' said Textile Teacher. 'I shall show you how to do basic fabric stencilling then you can help those two girls over there.'

So I spent a very happy hour and a half being a Textile Assistant! I did some pinning and cutting, and I learned not to waste money on stencilling brushes which are very expensive when an ordinary cheap toothbrush will do the job just as well. I learned how, when and why to use spray glues and saw lots of examples of design scrapbooks. 

Very inspirational! I shall lurk after school as often as I can. 

And in addition to my own working notebook on 'The Language of Fans' I have started to collect things for a mood board for redesigning our bedroom. It's a bit empty at the moment. I am thinking duck egg and teal, olive and cream. Maybe splashes of jade or turquoise. There is one thing I do know, though. And that is there will definitely be NO grey! 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Up On The Roof

Once upon a time, about two and a tiddly weeks ago, a lovely young couple of intelligence, humour and not inconsiderable cake baking talents, noticed a dubious-looking and lightly damp stain appear on the wall of their Laura-Ashley papered hallway.

The couple (let's call them 'Denise' and 'Andy') repaired immediately to the telephone machine and called upon the services of their Plumber Man, (let's call him 'Matt') because the stain was situated directly beneath the shower room, Laura-Ashley tiled. 

But then they noticed that the stain grew in itself when it rained. And it had been raining a lot, inclemently so, and thus Denise and Andy thought, 'Hello, hello, p'raps something is amiss with the roof.' And Andy climbed into the loft and noted a damp patch in the corner of the loft and so the services of a Roofer Man were summoned.

And so the Plumber Man and the Roofer Man appeared and the Plumber Man declared good health upon the shower and the Roofer Man repaired the damage on the main roof and Denise and Andy thought, 'Whew! All is well, but 'tis a bit of a b*gger we will have to sort out the water damage to the wallpaper (Laura Ashley).'

The stain dried, well almost. Until the next torrent of rain. When it reappeared. Twice as big. This was not good. But not as bad as many people who were being flooded out of their homes, bless them. And so the Roofer Man was recalled and he said, 'I shall return next Thursday,' but he did not, and there was neither telephone call nor e-mail to explain his non-appearance, and so he was struck from the list of 'Handy Builder Types' via the medium of tearing up his business card and chucking it on the woodburner. (Although, to be fair, the loft is drying out so he clearly did something worthwhile for the money we spent.) 

But what to do about the continuing and mysterious leak? Andy knew how to vet and how to make a jolly good loaf. Denise knew how to teach difficult teenagers and how to make jolly good marmalade, but neither knew a diddly squat about roofs. And so they spent a few days making suppositions and guesses and searches on the interwebbly, all the while trying to avoid watching the dampness as it spread down the wall taking the wallpaper with it. They also tried engaging other roofers who never returned their calls of growing desperation and Denise now believes the recession is over if people can afford to turn down work.

And then, on Saturday just gone, Andy girded his manly gird. He marched down the stairs and stood, legs akimbo in the living room doorway which Denise thought was excellent because his stance obscured her view of the peeling wallpaper and 'out of sight, out of mind' was becoming the tenet of the day. 

'Apparently,' said Andy, 'we have to aim the hosepipe onto the flat roof and watch to see where the water is entering where it shouldn't. And this I shall do, for tomorrow, according to the soothsayers of weather, the rain is stopping and the wall will dry briefly, like it does, and we shall see where this problem lies and then we shall cure it ourselves! Or at least tell a roofer where to look, if we can ever get one to answer our calls.'

And so it came to pass that on Sunday the sun arrived and the wall mostly dried (it having now achieved a stain of five feet by three feet in places) and Andy trailed the hosepipe through the back door, through the kitchen, through the hall, up the stairs and out of the landing window, with Flora Bijou Mybug in tow as Official Hosepipe Escort. And much water was allowed to rain on the roof from the hosepipe. And the inside wall was watched for the reappearance of wetness.

Nothing. Not a sausage. Not even a stain in the shape of a sausage.

Well. It seemed the flat roof was fine.

So Andy trailed the hosepipe out of the front door to spray water on the roof ridge that surrounded the flat roof bit. 

Almost immediately, in her official capacity of 'Leak Watcher' inside the hall, Denise shouted, 'STOP!'

For there it was. The Leak Monster!

It was action stations aplenty from then on. Andy wobbled up a flimsy ladder which was not built to bear his weight in order to inspect the roof ridge, with Denise clinging onto the ladder in a sterling anti-wobble effort. Denise wanted to go up the ladder because she was more weight-appropriate and, having worked on a farm, was used to shinning up ladders and did not mind ladder wobbling moments. 

But Andy was being all manly and heroic and did not want Denise up a ladder wobbling in the wind.

'What can you see?' shouted Denise.

'A hole!' shouted Andy.

'We need to mend the hole!' shouted Denise.

'With what shall we mend it, dear Denise, dear Denise?' shouted Andy.

'With straw!' shouted Denise.

'Isn't that a song?' shouted Andy.

'Oh yeah,' shouted Denise. 'How about sticky roofing felt tape stuff?'

So Andy dashed into town and returned with the technically named sticky roofing tape stuff. He shinned back up the ladder. From below, Denise passed up brushes, tar, tape and other important stuff all the while hanging on to the ladder which was a-wobbling like a good 'un and cutting the sticky roofing tape stuff into appropriate hole patching lengths. (Woman = multitasking) 

Half way through, there was a massive hail storm. Andy and Denise thought this was unfair play and will be complaining to the appropriate authorities.

And so the hole was patched, and Denise and Andy spent the next two days watching the rain pelting down outside and....(tum ti tuuuuuum!)....

...NOT watching the water spreading again!!! Admiring the dryness!!!!!

Success!! Andy mended the hole that was letting in the water, where the official roofing man failed to notice the hole was even there! Andy and Denise did it for themselves!!! 

And then they performed the 'Fab Pants Dance' in celebration of their newly dry hallway! 

Monday, 10 February 2014

How Not To Sell A Bed (or Anything Else For That Matter) to Lady Malarkey

Things that salesmen should definitely NOT to say to a middle-aged woman when she comes into your shop to purchase a new bed:

1) 'You look tired. Didn't you sleep well last night? Just joking! Ahahahahahaha!' 

2) 'You've had your current bed HOW LONG???'

3) 'Don't look at the prices - go for support and comfort, because the price really DOES NOT matter.'

4) 'Do you have dark circles under your eyes because you aren't sleeping well? Hardly surprising as you've had your current bed so long. Just joking! Ahahahahahahahaha!' 

5) 'Experts recommend you change your bed every 10 years. Well, every seven to ten years. You are well overdue a change.'

6) 'This top of the range mattress really cannot be beaten for support and comfort. Forget the price.'

7) 'Some people live in filthy conditions. You'd be surprised at how dirty their mattresses are.'

8) 'Women are always cleaning, aren't they?' 

9) 'You have to consider things like dust mites, stains and allergies.'

10) 'It really doesn't matter what side of the bed you sleep on - this mattress will support you whatever.'

Because the middle- aged woman, although she may be smiling through gritted teeth because she is quite capable of choosing her own bed, thank you very much and wants you to GO AWAY, will be thinking:

1) 'I slept very well last night. I generally do sleep well, except for the occasional return to consciousness to deal with a hot flush or two which I am not going to discuss with you because you will roll your eyes and smile in a very patronising manner. And you are NOT funny.'

2) 'Our current bed is fine, despite its age. In fact, the wooden frame is going into storage. The mattress, I grant you, could do with replacing, but the only reason we are here now is that we want a divan style which is slightly smaller than our current huge bed frame because I am practising being a design queen and need to maximise my floor and storage space. Oh, and your shop is having a sale.'

3) 'Of course I am going to look at the prices, you idiot. We are on a budget. Price matters. Shut up.'

4) 'If you mention the age of our current bed ONCE more, you too shall have dark circles under your eyes. And around your eyes. And on top of your eyes. Called a 'black eye.' And you are still NOT funny.' 

5) 'Experts recommend you change your bed every 7 to 10 years because they are experts who happen to manufacture beds and they want to sell beds as often as possible. You idiot.'

6) 'I am NOT paying over £1,000 for a mattress, no matter how top of the range it is. If I pay £1,000 for the mattress only, I would expect someone to arrive every morning with tea and toast as an extra free service. £1,000 for a mattress? Are you INSANE??? I could buy a CAR for that.'

7) 'I do not wish to hear stories about your delivery drivers refusing to handle an old mattress because of its disgustingness. I do not want to hear about other people's mattress cleaning habits. Shut up. Or I may well be sick. All over your floor.'

8) 'Well, yes, some women are always cleaning. Especially with cleaning fairies being a rare commodity  these days. But then, when did YOU last push a Hoover? Never, I expect. With your handshake grip you'd have trouble pushing the handle of a child's broom let alone pushing a Hoover. You flimsy idiot.'

9) 'Why? We do not have dust mite allergies and, as you have just pointed out, women are always cleaning. And if your mention of stains is building up to selling me Scotchguard treatment, forget it, pal, because you are now seriously getting on the one nerve I have left.'

10) 'Actually, it DOES matter what side of the bed I sleep on, because if I slept on Andy's side I would get up on a dark Winter morning and instead of heading for the bathroom, I'd head for a bookcase.  AND if we swapped sides we would suffer serious roll inwards issues. I prefer sleeping uphill, thank you. Which is why we are choosing a Slumberland mattress and not your top of the range mattress which, quite frankly, made me feel queasy because it bobbed around too much.'

And where was Andy during all this? Avoiding crusty salesman techniques by running around the shop bouncing on and off beds and vanishing behind display boards. 

We had trouble making the salesman understand that the delivery date would have to be on a Monday. Or a weekend. 

'They don't do Kent at the weekends,' he said. 'How about Tuesday 4th March?'

'That's not a Monday, is it?' said I. 'It's a Tuesday.'

And after several more false starts when he offered us a Thursday, a Friday and another Thursday, and then worked out I am a teacher, but only, I suspect, because Andy said, 'How about after the 4th April? You'll be on Easter holidays,' and the salesman offered us Friday 4th April, and I said 'but that's a Friday and we said 'AFTER' 4th April' and FINALLY, we got to Monday 10th April and the salesman couldn't resist a final quip about us having to put up with our very old bed for another two months, and Andy virtually had to stand on my feet to stop me leaping across the sales desk and committing salesicide, we paid and done was done. 

Anyway, mission accomplished. We did what we set out to do and that was to purchase a new bed. And a nice wooden headboard. On our terms. No extras. 

For I am steely-willed when it comes to dealing with salesmen. Unfortunately, the salesman did not know this. Poor chap. On many levels. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

Ladybird, Ladybird

There has been much hilarity chez moi ce soir stemming from a quick visit Andy and I made to our local town museum this morning in order to see the new exhibition dedicated to the lovely Ladybird Book. You know, the ones with proper pictures in them, and proper writing with proper spelling and grammar and punctuation. All very nice and proper. And innocent. No Peppa Pig kicking off and being a naughty role model here. No answering back to the adults in the name of child-cantered learning. 

Anyway... (and definitely before I get started on Michael Gove and his latest 'idea'...grrrrr!) 

...we oohed and aahed our way around, going, 'I remember that one!' whilst pointing at pictures of The Enormous Turnip and Rapunzel and Bunnykins Picnic Party. It is surprising how certain images from childhood make such a huge impression on our memories as to be recalled so quickly after more than 40 years. Like the one with the witch cutting Rapunzel's long golden plait, and Rumpelstiltskin with his foot stuck in the floor. (Apparently, so Andy said because he read an article about it, the whole Rumpelstiltskin story is full of phallic analogy. I said to hush, I did not wish my childhood memory to be besmirched by some angry feminist reading of an innocent fairy story. We blamed Angela Carter. I taught an Angela Carter text to some sixth formers once. They were very shocked and very embarrassed. Especially the boys.) 

Anyway, we got talking, as you do, about other books we remembered from our childhoods. I still have my Pookie the Rabbit books, complete with my own hand drawn illustrations via the medium of wax crayon and stick people. Andy fondly remembered the How and Why series, which I had never heard of but then they were American so were probably banned from my very provincial primary school because of the spelling 'color' and the use of the word 'faucet' instead of 'tap.'

And then I got all sentimental about the I.t.a books.

'The what?' said Andy.

'I.t.a,' said I. 'It is how I learned to read. Pam, Proody and Pip. The Initial Teaching Alphabet.' And I found it on the interwebbly (and was rather shocked to see it still in use in some places) and showed him.

The Initial Teaching Alphabet was invented by Mr Pitman of Pitman Short Hand fame, as a revolutionary way of teaching children to read. Some of the letters corresponded with the standard alphabet but there were additional 'figures' that represented blends of letter sounds and diphthongs, and thus resembled Egyptian hieroglyphics. But my primary school used it and I remember my Mum getting into a bit of a stew when I was around 7 years old and very proficient in I.t.a about how I was going to make the transition to 'the proper alphabet' and would I ever be able to spell properly? 

Well, I did and I can. In fact, I think because I learned through this weird phonetic-style method I've never had any trouble spelling. But who knows? P.R.O.P.E.R.L.Y.

Anyway, both Andy and Heather declared that I.t.a as a reading method was little better than a form of infant torture. 'How did you ever learn to read using THAT?' they both shrieked, pointing at the alphabet images I had found to show them. 

'Because I am a genius?' I wanted to say, but didn't because no-one likes a show-off. 

What were your favourite childhood books? Were you a Ladybird, too? 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Decision Made

Andy and I have decided upon our new careers based on the tenuous results of a Facebook quiz. I am not on Facebook. Andy is. Andy's friends have already done the quiz and been given jobs that are either a) predictable b) ironic or c) wholly unsuitable. So we thought, hey, this seems like a good career guidance tool! Let's see what it can do for us!!

Andy is going to be a professor. Yup, the results of the quiz proved what I already knew - that my dear husband has a brain the size of the universe which retains masses of mostly useful, but sometimes Doctor Who/ retro-game/chemistry based information, and he is very entertaining and thusly would enthral a lecture hall full of students with his comedy genius and singing ability. Plus he is also a master at the art of falling asleep in lectures at veterinary conferences and therefore would know the importance of keep the heating turned right down and maximising the taser charge in each seat in order to keep the students awake. Plus he has a Doctor Who tie and a tweed jacket and (when it grows too long) crazy hair, so he would look the part, too. Plus he is forgetful which I believe is an essential requirement to being a professor. 

Professor Andy it is then. I am already taking bookings for his first lecture - 'Sweet Dough Buns and How To Stop Them Sagging.'

'When is this lecture happening?' says Daisy, who has dropped in for a crumpet and cup of tea. 

'This afternoon,' I say. 'You and Primrose have front row seats, so you may want to wear something waterproof and wipeable as there is likely to be a fair amount of moist dough flying about the shop.'

'I shall wear my all-weather poncho,' says Daisy. 'It has been seeing a fair amount of use for the last two months.'

'I'll bet it has,' I say. 'Bloomin' rain.'

'Rain has nothing to do with it,' says Daisy. 'Custard more like.'

'Custard?' says I .

'Custard,' says Daisy. 'Primrose is determined to enter the World Custard Pie Championships this year and has been practising with her team which currently consists of herself and Tango Pete. She tried to get me involved but I said, 'No!' Just like that. Exclamation mark and all.'

(For the uninitiated and especially for Deanna who wanted to know all about quaint English traditions,  the World Custard Pie Championships do exist and they happen in Kent every year about 3 miles up the road from where we live. They were about when I was a teenager, then they stopped for a few years during the season of Let's Be Sensible and Not Waste Good Custard, then they started up again about oh, eight years ago, I imagine because either there was a glut at the E.U custard lake OR people just wanted some silliness in their lives again because Gordon Brown was at or near the helm of the Good Ship Britannia and everything was sooooooo boring. But they are real. Really real.)

'So,' says Daisy. 'What are you going to be? What is your new job?'

'I shall read you the results of my test,' I say. 'Ahem...You should be a designer...'

'That's very relevant,' says Daisy. 'Given your recent start in learning to be a textile artist.'

'I know,' I say. (By the way, I have decided upon 'The Language of Fans,' but before you all get huffy because I rejected your suggestions, I haven't rejected them at all! Oh no! I have arrived at a cunning textile design plan which incorporates ALL your malarkey ideas, to wit I shall elucidate during a future blog - in the meantime, hang on to your boots!) 

'So, I continue,' I continue. 'You are an artist. Creative juices are oozing out of you...'

'You'll be needing a mop and bucket, then,' said Daisy, wrinkling her beak ever so slightly in disgust. 'Or a soapy J cloth at the very least.'

'Do you mind?' I say. 'My oozing juices are NOT ending up down a drain. Now, where was I? Ah yes ...'You'd make as good a designer as an artist as long as you get to create something.'

'Have you completed your blanket yet?' says Daisy.

'Almost,' says I. 'I reckon another couple of knitting evenings then I can start the sewing construction. I am thinking of making it double sided with a bit of wadding 'twixt the two sides, held in place with some strategically positioned and large fabric buttons.'

'Like a wool duvet?' says Daisy.

'Exactly,' says I. 

'Are you working to a pattern?' says Daisy.

'No,' says I. 'I am making it up as I go along. Like a proper designer.'

'Oo-er,' says Daisy.

'You live your life like Michelangelo...' I continue.

'Hanging from the ceiling?' says Daisy.

'Painting men's willies?' says Primrose, who has just arrived, covered in custard and wanting to avail herself of the shower facilities.

'She won't be painting them grey, will she?' says Daisy.

'No,' says Primrose. 'Grey wouldn't like right at all. Not on a willy.'

'Unless it was a statue of that whale from that film called Free Willy,' says Daisy. 'That might work.'

'More black than grey, don't you think?' says Primrose.

'Can we compromise on a very dark grey Willy?' says Daisy, who is starting to enjoy this conversation far too much.

'For goodness' sake you two,' I say. 'I live my life like Michelangelo because  I am constantly looking for the sculpture within the stone.'

Daisy looks at Primrose. Primrose looks at Daisy.

'What does that mean then?' says Daisy.

'Well,' I say. 'You know you have developed a penchant for fat balls?' 

'Indeed,' says Primrose. 'In fact, I just offered one to Tango Pete but he couldn't quite bring himself to have a peck. Said it reminded him too much of home, whatever that means.'

'Well,' I say, conscious that this is a Sunday and I need to keep a rein on the saucy-horse before the hens gallop off with it and cause untold shock and horror. 'From the outside the fat ball looks like a ball of lard. Plain and uninspiring. But when you start pecking at it with your little chisel-like beaks what do you find?'

'Seeds and insects!' says Daisy.

'And they are the statue within,' I say.

Primrose looks at Daisy. Daisy looks at Primrose.

'Nope,' says Daisy. 'Still don't get it.'

I sigh. 'Anyway,' I say. 'The Facebook quiz says my ideal job would be a designer. And my back up options are architect or editor. And as I don't have a long enough ruler to be an architect, and I do enough editing in my current job as a teacher, I am going to be a designer/artist and make stuff!' 

And this thought has cheered me up no end!