Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Cold as ice...

I am fed up with being cold.  The heating keeps kicking in, as the house is too cold to sustain human life, and I have reintroduced thermals to my summer wardrobe.

Every morning this week, I have cautiously opened one eye and peeked over the window sill for a quick weather check. Gone are the days when I would hang the next day's outfit in the bathroom, ready to slip on for work.  Oh no..it is only after the weather check that I decide on whether it's a thermal or flip-flop day.  Of course, some outfits can be worn whatever, so all I need to decide with these outfits is whether I can get away with wearing socks (not the best of looks with three-quarter length trousers or a skirt mind you).

Taking a look at the long term weather forecast, it would appear that we will have a dry day on July 5th, with another following on the 27th.  I am anticipating the second flood, and have set the husband to work with some chipboard and a lathe.  We're still confused as to how big a cubit is, so depending on the finished article, there might either be room for the whole of mankind and a pair of each of our animal friends, or a solitary squirrel...time will tell.

The husband and I, not being the kind of people to feel jealous of our four children and their planned exotic holidays (honestly..) are heading to a shed on the sea front sometime over the summer.  If the rain is still hammering down that week, I would imagine that we will need to use an intricate system of stepping stones to get from the shed to our car, as the sea will be lapping around the front door.  I will probably invest in water wings for the two dogs just in case.

The one thing which really irritates me is that after giving us all this doom and gloom regarding the next day's forecast, the weather man then gives a wide smile, and informs us that the good news is....

'The pollen count will be low'..

Pollen, schmollen........ I would be quite happy sniffing in the sunshine...

Monday, 30 May 2016

Plant life...

Over the weekend, decisions were made.  Very important decisions, which could possibly effect the rest of this year.

You see, the husband and I have an allotment.  (For my non-British readers, this is a posh term for a patch of dirt with a few carrots growing in it).  Last year was our first attempt at growing our own vegetables, with a view to saving ourselves a bit of money, and enjoying the wonderful flavours of home-grown, organic veg.  There will be some of you, who are already in possession of an allotment, reading this with tears in their eyes at our naivety in thinking this.

Of course, the first thing you do to an allotment is make it secure, easy to manage and ready for planting.  With the chain fencing (to deter Thumper and his buddies), railway sleepers (to break the patch of mud up into bite-size pieces) and the hire of a digger for the day to turn the soil over, we were already out of pocket to the tune of £300.  That is a lot of carrots (even if you buy those expensive ones with the silly French name...)

Hanging bunting around it to keep the birds off my tender seedlings, we were ready to water, feed, prune and weed, nurturing the tiny scraps of vegetation in the hope that they would turn into something quite magnificent.

Let's fast forward three months, and see what actually happened...

Now I am a great believer in the saying that if you throw enough mud at a wall, eventually some of it will stick.  Thus was it with my Brussels sprouts.  I had planted eight seedlings, expecting one of them to cling to life.  Not once did I expect all eight to thrive, providing me with 386 sprouts in August.  Now everyone knows that sprouts are only eaten on one day a year under extreme duress (Christmas Day) and unless I was planning on inviting the population of Manchester to Christmas lunch, there were going to be some left over...  Also, these weren't meant to be ready for harvesting until December, but they'd obviously decided to rush themselves along a bit.  By the middle of October, we were completely sprouted out, and I resorted to bagging them up, chucking them in the freezer, removing them from the freezer sometime in January when I couldn't bear to look at them anymore and throwing them in the bin...

I did have some success with my cauliflower and broccoli.  I had been warned about whitefly and decided to get some fine mesh net to keep the pests off.  As the man in the garden centre said to me as I handed over yet more money, 'The last think you want is whitefly on your brassicas love...'

My runner beans were the gift which kept giving right through to October.  Luckily, we all like runner beans so this wasn't a problem.  We did have to buy two bean slicers so that they could be prepped for freezing though....the husband was helping me do this, and claimed that they were all he could see every time he closed his eyes for about a week afterwards.

Last week, the husband and I headed down to the allotment to get it ready for this year's planting.  As we turned the soil over, we discovered seven onions which I had mislaid in the summer (Thumper and his posse had done a moonlight raid, and eaten all the tops off, so I had no idea where they were, and had written them off as lost).

So now we're ready to plant, and decisions have been made as to what is going in. 

One thing's for sure though, Christmas or no Christmas, my allotment will be sprout free this year...

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Bermuda triangle...

There's nothing better than spending a Bank Holiday Saturday in a large shopping centre, full of ne'er-do-wells (my sister Miss R, the mother ship, Mrs Jangles and Mrs W numbers 1 and 2 to be more precise).

Milton Keynes is not one of my favourite places, I must confess. It promises so much, yet yields so little.  This is probably because I have never ventured very far from where I have left the car, terrified I will never see it again (a bit like the walk in the woods the other day). 

Miss R had offered to drive us all there in her big, posh car as she had lots of room.  It appeared that half of the population were heading the same way as us, and it was a happy moment when we saw the beautiful straight lines and right angles of Milton Keynes.

Reconnoitring at the large map in the middle of the shopping centre, we planned our day.  The mother ship and Mrs Jangles fancied a gentle meander around M&S, while us younger ladies were planning more adventurous shopping, namely Zara and Karen Millen.

There was some confusion at the map, the 'You are Here' sign not helping the older two whatsoever with regard to the location of M&S.  Eventually making them understand that it was the purple area which they needed to head to, I came up with the suggestion of one of them taking a photo of the map in case they got lost.  You all know what I am going to say now, don't you?  Neither of their phones had a camera, internet access or maps.  We would just have to hope that sometime around 2.00, they would both materialise at Carluccio's for lunch, having checked out the Milton Keynes branch of their favourite store.

Going our separate ways, the younger contingent headed off to House of Fraser (big sign, couldn't miss it).  Why we thought it would be any different from the House of Fraser near home, I have no idea, but I digress.  At one point, I was hanging around the Mint Velvet section looking at their grey clothes (they have a very limited palette). 

'I don't like their clothes', said Mrs W number 1.  'They're always asymmetrical'.

I agreed with her, saying that until the day arrived when I had one leg longer than the other, and walked in a never-ending circle, their clothes weren't for me.

Many bags later, we headed off to Carluccio's for lunch.  Frantically checking our watches, we waited for the two older shoppers to appear on the horizon (a bit like that dog in The Incredible Journey).  Surprisingly, they were both early.  They had found the restaurant about half an hour before, and were too afraid to walk on in case they never found it again.  The lure of a couple of glasses of red wine were all that was needed to lead them to us apparently.

It was then off for more shopping and back to the car.  Laden with bags, it soon became apparent that we had a problem with Miss R's big, posh car.  The boot was filled with four rolled up duvets (I still have no idea what she was doing with these in her boot - she only has one bed for goodness sake).   Our neatly wrapped packages were stuffed onto parcel shelves, into glove compartments, centre consoles, ashtrays and even deep pockets.  Even so, it was a bit touch and go, and it was just as well that Mrs W number 2 had her own car there, as sacrifices would have been necessary.

We never did find the purple area.  I think that the people who do find it, are never seen again.

A bit like the Bermuda Triangle...

Friday, 27 May 2016

Feed me...

Yesterday was the last day of freedom for Mrs B (she of the fancy waffle maker) as Saturday sees the grand opening of her café.  As she was busy making waffles with the husband and his business partner this afternoon (they were her guinea pigs - actually, having heard how many they ate, I think we can drop the 'guinea') I offered to do some running around for her to give her more time to prepare for today. 

This involved collecting and dropping off her two boys, Master J and Master O at various activities, something I haven't done for many years as all our offspring have their own transport now.  First job was to take Master O off to his drumming lesson.  Calling for him this afternoon, the front door was opened by aforementioned boy, sporting a fine set of whiskers and some sheet music. 

'Why the whiskers?' I asked

'I'm a meerkat'.

Apparently, that was enough explanation, but further interrogation revealed that a girl was responsible for this, which is probably why he hadn't washed it off. We drove to the drumming lesson, and I dropped the meerkat off at a very un-drummer-teacher looking house.  They had a Maple Tree and a Buddha in the drive for goodness sake.  Not very rock 'n' roll...

It was then off to the local comprehensive to pick up Master J.  Having parked up, I scanned the faces of the exited children looking for the one I was supposed to collect.  What I wasn't expecting was a 5'10" lemur (it was a onesie I think) to get into my car hauling a rucksack behind him.

Conversation went like this...

'How was Band Practice?'

'It wasn't Band Practice.  I'm in a play'

'Oh, what are you doing?'

'The Little Shop of Horrors.  I'm Audrey Two......'

Now I have seen this film.  Several times.  But never once did I see a 6' lemur play the part of a man-eating plant.  Apparently there are twelve boys playing the plant.  I am wondering whether they are confusing Audrey Two with the beanstalk of 'Jack' fame.

So the lemur and I head back to pick the meerkat up from his drumming lesson, with a promise of a McDonalds on the way home. 

Pulling up in the car park with my menagerie on board, the lemur suggested a drive through.  I was extremely relieved, as I had minor concerns about trying to get into the restaurant with the two of them.

I would have had to leave them tied up outside with a bowl of water...

Video killed the radio star...

Yesterday morning, Miss R and I hit the airwaves of our local radio station.  I have always wondered at the sheer bravery of the DJ at welcoming us into his studio for a couple of hours every few months.  I mean, my sister and I are renowned for our ability to talk non-stop drivel (you blog readers will appreciate this I'm sure) but for some reason, Marlow FM feels that this is what its public want.  The radio station has an average 1000 pairs of ears listening at any particular time, except when we're on, when radios all over Marlow are switched off as we're introduced, or at the very best, some glazing over of the eyes happens.

My sister has been running a very regular spot on the show called 'Don't Get Me Started', which gives her a verbal soapbox to complain about everything she doesn't like or approve of in Marlow.  She has covered some quite extreme and thought provoking subjects over the years, which have set the tongues of Marlow a-wagging.  Some of my favourites have included:

There are two Chinese takeaways in Marlow - why are both closed on a Monday?  Could they not have discussed this before deciding on their prospective nights off?  What do you do if you fancy a Prawn Ball on a Monday night?  Eat pizza, that's what...

Parking in Marlow, especially on a Saturday morning (this is the time I visit, and probably the only day that Miss R drives into the town, so I sense an ulterior motive here).  My sister is pushing for a Park and Ride in Marlow.  There is about as much chance of this happening as me running the country, but she persists with this on a regular basis.

Discarded beards after the charity Santa Run every year.  Apparently, they get everywhere, and a special Beard Sweeper has to be employed to scoop up the hairy face décor after the event.  I have told her that as she gets older she may be able to grow her own and do away with the clip on version, but I don't think she thought I was being helpful.

Dog poop on the pavement - this appears frequently (both on the show, and on the pavement) and my sister is an advocate of the 'Got a Wagger? Be a Bagger' ethos.  She regularly walks my two dogs, and they're terrified of doing a number 2 when they're with her, preferring to hold it all in till they reach the relative safety of Oxfordshire.

Interspersed with all the doom, gloom and dog poop, are the lovely bits.  The DJ champions Marlow so well, promoting the wonderful things it does to bring its people together.

Maybe a Monday night (when both Chinese takeaways are closed) would be the perfect time to suggest a huge get-together for all the wonderful Marlovians.

I'll bring the Prawn Balls...

Thursday, 26 May 2016

That's amore...

Have you ever tried to get a drunk northern man and an even drunker daughter on crutches (number 1) into a Ford Ranger?  Thus ended last night's birthday celebrations.

It had been a wonderful evening, and everyone had a story to bring Nanny to the table as it were.  Most of these were unrepeatable, and all involved alcohol of some description,  but there you go, an apple never falls far from the tree...

We went to Nanny's favourite restaurant for dinner, a cosy Italian in Marlow.  Actually, the waiters look better than the food tastes, but maybe that's why she loved it there so much.  But the best bit about this restaurant is the fact that they have a pudding trolley.  At the end of the main course, it is wheeled out in all its gilt-covered plastic splendour, with one squeaky wheel, and a slight tilt to the left. 

It doesn't really matter which of the puddings you choose, as they all contain the same ingredients, just in different quantities.  These are cream, double cream, Amaretto, chocolate, coffee, sugar, coffee sponge and cocoa powder.  There is also a dieter's pudding.  This has been the same since I first set foot in this restaurant some time in the 1900's...orange segments in Grand Marnier.  Now, as we all know, alcohol is a preservative, so these could be the same oranges which were steeped in liqueur some thirty years ago.  To date, I have never seen a single person say,

'It'll be the oranges for me please'.

So the waiter, in his best pseudo-Italian voice (I bet he's from Reading) went through the choices on the pudding trolley.  Let's face it, after several bottles of wine no one was listening to him, and we were all going to choose either the nearest or the biggest anyway.  It was as easy as that.

I chose the Amaretto Trifle.  This was mainly cream and coffee sponge.  Handing it to me reverently, the waiter, poised with his small pouring jug, asked if I would like some cream.  What, on top of my cream?  I declined, flippantly telling him I was on a diet.  'Perhaps Signorina (ha!) should have had the oranges?'  Mmm, not if I want to make it to Friday my friend.  

So the only thing differentiating my Amaretto Trifle from the adjacent Tiramisu, were the carefully scattered Amaretti biscuits on top, most of which my father pinched while I was chatting to Mrs Jangles. Turning to Nifty Fingers Richardson (See 'Gypsies, tramps and thieves' for a reminder as to his particular skills) I asked him what he was having off the pudding trolley.

'Vanilla ice-cream.....it's never on the trolley'.  (Hushed voice..) 'They keep it out the back for me'.

Sure enough, out came a sundae glass filled to its fluted brim with under-the-counter ice cream.  Well, I am assuming it was in there.  There were so many wafers sticking out of the top, that there could have been anything underneath.

Probably some of those damned oranges...

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Money, money, money...

Some of you may have noticed that yesterday would have been my Nanny Joyce's 96th birthday.  For those of you lovely readers who have been with me from the start, you'll remember the painful days of late January and early February, interspersed with moments full of love, laughter and on many occasions, red wine a-plenty.

Last night, the family came together to celebrate her birthday.  Even though she was missing from our table, she was with us in spirit, knocking back the red wine like Prohibition was coming into effect the next day.  I'll update you on the gossip tomorrow.....

Going back to yesterday, I had to go through the complete humiliation of having to ask a twelve year old how to run my finances. Now either I am getting older (probable) or the banks are recruiting straight from primary school.  Jack, as the boy was called, was obviously old enough to shave (or not, as he was fuzzy faced from the nostrils downwards), and his voice had broken.  That is where any similarity to an adult stopped.  He welcomed me with an 'Alright?' 

This immediately brings on an almost allergic reaction, where I have to slip into a 1950's voice similar to either Joyce Grenfell or the headmistress out of St Trinian's (the original black and white one) so I proffered my hand, with an almost regal 'Good afternoon Jack.  I hope that you are quite well?'

'Yeah, fine.  Wanna follow me?'

Wincing at his obvious inability to include all of a word's letters when spoken (he was like a poor man's Danny Dyer) I followed him into the side room which all banks seem to have these days.

Well Jack looked like he'd borrowed his suit from his dad as the sleeves on the jacket brushed past his knuckles.  He did have rather an odd tattoo on the inside of his wrist, so maybe the long sleeves were a request from the bank management?  I think it said 'DUDE', but as the last letter was hidden by his replica James Bond watch, it could have said 'DUD'?  I'll never know.

He was wearing white socks with his brown shoes (since when did it become acceptable to wear brown shoes with a black suit anyway?) but they were barely noticeable until he sat down, as the trouser legs concertinaed round his ankles like wooly, black puddles. (His dad must be quite a bit taller than him).  The top two buttons of his shirt were undone, and he WASN'T EVEN WEARING A TIE....I caught a glimpse of the army dog tag he was wearing (one would assume that considering he was barely into double figures where age was concerned, this also was fake).

I had gone there to ask for some in-depth advice for investing some money for university fees.  The boy's opening gambit was,

'Well, our rates are rubbish, but 'ere's what we've got right now'.

At this point he turned a piece of paper round so that it was facing me, and one by one, rejected all of the savings accounts bar one.

Nodding like I understood, I said,

'OK.  It looks like that will be the one then.' 

'Pucker'.

Joyce Grenfell then re-appeared, and asked him whether he got paid any extra pennies for helping people with their savings and investments.

Pointing at the list, he said, 'Yeah.  I get commission on that one'.

Aah..that will be the one which he recommended.  It suddenly all made sense..

Not as stupid (or naïve) as he looked then...

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Love is the sweetest thing...

It's my wedding anniversary this week and I'm in trouble.

Three days before this year's anniversary, and I am unprepared...no card, no present, nothing.  He, on the other hand, did book something, which I spectacularly ruined by announcing that I was going out with my mother on the same evening. 

I'm not sure what he was more upset about actually.  The fact that I was out that night, or that I was going to watch men in tights for a couple of hours.  This is an annual event with my mother, which we thoroughly enjoy, in between the stifled giggles at the rolled up socks stuffed down the men's tights.  My mother always told me that this lump was a handy step for the ballerinas to tread on when executing a difficult lift.  I believed her up to the age of 25...

So for a harnessed Northerner, the husband can be very romantic.  Over the years, I have had some really thoughtful presents from him, including a handmade bench with our wedding day carved into it (no excuse to ever forget it then), and weekends away in Paris and Berlin (sometimes with my sister Miss R in tow, but she's very discreet and no bother).   He also cooked for me on a couple of occasions, and there are always flowers and a beautiful card with a handwritten P.S.

So you can see he's quite a romantic soul.

I'm not.

My presents to him have included a pair of suede shoes, a shirt covered in bicycles, an overnight bag (anticipating a return present of a weekend away) and a bracket for his bike.  All very practical, just not very romantic...

I do have some ideas though.  I can't divulge until Thursday (he doesn't read my blog, but relies on daughter number 1 for any updates relating to him), but I hope he won't be disappointed.  I'll be honest with you though, if I bought him nothing he wouldn't care.  The fact that he wakes up next to me every morning is enough for him.

At least that's what I keep telling him...

Monday, 23 May 2016

Sharp dressed man...

I asked the husband on Saturday night whether he was going out on his bike again on Sunday morning. 

'No.  I'm going shopping for clothes'..... 

Now the husband shops for clothes on a regular basis (every two years without fail) so it's a big event in our house.  But for the last eight years, he has not been allowed to go alone as he can't be trusted to:

1. Buy the right size (He is no longer the svelte medium of yesteryear but is in denial...)
2. Buy age-appropriate clothing (No 3/4 length trousers, heavily worded t-shirts, anything sparkly)
3. Be nice to the store staff (Patience is not his forte)
4. Come home with enough purchases (One bag does not a shopper make)

So it was a foregone conclusion that I would go with him, much to his dismay.  The shopping bonanza started in the usual way with a stiff coffee and twenty questions from me as to what his planned purchases were to be.  The best I could get out of him was 'shorts' and 'some shoes like son number 2 has'. The shoes he was referring to are a size 13 black velvet winkle picker.  The husband had to borrow these last week, and I'm still pondering how they managed to stay on his size 9 feet.  I'd imagined some screwed up newspaper in the pointy bit...

Coffee drunk, we headed off towards House of Fraser. but his attention was diverted by a new store.

'Oh look, it's a new gadget shop....let's go and have a look'.
'No.  We're doing clothes today...'
'Oh go on.  We could buy stuff for the grandchildren'.
'We haven't got any grandchildren, nor are we likely to the way our lot are going'.
'But when we do, we may not have the money to buy stuff like that.  Let's buy it now'.
'We won't have any money because we would have spent it all twenty years earlier on gadgets which we put away, then forgot about.  Keep walking sunshine...'

I left him in the relative safety of House of Fraser and went and did my own shopping, returning an hour later expecting him to be having a lie down in the changing rooms having maxed out the debit card, but he was still in the changing room, whipping things on and off with gay abandon. Coming out with a shirt on (a good choice actually) I said..

'That's a little tight.  Shall I get you the next size up?'
'I think it's fine...I'll go on a diet'.
'Are you breathing in?'
'No....'
'Are you sure?'

Husband breathes out, shirt gapes, button pops, I get bigger sizes...

Overall it was quite a successful shopping trip.  Two shirts, three t-shirts, a jacket and a pair of shoes.

Not sure what he ended up with.....

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Take me to the river...

I know that I have touched on this subject before, but whilst having a cut and blow dry yesterday morning, courtesy of the lovely Simone, I wondered when the pivotal moment was when men invaded the last bastion of female privacy....

I think it all started going wrong when the stylists' names changed from Donna and Sharon to Julian and Clive.  Of course, in those days, these early male stylists were quite camp, not treading on any of our stiletto clad toes.  As time has gone on though, my salon has gone through the booted and suited smart chaps through to the slightly terrifying, heavily pierced, leather clad male stylists.  Of course, these macho types make the salons look manly, making it acceptable for our menfolk to frequent them.

Now we all know that the hair stylist has a question checklist, the answers to which go something like this if you are a woman:

'Is that water warm enough for you?'
'Yes, that's fine, thank you'.

'Is that pressure hard enough?' (Head massage time - my favourite)
'Yes, perfect, thank you'.

'Have you got anything planned tonight?'
'Yes.  We're off to a party/dinner/the theatre/friends for the evening '.  (Delete as appropriate)

Here's what I heard next to me at the basin yesterday morning...

'Is that water warm enough for you?'
'What?'
'I asked you if the water was warm enough for you'
'Oh right.  Yeah, it's alright'

'Is that pressure hard enough?'
'What are you doing?'
'We massage your head while the conditioner works on your hair'.
'Well don't.  It makes me feel slightly uncomfortable'.

'Have you got anything planned tonight?'
'No'.
'How about later this afternoon?'
'I'm going fishing...'

So you see, we ladies go to the salon to make us look great and feel special.  We enjoy the whole experience of expensive smelling shampoos, and miracle working 'product', knowing that after leaving, all we have to do is slap on the makeup, slip on a frock and hit the town.

Men just go for a haircut.

They then go and get their rods out and wellies on if Mr 'I'm Not Comfortable with a Pretty Young Girl Massaging My Almost Bald Head' is anything to go by.....

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Stairway to heaven...

Now the weather is improving, the husband has re-started his Thursday nights of bike'n'beer....this is a weekly exercise session involving twenty five minutes hard cycling through the woods (he never gets lost), followed by three hours of drinking in the local hostelries.

I must say, he always looks the part when he leaves home in the fading sunlight.  Wrapped head to toe in Lycra and all the other necessary (questionable) paraphernalia, he resembles a rather stubby black pudding lit up like the Blackpool Illuminations.  He's rather self conscious of his Lycra-clad appearance though, so tends to wear baggy shorts over the bottom half, as do the other chaps in his posse.  I suppose there comes a time in most men's lives when a little mystery is not a bad thing.

So I met him and his cycling buddies, Mr B and Mr H, as I was on my way home on Thursday evening,  having spent the last hour semi-naked in the company of a rather handsome 30 year old man ( more on this another day perhaps...).  They were at the foot of the steep hill which I was coming down, steeling their manly thighs for some serious muscle burn.

Looking at the three of them, I was reminded that there is really no difference between a boy of ten or a man of fifty three where bikes are concerned.  All  of them were really excited about the prospect of muddy hills and soggy puddles, and the only difference between man and boy was that instead of a foil wrapped curly sandwich in the back pocket, each had beer money.

There have been the odd occasions when the beer has far outweighed the exercise.  I remember one particular Thursday night/Friday morning when the husband crawled through the front door at about 1.00 in the morning (on a school night too).  He came up the stairs on all fours, shedding Lycra all the way, before sweeping the duvet off the bed and throwing himself onto the mattress with a relieved grunt.  He had a very interesting aroma about him.  The countryside's beautiful evening smells, coupled with Guinness and a whiff of salt and vinegar.  Lovely. 

In the morning, when I got up, the damage from the night before was more obvious.  His shoes had been left very neatly by the front door, but the stairs resembled Halfords Bike Shop after a break in.  Lycra shorts, baggy shorts, cycling top, two socks, a helmet (its lights still managing to flash intermittently), a jacket and two gloves (one on the bottom step, one on the landing) littered the stairs, decorated with flakes of dried out mud which he had shed whilst stripping off. 

Peeling back the duvet on the still sleeping Barry Wiggins, I was appalled to discover that the mud hadn't fully been brushed off in the stripping frenzy on the stairs. His face looked like someone who had been painting the ceiling with an overloaded paint roller (but with brown paint) and his knees (exposed between shorts and socks) were covered in mud, a lot of which had made it onto my cotton bed linen, meaning that we had slept like a couple of hippos in a mud bath all night. 

Was I cross?  Did I have a go at him?  Of course not....I think the banging headache and the hour spent hugging the loo that morning were more than enough punishment....

Friday, 20 May 2016

Midnight at the lost and found...

As the wind and rain had quietened down to a dull roar yesterday afternoon, I decided to take the two fuzzballs up to the woods for a walk.  This wood is quite a new one on my radar, kindly introduced to me by the wonderful Mrs B next door (she of the fancy coffee and waffle machines for her soon-to-be-opened café). 

Now some weeks ago, I hauled the husband round on this walk.  Not content with my directions, he suggested a 'short cut'.  As we were running in Reg's paws at that point, I agreed that a shortened walk would be a great idea.  Well it was really beautiful, and since then, this is the walk of choice for the husband and me.

Yesterday, I braved it alone. Deciding on the shorter walk as I was limited to an hour, I headed off into the woods.  An hour later, with no car on the horizon, I was panicking.  Deciding to retrace my steps, I carried on walking.  It wasn't until I passed an old dumped lawnmower for the third time (no one could be more surprised that me at seeing this in the middle of nowhere) that I really started to worry.  So you can imagine my relief when a woman appeared with a large dog. 

'Can you help me?'  I asked her. 'I'm lost'.  She looked startled, which I put down to the fact that I was covered in mud and leaves having navigated several swampy paths (a couple of them twice).  'Where are you heading?' she asked.   When I told her, there was a sharp intake of breath. a bit like when a builder quotes.  She gave me instructions as to how to find my way back, but here's the problem. People in woods assume that other people they meet have some knowledge of the surrounding area.  'Straight up there, when you get to the clearing, head towards the pile of logs and keep to the side of the field. Should take you about half an hour'. 

Thanking her profusely, I was off again.  I was sweating like Lee Evans by now and half an hour later, I passed the mower again... Out of desperation, I called the husband.  For some reason, all he wanted to know was where I was.  Well, if I knew that then I wouldn't be lost, would I?   And then I had a light bulb moment....  My phone, satnav...brilliant....

Two minutes later, I stuck that back in my pocket - no glasses on me, so because there is no option as yet for a Braille mobile, I was knackered.  The husband received another high pitched call from yours truly, in which he managed to guess where I was (I have a feeling it was him that dumped that lawn mower, how else would he have known?)  Half an hour later I was back at the car, very relieved to be back in civilisation again.

The husband called again just as I was getting to the car. 'I'm coming to find you'.

Now knights in shining armour come in many guises. 

Mine tipped up in a four wheel drive towing a trailer, desperately trying not to laugh as he looked at me.  I'm sure that was why he kept hugging me.  He said it was to reassure me, but I think it was so I wouldn't see the tears running down his cheeks. 

He never lets me down.  Asks daft questions sometimes, but is always there when I need him...

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Le freak...


It was a most trying day yesterday.  Not only did my newly straightened hair have to contend with keeping out of the rain (hat/umbrella/handbag/lever-arch file depending on which part of the day you caught me) I also had to try and make my blog look more 'user friendly'.

A friend of son number 1, Master H, has offered to help me build my blog in a more professional manner, thus attracting big names to advertise on it. (Looking at my blog, I would imagine that Tena Lady, Damart, Spanx and Schmackos would be the first to throw their hats in that particular ring, all eager to jump on the bandwagon of the middle aged, crazy dog lady with a penchant for industrial knickers).

However, when Master H told me that it had to be 'user friendly', I did wonder what exactly that meant?  I have always felt that my blog with its garish orange background, and slightly overlarge facebook link was just fine.  It's slightly shabby (a bit like me), a little bit amateur (a lot like me) and quite easy to look at (you can be the judge of that one..) 

But apparently, this isn't what the advertisers want.  They prefer slick websites, which are aesthetically pleasing.  In other words, my website needed a complete make over.  The blog itself was fine (that was a relief - at least my writing got a gold star, instead of the 'Could've tried harder' which the website got) but it had to be wrapped up and presented better.  Do people really notice these things?  I must say that whenever I go on to Next's website, I never look at it and think that I would be more likely to buy a dress if the model was prettier and they were using Calibri as a typeface. Perhaps us normal people (yes, you too) aren't that shallow.

So this is why my blog has been going through temporary facelifts over the last twenty four hours.  I have never been frightened of computers, always believing that I can look up a fix from some nerdy type if need be.  This would explain why I lost my facebook link for three hours yesterday, the type face turned to something very Gothic, then disappeared altogether (that was a terrifying three minutes of my life), and the background was a picture of jelly beans. 

But I think I have it sussed now.  Publishing my blog tomorrow is the equivalent of handing in my homework to the teacher which nobody likes (no offence Master H).  If I haven't got at least a B+, I'll be in detention, trying harder...

Changing the subject though, the husband went to work wearing for the first time my favourite t-shirt. This is not mine as such (that would be silly) but the wording on the front always cheers me up.  It screams out in large italic letters 'I'm married to a freakin' awesome wife!'

As he crawled through the front door last night after a particularly trying day, with the two dogs hitching a ride on him between the hall and the kitchen, I asked him whether he'd had any comments about the t-shirt.

The husband shook his head, dislodging Reg who was doing a passable impression of a hat.

'What, nothing at all?' I asked.

'Nope, not a word'.

I was really surprised, as working with a load of burly builders like he does, you would have thought that the banter would be flowing.

Further interrogation revealed that he'd not taken his jumper off all day as it was so cold, which is why no one had commented on the t-shirt and its factual declaration.

You would think that being married to me, he would have been willing to brave the cold to tell the world (well, Abingdon) what an amazing wife he had?

Obviously not...

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Pull up to the bumper...

Words from a Bird.  Day 139...

Today, I would like to talk about my drive..

Before you all start reaching for a stiff drink or the ESC button, let me explain.  Ten years ago, when the husband and I claimed this house as our own, our four children had an average age of eleven.  The idea that sometime in the not so distant future they would be driving, was not on our radar at all.  It was only when daughter number 1 passed her test and got her first car that we started to realise that things would have to change if we ever wanted to get into the drive again. 

You see, it's not just your own children who start driving, but their many, many friends who are all doing the same.  So as daughter number 1's Peugeot started tipping up on the drive, so did others.  Small, economical rust buckets with a life expectancy of about two years started appearing at weekends, randomly deposited at various points on our drive and the surrounding lawn. 

Something had to be done, and it was with great joy and a giddy hopping from foot to foot that on Boxing Day morning 2010, the husband got his Kubota out.  This, for the uneducated amongst you, is a small digger, and he proceeded to remove half of our front lawn, replacing it with a drive extension.

Some of our neighbours were disgusted at his vim and vigour on a day when most people struggle to get out of their pyjamas. (This is because nothing else fits after the Christmas Day 'Eat all You Can' festivities).   The major complaint was that he'd made some of the husbands look slightly inadequate.  This is one of the joys of having a husband who can 'do' stuff.  I may have to wait for it to be done (the current record is seven years for a leaking shower) but he gets there in the end.  But there's always a downside to being able to 'do' stuff - give the husband a new laptop, and he's sobbing into his HiVis jacket, teaching anyone within a five mile radius a variety of new and interesting words.

But by the end of the Christmas break, we had plenty of room for my car, daughter number 1's plus a couple of friends' and the husband's vehicle (this is the size of a small continent as befitting someone in the construction industry).

Fast forward six years, and we're back to square one.  All four children have cars (and friends with cars) and when they are all here, it looks like an NCP car park when I gaze out of my bedroom window.  Never mind looking at the flowers around the borders, I have to shield my eyes from the glare of up to seven cars abandoned on the gravel.  I have considered walking round the drive with a note pad and pen, jotting down arrival times and charging by the hour, but I don't think I'd get away with it.  Anyway, the majority of them are students and 'poor' apparently.  (A minor point here - three of the four are going to Thailand for a month this year, while the other is having two European holidays.  The husband and I are living in a shed on the south coast for a week....I wish I was 'poor' like them...)

So coming home the other day when we had a full house, my car park, sorry, drive, resembled one of those sliding squares toys which we had in the 1960's.  You know the ones, where you have to move one square to move another and so on, until the picture is completed.  It probably would have taken about thirty six manoeuvres by seven different people to get my car back into its normal space.  I decided to leave it on the grass opposite the house where easy access is always available.

This year, we decided to get rid of the gravel drive, and replace it with something that doesn't like to leave home on a regular basis (I have no idea where all those stones have gone). The husband claims that they get stuck in tyres and driven off to new homes.  Now this could be true for his 4WD/I can climb a mountain/drive on snow tyres, but I'm not too sure about my Mini's rather delicate ones.

We had almost decided on tarmac.  The husband liked this, and was threatening to mark out bays for each child's car.  It did suddenly dawn on us though, that by September all of them would be gone.  Two to university, one to Milton Keynes (oh the glamour of a first job) and one hopefully into her own home.  All of a sudden, our runway-sized drive is surplus to requirements.  I did mention to the husband that perhaps we could reclaim our land back from the drive, and re-turf it, returning our front lawn to its former glory.

I've not seen him since...

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

At the hop...


Words from a Bird.  Day 138

I was an angel of mercy today.  Daughter number 1, currently in the throes of only having one usable foot due to a sporting injury was going stir crazy at home.  Having spent the last four days with no transport, she had exhausted her credit card with internet shopping (I just hope that she's mobile enough to answer the door when the packages start arriving), watched the suicide-inducing daytime TV and browsed the internet for comical cat videos.  I was very concerned when she told me that she had resorted to looking at the walls after dipping into daytime TV for a six hours, so I decided that a little trip out might be advisable.

Piling the two dogs, a pair of crutches and the two of us into my Mini, we headed down to the river where the dogs could have a run, and daughter number 1 could have a cup of tea.  There's a very handy café there, where I could park her while I headed across the field with the two dogs in tow.  We were walking beside the river at Henley on Thames where you would expect a rather upper class of people and their dogs to reside.  I was looking forward to making some new friends, the two and four legged varieties

Well we met several dogs.  The first, a feisty little Chihuahua, caused my two some distress, as the last thing you expect as a dog saying hello to a new friend, is for that prospective new friend to be lifted off the ground by its lead, and swung round just high enough for its teeth to nip randomly on whichever bit of my dogs it could get to.  My two were bemused, looking at the Mexican visitor to the town as though it was a piñata.  Its teeth reminded me of the shark in Jaws, and I am sure that there were the remains of a dachshund  clinging to its molars....

We were then intercepted by a Fox Terrier called Arthur (I told you the dogs were posh in Henley).  He was a complete contradiction.  The rear end wagging for all it was worth, while the other snarled like an East End boxer. We had to let him pass, and get a head start of approximately 100 yards before we could start walking again.  It's amazing how many weird looks you get from passers by, staring at the strange lady standing in the middle of the path with two stationary dogs, all the time staring into the distance, and asking the two dogs, 'Is that far enough yet?'

Heading back to the café, daughter number 1 was hidden behind a large ornamental bush.  For one brief moment, I thought she might have wandered off.  I then remembered that crutches combined with a waterlogged field are not conducive for a quick getaway.  Anyway, there she was, sitting in the sunshine awaiting my return.  Two cups of tea and an Italian ice cream later, we were ready to go home.

It's at this point that I owe the husband an apology.  Having planned a long walk, I had only taken a £10 note with me, assuming that this would be more than enough to cover a couple of teas.  Of course, after the teas (Henley prices) and the ice creams (Italian prices) I had approximately 17p left.

This explains why the husband had no Hellman's Mayonnaise for his salad this evening.  He had to have (steel yourself for this revelation) Salad Cream, something he may forgive me for by the end of July...

It's all your fault daughter number 1...

Monday, 16 May 2016

Peaches...

Words from a Bird.  Day 137...

After the rugby club dinner on Friday night, testosterone has been the recurring theme of my weekend.  The husband had decided that we should go and check our allotment, as there would be weeding to be done.  Armed with forks, trowels, a strimmer and a mower we headed over there.  After ten minutes of heavy labour in the sunshine, the husband, clad in work trousers and boots, stripped off his t-shirt.  Looking at me sitting on the ground, pathetically prodding at a rather aggressive looking dandelion with my hand fork, he said, 'I'm just hot.  Don't get any ideas...' 

Oh bless the man.  Much as I adore him, any ideas that I may have had at that particular time would probably have included a large gin and tonic, a manicure (my poor nails are not attached to green fingers) or a deckchair.  I think I managed to get this across with one look over the varifocals.

Both sons have been in residence this weekend, with son number one bringing home with him several males of varying sizes to stay (makes a change from his washing I suppose).  The male guests were here to do manly pursuits with son number 1, mainly golf (nothing manly about that, in my opinion) and water-skiing.  I know two of these lads quite well, having met them on several occasions, so we are quite relaxed in each others' company. The two new ones were polite and charming, as befitting those wanting to be housed, fed and watered for the night.

Coming down the stairs on Saturday morning, with arms full of dirty washing, I happened to glance through the open door of the guest room, where the boys were chatting.  You can imagine my surprise when the picture which greeted me involved a naked pert behind, its owner deep in conversation with the other boy who was still in bed.

Desperately trying to drag my eyes away (failed miserably, so just sunk my face into the dirty clothes I was carrying) I said in a muffled voice, 'I'm going to try really hard to pretend that I didn't just see that'.  Thirty six hours later, I was still trying to rid myself of the picture which tattooed itself on my eyeballs without much success. 

As the weather was just above freezing on Saturday night, the husband fired up the barbecue again and started foraging for animal remains to incinerate.  It was at this moment that I informed Master B about seeing his derriere that morning.  I told him that I would probably have to blog about it, as the writing would be cathartic in my healing.  Various song titles were suggested for this, but my favourite was Peaches.....(did you know that every blog since Day 12 has been a song title?  You'll go and look now, I'm sure).  The boys meanwhile, tired of discussing bottoms, had moved on to talking about the session of water-skiing which was booked for Sunday.

'Where are you going for this?' I asked son number one.

'To the Cotswolds' was his reply.

'Aah', I said sarcastically, 'The Cotswolds. Famously known as the epicentre of Europe for water-skiing...'

'Is it?' asked son number one, thoroughly impressed.

Of course, when you have to explain a joke, it stops being funny.  I gave it three minutes before I stuck a fork in a sausage in a fit of pique. 

I suppose that it was just as well Master B had his pants on this time...

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Last night a DJ saved my life...

Words from a Bird.  Day 136

Friday night saw the culmination of my week's efforts come together.  Much had been done in preparation for the BIG NIGHT OUT at the Drifters Ball.  Not only did I have a fab new dress, but hair had been done (the husband still hasn't noticed), upper lip waxed, eyebrows had been thinned out and lipstick applied.   Unfortunately, I still hadn't found the time to take a Black and Decker to the legs, but as long as I didn't stand closely to someone with the same problem, it would be fine (think Velcro).  I was polished, groomed and ready to party.

It was an interesting night to be honest.  Any sort of event involving a rugby club is going to be testosterone fuelled, and for some reason the men in the room insisted on mooing like rampant bulls every time someone stood up to speak.  I am sure that if you knew the club, then all this would make sense, but as none of our party did (I still haven't worked out how Mrs Jangles got these 'rarer than hen's teeth' tickets)  it was rather disconcerting every time they piped up.  I felt like I was on the set of Countryfile several times.

If the men were manly, then the women were.....well....suffice to say that at one point in the evening I asked Miss R whether we had stumbled onto a gypsy wedding.  Colour-wise, someone had let these females loose in the highlighter section and once the disco started, with it's flashing light (not much spent on the DJ methinks) I am surprised that I didn't get an immediate migraine.  Now as an older lady, who has had the occasional moment over the years, I don't have a problem with younger ladies flashing off their best bits when appropriate.  We did all agree though, that a) some of them weren't that young b) most of them shouldn't have been flashing their bits, best or otherwise, and c) appropriate it wasn't. 

So we sort of kept ourselves to ourselves, and made our own entertainment.  Miss R, Mrs Jangles and the Mother managed to polish off four bottles of red wine between them.  One of these was liberated from the table next to us (this will teach the 'ladies' to go off and dance, leaving their table unattended).  We danced all night to a rather muffled sound system, with a DJ who was sporting a black and white badger hairdo.  There are no words to fully describe this, however hard I try.  He looked like a cross between the lead singer of the Prodigy and Cruella de Vil and his music purchases had stopped circa 1986.  Not that I am complaining - at least I knew all the words...

Talking of the dancing, there was one rather strange lady on the dance floor.  Her top half wasn't always dancing to the same as her bottom half.  I would hazard a guess that her ears were listening to Chaka Khan, but her feet were hearing River Dance such was the ferocity and speed of them.  She also did a pretty good windmill impersonation, managing to dislodge the double sided industrial tape which was just about reining in a pair of 40DD's on a lady who won't see 35 again.  In truth, she probably was on the wrong side of 45, but as I didn't have the varifocals on (vanity is a terrible thing)  I am erring on the side of generosity here.

The highlight of my night was courtesy of Mrs Jangles, who was looking resplendent in a flapper-style fringed number.  She had been dancing like a wild thing and towards the end of the evening, she kept standing up and wafting her frock around.

'What's the matter Mrs Jangles?' I asked as she waved the material side to side frantically.

'My fringes are damp', says she.  'If I don't dry them out, I won't be able to do a thing with them'.

I had visions of the fringing doing an instant Don King, leaving her looking more like a French poodle rather than the elegant vision from the start of the evening, and regretted not bringing my hair straighteners with me.

Nights like these usually end in the same way.  The lights come up, partners look at each other in the stark fluorescent lighting, and depending on how much they've drunk/how well they know each other, they either look delighted, mildly terrified or relieved.  There's usually some tears, male bonding and women padding around in bare feet, unable to take the pressure on the bunions a moment longer.

However, this night ended slightly differently. 

A fight ensued (too much testosterone as I said earlier) and a man ended up in the middle of our table, sending glasses and bottles to oblivion.

The overriding emotion at our table was not one of concern for the poor chap, lying facedown on the linen tablecloth, nor worry for his wife who was mortified.  Oh no.

Our table were just relieved that he managed to miss the last half-full (ever the optimist) bottle of red in his transit across the table.

You see, it's all about priorities....

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Changes...

Words from a Bird.  Day 135.

Sunny afternoons often find me sitting with my lovely neighbour, Mrs B (she of the impending café opening) out on the meadow with two mugs of tea and three dogs.  Yesterday was one of those days.  No matter that the wind, a gale force 6 with a negative chill factor, was cooling our tea to Arctic temperatures before we drank it, we were quite content, our two little faces turned up towards the pathetic watery sun like a couple of desperate sunflowers.

'Do you ever sit down and find you've got nothing to write about?'  asked Mrs B, obviously concerned for my sanity. 

Well to be honest, there are times when what I talk about doesn't come to me in a flash of inspiration.  But there is always something....

For example, I walked into work yesterday morning with another new hairdo.  So far this year, I have been curly blonde, curly brunette, straight mouse and finally straight blonde.  As I walked in, Mr G asked me whether I had changed my hair colour.  This simple comment made me very happy on a Friday morning.  The fact that someone other than my hairdresser had noticed was a revelation. 

Over the years, the husband has had to put up with many changes in my outward appearance.  Not only has he had to contend with many different hairstyles, but my silhouette has also widened and narrowed over the years.  None of which he has ever commented on in all our years together.

Now just once in a while,  I would like the husband to recognise my adventurous, inquisitive side with regards to how I look.  I had even given him the heads up on Thursday, telling him that I was going back to blonde that night.  He thanked me for the warning, then promptly filed that piece of information away with other irrelevant stuff such as where the iron is kept and the date we first met. 

Talking of important dates, he never forgets our wedding anniversary, as it is carved into a wooden bench in our garden.  This was an excellent present he bought me; it's a bit like a one of those reminders that pops up on your phone, except this one can't be deleted by mistake.  Much thought went into that I can tell you...

So going back to my hair, he will notice it eventually, I am sure.  By the time that happens though, I may well have moved on to a different look from my current well-groomed, blonde, straight tresses.

Between you and me, I have always fancied a Mohican.......

Friday, 13 May 2016

Jackie...


Words from a Bird.  Day 134

I broke from my normal Wednesday evening tradition of cooking fish and losing at cards this week (see 'Up all night' if you need reminding about my giddy social life) and went to the theatre with my sister Miss R (she of the independently working eyes after three glasses of wine), the pole-dancing Mrs W and and the formidable Mrs S (The last of these ladies has yet to feature in any of my blogs which I find rather surprising, as she features in my life a great deal). 

I had managed to track down some tickets to Jackie, The Musical.  For those of you aged between 48-60, you will at this point have glazed over, your mind wandering back to flares, blue eye shadow and skyscraper shoes.  If you are a man (and I know that some of you are) this will be a complete mystery to you.  Let me explain a little. 

Jackie was a magazine which your mother didn't approve of.  In fact, Mrs W's mother refused to buy it for her as she was frightened it would lead her towards a life of debauchery (this happened without the magazine actually).  The magazine's tag line was 'The Best Thing for Girls - Next to Boys', and there would have been tips on how to kiss a boy, a True Life Confession, a quiz (mostly a's? - You are infatuated.  Spend more time with your friends) and the infamous Cathy and Claire problem page (These were all made up and probably answered by some heavily bearded bloke called Eric rather than the maternal Cathy and Claire).

So the show itself was filled with 70's classics.  David Cassidy, Donny Osmond, David Essex and Tina Charles. The audience itself was filled with 50 and 60 year old classics, all female apart from the odd (definitely odd) male here and there.  My posse were slightly perturbed by the two paramedics who were sitting at the end of our row.  I would have thought that a Tena representative would be more in keeping what with all the dancing and laughing, but hey ho...

The show was fantastic, the dancing wild and the clothes terrifying.  As the youngest of my little gang, Mrs S wanted to know if I ever wore clothes like those on the stage.  If I remember rightly, smocking featured quite prominently in my rather limited wardrobe.  You may be surprised to learn that my wardrobe was meagre in those days.  This wasn't down to money or lack of desire for the latest fashion.  Oh no..

You see, when one item of clothing is created out of 10 square meters of polyester and nylon, there is only so much you can hang in your wardrobe.  Start cramming it all in there, and all of a sudden you're looking at a fire hazard.

Mrs S and I decided in car on the way home that the show had everything you'd want.  It was mad, sad, entertaining, loud, joyous and funny.

Much like my wardrobe in the 70's....

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Bibbidi-bobbidi boo...

Words from a Bird.  Day 133

So dresses 5, 6, 7 and 8 turned up yesterday.  All completely returnable before you accuse me of being made of money.  Of these four, surely one would be suitable for the Drifters Ball?

I approached the beautifully wrapped packages with apprehension, the memories of yesterday's dress debacles still vivid in my mind.  Dress number 5 was from Lipsy.  Now before you say anything, I know and fully appreciate that the Lipsy brand is targeted at females with many less miles on the clock than I have, but the one I ordered looked suitable.  Off came the work clothes and on went the royal blue slinky number. 

Well, I think that the seamstress who cobbled this creation together ran out of thread on the side seam. The split went right up to my thigh.  Now if I was over 6 feet tall, this would have been quite decent, but as an average height female, there was ample sight of my M&S knickers (or is that 'sight of my ample M&S knickers'?)  If this was all that was wrong with the dress, I could maybe have popped a couple of stitches in myself to preserve my modesty, but dear God, the front.... 

As I revealed yesterday, I am not particularly blessed in the bosom department (my mum used to joke about writing 'back' and 'front' on me as there was no way of distinguishing which was which) so when I looked down at the plunging V-neck of this dress, rather than a voluptuous cleavage as per the lady in the advert, all I could see were my feet.  Of course, if I were younger, my bosom might have positioned itself accordingly, but at 53?  Not a chance..

Dresses number 6 and 7 were the same dress, just different sizes, as I know from previous experience that my body can go either way with this shop.  A full length black lace number with sequins and beads across the bodice.....and a zip which wouldn't do up.  No problem.  This was the smaller one, so the larger one should be spot on.  Popped this one on, eagerly awaiting my Eureka moment.  Zip still wouldn't do up....Well done Next, you excelled yourself.  Two size 12's....

One package left. 

Bracing myself, I opened up the box.  Anything from Coast comes beautifully wrapped, as though you are the most important customer in the world, and even though this dress was in their sale, it still got the 5* treatment.  Gently removing it from swathes of tissue paper, I shook it out.   Stunning.  As someone who has always felt she was born too late, the 1950's style was perfection, and it fit like a glove.  I even had the kitten heel stilettos and black clutch bag to finish it off.

I smiled. 

Cinderella, you shall go to the ball..

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Dress you up...


Words from a Bird.  Day 132

I had had my clothes on and off more times yesterday than a stripper doing overtime.  You know what it's like when you have a posh night out on the horizon, you vaguely remember the dress you wore some time ago, and in your mind, you're wearing it again.  This happens to me every single time, and it isn't till I try the blooming thing on that I discover it's too small/too long/too wintery/too summery or ripped (that was one hell of a night, I can tell you).

I had planned on wearing a fabulous dress which I wore a few months ago, and it wasn't till I put it on yesterday afternoon that I remembered why I hadn't worn it since.  As it's rather snug (I like that word, much nicer than tight) I am unable to raise my arms more than a 90 degree angle without running the risk of exposing my armpits to all and sundry.  Peephole armpits are not the greatest of looks, so I decided against that one, leaving it on my bedroom floor.

Next up was a dress I bought two years ago, which I have never worn.  A beautiful Ted Baker number, it fitted perfectly and I felt great.  This was until I started looking for a pair of shoes to go with it.  I would have needed a pair of stacked 10" heels to stop myself tripping over the swathes of material around my feet.  I am not on particularly good terms with heels (this is what happens when your husband is not much taller than you) so this dress was also left on the floor.

Then I decided I would go and raid daughter number 2's wardrobe.  Surely she might have something suitable which I could borrow?   Well she had the shoes....to be honest, having checked these out (tried them on, then fell off them) in front of the mirror, I am wondering whether she has an evening job at university somewhere, and I'm not talking about on the till at Tesco.  She had one dress, a strapless number, but unfortunately, it had no straps.   Now I have friends who have the appropriate equipment to keep a dress like this up.  I don't, and would probably have to have resorted to a staple gun and some superglue to stop the dress settling around my navel. Either that, or a pair of braces (suspenders to my lovely American squawkers).

One more dress to try....oh great, broken zip....

So there I was, standing in the middle of my bedroom floor, surrounded by discarded puddles of satin and lace, wringing my hands and wondering what on earth I was going to do.  Short of starving myself for three days, stretching my legs another 10 inches or having a boob job, there was nothing suitable to wear.

So I did what every woman with 'nothing to wear' does.....hit the internet.

May tomorrow bring success...

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Try, try baby...

Words from a Bird.  Day 131

I have come to the conclusion that If I don't tattoo details onto my forehead, the husband pays little attention to the marvellous events I plan for us at the weekends. 

A couple of weeks ago, I committed the two of us to a rather posh dinner dance.  Now the only reason I agreed to go to this was because 60% of my entire family are going, and I didn't want to feel left out.  Don't you hate it when everyone is talking about a great night out, and you didn't go?  Sitting there the next day listening to them going on about it, when you (or more likely, the husband) had made the fatal decision to stay in and watch Coronation Street that night.

So coming in on the end of the invite (I said yes without really knowing what I was agreeing to) I misheard the name of the event, and told the husband it was a Drifters Ball.

'Aah', he said knowingly, 'Save the last dance for me'.  So between us, we assumed that there would be some kind of tribute band there.  I know that the Drifters are still going in some guise, but the price of the tickets implied that we wouldn't be seeing the genuine article.

It was only on Saturday that my aunt, Mrs Jangles (don't ask...) informed me that it was called the Drifters Ball, but that there would definitely not be any 'Up on the Roof' or 'Under the Boardwalk'.  (Makes you wonder whether the Drifters ever used the pavement?)  It turns out that we won't be going to a mildly exciting evening with some 1950's entertainment sung by a group impersonating a bunch of pensioners.  No.  It is an end of season dinner dance for a local rugby club, none of the members of which are known in any shape or form to anyone in my family.  Of course, this raises the question of how we got to know about it in the first place, but it would appear that Mrs Jangles has 'contacts'.  She moves in strange circles, that one...

So going back to the husband, every time I have mentioned going out this weekend, he's looked at me blankly (this isn't unusual actually) and asked me what we're doing.

After the third explanation of where we're off to at the end of the week, I have now stopped telling him.  As far as I am concerned, it's a night out in a posh frock with someone else doing the washing up.  There will also be a lot of totty to eye up - at my age I can blame the lack of varifocals on the night to explain this away should someone object to my staring.

I am wondering whether the husband would have forgotten about this as quickly if the night had been to celebrate the end of season for the local ladies beach volleyball team.

I doubt it.....

Monday, 9 May 2016

Whip it...


Words from a Bird.  Day 130.

This morning found the husband and I at the foot of a steep hill steeling our selves for a long walk in the wonderful spring sunshine.  The husband and I have a great look which we like to adopt on these occasions.  Shorts, t-shirt, thick socks and walking boots.  Unfortunately, however practical this might be, we tend to look like a couple of extras out of a 1950's travelogue, and I have an uncontrollable urge to sing The Happy Wanderer....

So manoeuvring the reluctant husband and dogs through the gate, we came face to face with a lady who was just making her way back to her car.

'You'll have a lovely walk today', she said.  'There's a whole load of whippets and greyhounds up on the hill'.

Well this could be interesting.  I love seeing lots of dogs together, especially when they are the same breed (see Day 18) so we set off at a stonking pace, eager to see the Whippet Walk.

Well, we rounded the first bend, but there were no dogs, Whippet or otherwise.  At this point, I suggested to the husband that perhaps they were all standing further round the corner, waiting for someone to release a rabbit, and then they'd be off.  But a little further on, there they were, around twenty whippets and greyhounds, hurtling up and down the hill.  Seeing this large group together, I started wondering what a group of Whippets was called.  I finally settled on a Lash of Whippets.  Most appropriate.

Now I was rather disappointed when I met their owners (us doggy people always love to talk to other doggy people).  None of them were from the North as befitting a good Whippet owner.  (The husband hails from the North, so I do have a finely tuned radar with regards to this).  There wasn't a single flat cap, nor did they offer the dogs small morsels of black pudding.  The Whippet Walkers were all beige walking trousers, walking sticks and Schmackos.

Percy and Reg took massive joy in chasing them up and down the hill, meeting the elegant greyhounds as they were coming back up the hill as my two ran down.  I am thinking of buying one purely to exercise my two.  They were exhausted and had to be lifted into the car when it was time to go home.

Once home, we packed up a picnic and headed to a barbecue with some of our neighbours. 

Friends, family, children, dogs and sausages.  Sundays don't get much better than that...

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Goody two shoes...

Words from a Bird.  Day 129.

I love Saturdays.  I recognise that this is an expected emotion for anyone who works Monday to Friday, but I really do love Saturdays.

It's the one day a week when I catch up with my family over large cappuccinos and a sausage sandwich.  (In two words, I have managed to make Baroosh in Marlow sound like a greasy spoon roadside café when it is anything but).  My sister, Miss R, flew home overnight from Barbados.  She was that desperate to see everyone yesterday morning, that she nearly came straight from the airport.  She also tried to pay the bill with Barbados dollars which was a little worrying...

The other reason I like Saturdays is that there is usually one of the children in residence (this week it is son number 1 and son number 2) which means that dog duty can be delegated.  There is always ironing to be bargained with when I make the request for a walk, and yes, I do always win funnily enough.  This meant that I had a little longer with my sister, which also meant that I spent more money this morning that I would have done if she hadn't been with me. 

I also managed to go through three pairs of shoes between 10.00am and 1.15pm.  I had decided on a pair of leather sandals with one of those silly toe posts this morning, as the day was so beautiful.  By 10.09, my toes were rubbed raw.  'That's alright', said Miss R, 'I have a pair of sandals in the car which you might like'.  Now I'll be honest with you, I was in that much pain, that if someone had offered me a pair of waders at that point, I would have snatched them out of their hands.  As it was, they were a very expensive pair of wedged sandals, right up my street. A quick shoe change, with the torture flats being thrown into my car, and off we went to meet the others. 

Now between my car and the café, I managed to fall off these donated shoes three times.  Once in the gutter, once while crossing the road, and lastly into the arms of some charming chap trying to raise money for a charity.  When he saw that I could barely walk, he obviously decided that I spent all my money on drink, so probably wouldn't be worth pestering.  I staggered on, using my sister as a human version of a bike stabiliser, walking as though I was on a tightrope. 

After breakfast, the retail therapy started.  In shop number four, a pair of shoes was bought.  At my age, it's no longer acceptable to ask to wear them home, so into a bag they went.  My sister and I parted company, and I gingerly walked unaided to my car (only falling off the wedges another two times without my human Zimmer Frame by my side).  Once back at the car, the wedges were whipped off, and thrown into the boot with the torture flats, and I swapped over to the new shoes.

So after my Imelda Marcos morning,  it was time to return home.  The weekly food shop had been delivered in my absence, and the two boys had unloaded it and put it away.

I say 'put it away', but this implies an element of sorting and appropriate positioning.  Fat chance....my fridge and food cupboards looked like edible Hanging Gardens of Babylon, with the food (still in its packaging) clinging to the shelves for all it was worth, only relinquishing its tenuous grip every time I opened the fridge door. 

Having located most of the food (I still can't find the salami) and put it in its rightful place, it was time for a quick cup of tea and then out for dinner with the husband and Miss R.

Like I said, I love Saturdays...

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Little ole wine drinker me...

Words from a Bird.  Day 128.

So another work week draws to a close.  One which finds me gainfully employed in my perfect job.  There are some people who would find it worrying that rooting around in peoples' rubbish bins would constitute a perfect job, but hey, it works for me...

To celebrate the end of a great week, and the fact that the sun had come out to play, the husband and I sallied forth to the piece of grass outside our house with a bottle of Rioja and two glasses, meeting our neighbour, Mr B, who was clutching six beers and a bag of nuts (he knows how to have a good time).  Mrs B joined us, juggling a bottle of Prosecco and two more glasses, and the quick drink turned into a three hour marathon, with takeaway pizza being delivered just before the sun went down.

Mr and Mrs B are in the throes of launching themselves into a new venture, gallantly opening a new café in Abingdon (If you're local, head down there in June once they're opened).  As someone who takes great delight in playing it safe, I have nothing but admiration for them.  My bravery extends to buying a different brand of mascara or buying Brazilian briefs.  Incidentally, I have no idea why these are different to hi-legs or midi briefs...perhaps if you wear them, your derriere looks like that of Giselle Bundchen? Mine bears a striking resemblance to two footballs in a carrier bag and we all know how much the Brazilians love football, so maybe that's why they were christened thus.

So after three hours on the meadow with a bottle of Rioja, a bottle of Prosecco, six beers, three bags of crisps, two pizzas and a bag of nuts, hypothermia had set in and the midges were dive bombing the balding pates of Mr B and the husband.  It's the problem with early summer evenings, once the sun has gone down, you either jumper up or head indoors.  Unfortunately, the drink had dulled the senses, and it wasn't until the husband and I got indoors that we realised how cold we were.  The husband headed straight upstairs for a hot shower, and I headed for the warmest room in the house to write my blog. 

You may think that the drink has made my writing a bit erratic, as the three glasses of wine I drunk were a lot more that the usual mug of PG which I treat myself to on a Friday night.

You'd be wrong though.

My fingers are like 10 fish fingers, cold and stiff, while my head is wallowing in a sea of Rioja.

It's not a good combination.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.......now where's the paracetamol?

Friday, 6 May 2016

Lipstick on your collar....

Words from a Bird.  Day 127.

It's the time of year that every parent with children aged between 16 and 21 dreads.  The time when you ask yourself a million times a day...

'Could I have helped more?'
'Could I have nagged less?'
'Should I have got him/her a tutor?'
'Should I leave the country now, because whatever the outcome, the fault will lay with me'.

Yes, exam season is upon us once more.  This is, however, the last year that I will really have to worry about one of my offspring's results.  The three older ones' futures are secure, so my entire concern is laid at the feet of son number 2, who is so laid back about exams that you'd think he wasn't actually taking any.  Why is it that I worry?  Do I feel that any kind of failure of my children's is a direct reflection of my capability as a parent?  Surely not....

You see, I was a complete disappointment to my parents, just about scraping through a couple of A levels before hitting the job market.  There was no university for me, nor any kind of further education (at least not the kind you get a certificate for)....

I had been thrown out of Politics in my first year for having 'strong opinions'.  I was 17.  The only strong opinion I had then was that the best lipstick you could buy was Miss Selfridge's Iron Lady (Maggie Thatcher was everywhere in those days) so I think my Politics teacher was being rather unfair in her decision.  A couple of my squawkers will remember the famous Miss W, vicar's daughter and left-wing activist...no wonder we never saw eye-to-eye...

I blame the many distractions I had to face for flunking my chance at any further education.  Of course, there were the boys, obviously attracted by the continual use of the aforementioned Iron Lady lipstick (how could they resist, as it glowed in the dark when the ultra violet light came on at the disco?)  There was also the weather - that beautiful summer was ruined by my exams, although I did try to revise outside, telling my mum I was taking work with me.  (More likely snogging boys, leaving traces of Iron Lady all over their Lord Anthony and Farah shirts).

Luckily, none of my children are like I was.  They have all shown far more restraint and discipline where their work has been concerned.  Of course, Iron Lady is no longer available to buy, so this has helped.

With regard to son number 2,  I have done all I can. I have bought pens, made food and listened to him discuss various topics.  I have tried to say the sensible thing, and steer him towards the right path.  I have also hidden his aftershaves (the male equivalent of lipsticks)

It's now down to him.....

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Bend me, shape me...

Words from a Bird.  Day 126.

It was a big day for me in Binland on Tuesday.  Having been employed through an agency for the past sixteen months, the company, which I have grown to love, decided that it might be a good idea to keep me for good.  This was the best news ever, and I came into work on Tuesday with a big smile on my face, knowing that it wasn't going to be too easy for them to get rid of me now.  I was here to stay...

My manager, who you might remember is roughly half my age, mentioned in passing that I needed to have a medical.  Our eyes locked across the cramped office....was he going to ask the embarrassing questions/take the readings/measure things?  Apparently not.  A third party would ask me all the relevant questions over the internet.  There wasn't any need for clothing to be removed or blushing. 

Actually I am not too sure who would have been more embarrassed if he had to have done the medical.  I may look like a well turned out middle aged lady, but beneath it all is a mass of latex, spandex and vacuum knickers.  My underwear is a feat of engineering which should really be added to the Seven Wonders of the World for what it achieves on a daily basis.

So having rattled through the fairly straightforward questions, it would appear that I am 'fit to work'.  Having been employed for the past 40 years, I am now questioning whether I should have worked at all.  Perhaps it has taken that long to be fit?  Who knows...

But I have reached the conclusion today that going permanent is the equivalent of moving in with someone you have been dating.

Going back to the near-miss medical, living with someone means that certain things become public knowledge.  When you are merely dating, you can avoid seeing the other half on the day you are having your upper lip waxed - I look like the driver from the Ant Hill Mob (Wacky Races for those old enough to remember!) after this has been done, and I can only avoid the husband for so long before he asks me whether I really need to be wearing a balaclava in June. 

Dating means you have time to hide purchases, only pulling them out a couple of weeks later exclaiming 'What, this old thing?'  when interrogated by the other half.  It also means that you can always look your best, and never have grey roots, stubbly legs or a chipped nail.

However, they are positives.  In my relationship, I know that the husband has seen me at my very best and my extreme worst, and still he chooses to come home every night and tell me that he loves me.

I'm not expecting anyone at Binland to tell me that they love me......but employing me permanently means that somewhere along the line, I did OK.

And for a 53 year old lady in vacuum knickers, that will do nicely...

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Story of my life...

Words from Bird.  Day 125.

I had a text from daughter number 2 this afternoon. 

'Just leaving SMB.  X'

I was looking at it wondering what she was prattling on about, terrified that I might have missed something she had mentioned on the Sunday (this would have been when the beefcake was on the lawn, so perfectly understandable why my mind was elsewhere).  Also, what (or where) on earth was SMB?  Just as I was racking my addled brain, a second text came in from her.  Looking forward to some enlightenment, I eagerly opened up the text.

'Oh sorry.  That's not for you! X'

No explanation of what (or where) SMB was, no clue as to who the intended recipient was.  Feeling extremely unloved and discarded, I replied with,

'Story of my life'.

This set me thinking about all the things that I think are mine, which aren't, and the things which head my way which shouldn't, as they are definitely nothing to do with me.  Let's break this down a bit.

Some of the things which I wrongly think are mine include:

The last helping of Chocolate Trifle in the fridge (son number 2 has priority on all things chocolate, so that would be his)
A pair of size 7 leather boots which I bought last year (they fit daughter number 2, and therefore now are hers)
Silence on a Sunday evening with a good book (wrong again - Sunday+Males=Top Gear/Football/Grand Prix, so definitely not mine...ever)
My wide toothed combs (to date, I have bought at least nine of these....not a single one resides in my dressing table).

What about the things which shouldn't head my way, but still do?

Checking the husband's and all the children's spelling and punctuation.  Do I look like a dictionary?
Cleaning children's bedrooms.  I didn't make the mess, I didn't throw anything on your floor, it wasn't me that left that banana skin and a half drunk can of drink on your window sill, and yet.....
Requests for strange food items (tonight's demand was from son number 2 for chocolate brioche).  You have a car, you even have money (on occasions).  Buy it yourself...

So you see what I mean...life is never completely clear as to who gets what.  All I know is that I seem to get everything...but never seem to be allowed to keep the good bits for very long.  What it boils down to I suppose is 'what's mine is yours, and what's yours is yours' (at least where anything tasty/pretty/useful is involved).

And I still don't know what (or where) SMB was.....

Daughter number 2, if you read this, you should know that it's killing me not knowing...

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

You're an embarrassment...

Words from a Bird.  Day 124

I have decided that Sunday's barbecue needs revisiting, if only for the glorious reason that we had two bits of beefcake brought round by daughter number 1.  This is one of the joys of having older children, the backdrop can sometimes be worth looking at.

Now the husband and I, whilst attaining the highest levels possible of parental embarrassment over the years (mainly because of the husband's dancing and my terrible jokes) seem to fall into the 'cool parent' category when our children discuss us with their friends.  I can only imagine that this is because we both rode motorbikes in a previous life and that we always have beer in the fridge. (Actually, we never have beer in the fridge unless the children are here...the two commodities seem to go hand in hand for some reason).

So going back to the beefcake adorning my newly mown lawn yesterday afternoon...  These are friends of daughter number 1, and they turned up with daughter number 1's friend, all looking rather shabby around the edges after a particularly heavy night.  One of them (no names, you all know the rules) seemed to have spent most of the hours leading up to his visit with his arms hugging the reassuring porcelain of a loo.  The way he spoke about it, it sounded like the beginning of a wonderful relationship...

As the afternoon wore on, the husband and I probed the two males quite intently.  It turned out that one was an estate agent (oh dear) and the other sold orthopaedic equipment.  I did try to look impressed and a little bit interested, but failed miserably.  Turns out he's not medically trained in any way, but knows his equipment inside and out, so is able to advise hospital theatres as and when required.

Now a couple of weeks ago, I read that there are some things which we are quite happy to pay substantial amounts of money for.  Laser eye surgery for example.  Would you want to have the surgery done by someone offering to do it for £5.00?  No you wouldn't.  Likewise, looking at this 'just out of short trousers' boy, I wouldn't want him advising on anything going anywhere near my body.  Fetch me someone older for goodness sake!  Someone who isn't in love with his toilet...

Now the estate agent was funny.  Extremely polite (Bone-Boy assured us that this was extremely out of character), and desperate for approval from the husband and me for some reason. He even over valued our house to earn some kudos (thinking about this, isn't that what estate agents always do?)  I am more astute that the husband in affairs of the heart, and I think he has an ulterior motive. 

Time will tell, and if time doesn't then daughter number 2 will.  She doesn't miss a trick...

Monday, 2 May 2016

Flowers in the rain...

Words from a Bird.  Day 123.

I am a great fun of the instant garden.  Let me explain.  I am not one for waiting for plants to grow and flower.  I would much rather buy the plant all dolled up and ready for a night on the town.  This explains why a visit to the garden centre was on the cards yesterday morning, as befitting a Bank Holiday weekend.  The sun was out and a barbecue was planned for the afternoon, which meant that the no man's land, commonly known as 'the back garden' needed some serious TLC before our guests arrived, otherwise they would have to slash their way through the undergrowth with a machete to get to the table.

Flowering plants and hanging baskets were purchased.  Within an hour of leaving the garden centre, the baskets were hanging, and the plants had been hurriedly thrown into empty pots and scattered around the borders.  It all looked rather lovely.

Out came the sun loungers and their cushions. Daughter number 1, who is a complete cissy where spiders are concerned, was unable to venture into the storage box where the cushions are kept, so I got that job.  Strangely enough, I had done a similar thing for son number 2 (also a cissy, just taller)earlier in the day, only with a cricket bag in the garage which hadn't moved for two years.  As I unzipped this bag, the smell which assaulted my senses will stay with me for some time.  Dirty boy...

Patio furniture was washed down, and the barbecue fired up.  Actually it had been going all night, as the husband wanted to 'burn it off'.  This is a technical term, only ever used by husbands, to make the cleaning of a barbecue sound vaguely dangerous.  I am sure that if I was allowed to get anywhere near it, a bowl of soapy water and a scourer would do the job just as well.  As a female, I am not permitted to touch the barbecue as it's 'man's work'...anything with a naked flame (open fire, matches, candle lighting) falls into this category.  Electric ovens and gas hobs don't count, and can be left to the women.

Our guests arrived, the garden was duly praised, and pieces of raw chicken and sausages made their final Green Mile walk towards the husband and his naked flames.  It is always worth mentioning at this point the sheer nonsense of handing the responsibility of the barbecue to the one person who is least qualified to cook it.  Apparently, a blue and white striped apron, and a jauntily held bottle of beer are all the qualifications you need, so why would I worry? (Life Lessson #2 - always stick to the carbs and salad).

As the husband gave a ten minute warning as to the readiness of the burned offerings, the heavens opened.  A major decamping exercise into the kitchen was on the cards before the bread went soggy, and the wine was diluted.

Why were we surprised?  This was Britain for heaven's sake - the country of the impromptu outside event, the planning of which should go something like this:

'Is it raining?'

'Nope'.

'Did we use up all the gas last year?'

'Nope'.

'Good, fire up the barbecue'.

It wasn't all bad though.  At least I didn't have to water the new plants last night...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Welcome to the jungle...

Words from a Bird.  Day 122.

'Morning Iggy'....this was my mother's greeting as I walked into the restaurant Saturday morning for our weekly breakfast.  Just as well I had already removed my new trendy sunglasses before going in.  I had decided in the car on the way over that they weren't such a great idea.  I had done a double take in the rear view mirror, as for a nano-second I thought Ozzie Osborne had hitched a ride while I wasn't looking.  I am slowly realising that when you change your hairstyle as dramatically as I have, some thought is needed with regard to how you deal with it.

Of course, we all know how any sort of moisture in the air can destroy the sleek locks.  This means that a shower cap is de rigeur when carrying out my daily ablutions.  Of course, the chemist had nothing vaguely sensible, so I am lumbered with a psychedelic floral number.  Every time I put it on, I have to pull a 'mad old lady with no teeth of her own' face in the mirror.  It was quite funny the first few times, but the more I do it, the easier it is to see what the future holds for me and my face. 

It's at times like this that I silently thank the husband for the substantial lock on my bathroom door,  I am sure that if he ever walked in on me wearing nothing but my LSD-inspired shower cap, the sight would haunt him for the rest of his days.

Wind can be a bit of a challenge too...  It's fine when it's blowing towards you, as it pushes the hair away from your face in a kind of Elnett moment.  All very glamorous.  However, a change in wind direction is catastrophic, as I discovered yesterday morning.  As my hair wrapped itself across my face, I couldn't see where I was going, and grabbed wildly at it to try and hold it away from my eyes (should've left the Ozzie shades on).  Bearing  in mind that I was also carrying a bunch of gladioli and a handbag I must have looked like a poor man's Morrissey waving my blooms around frantically.

By the time I got back to my car, my glads were looking anything but, having developed a neat joint about half way up their long stems, and I resembled a 'before' picture on a FrizzEase advert.  But, and this is where the miracle happened, once in the car, I combed my hair.....hallelujah!  Everything just slipped back into place and once again I looked like Iggy Pop, groomed and polished.

So having spent the morning resembling various aging rock and pop stars, I pulled into home, where the husband was earning copious Brownie points doing what I call 'blue jobs' in the garden. He was repairing fence panels (bloody wind has a lot to answer for) and building a wall.

'I've just realised who you look like with that hair' says the husband.

'Who?' I asked, slightly worried as to what his answer would be.

'Linda....'

'Which one?  McCartney? Robson? Blair? Lovelace?'

'Not them,  the one out of Dallas...Sue-Ellen....'

That'll be Linda Gray then....I can live with that. 

Well at least he didn't say Axel Rose.  That was also suggested today...