Friday, 30 September 2016

There goes a tenner...

So I had rather an interesting day yesterday.  It started quite normally, but ended with me in my pyjamas being filmed in my bedroom by two lovely ladies.  Now before you start thinking that I am giving Binland the heave-ho having branched out into adult entertainment, let me reassure you that this was part two of the filming for the programme I'm contributing to on the menopause.  I can't give away any clues as to what we were doing (that lovely lady from the television will kill me otherwise) but needless to say it was interesting, funny and educational.

The husband found me in this state of undress, and was slightly bewildered.  There was no dinner, the dogs were un-walked and un-fed and I was ready for bed at 7.12pm.  He didn't hang around long.  Perhaps he was afraid that they'd get him to roam around the house in his night attire at an unacceptable time of the day. So instead of making dinner and walking the dogs, he grabbed his Lycra (hidden by me at the back of his wardrobe in the hope that a blue look won't find it) and headed off on his bike with the other men who have failed to grow up around here. 

Naturally, there is alcohol involved.  I'm not too sure how many pubs they pass on their attempt to keep fitter for longer, but rest assured, the evidence was written all over his face when he got back.  I have to pretend I'm asleep when he comes back so that he doesn't get embarrassed about not being able to string a sentence together.  That way, we can both keep up the pretence that he's doing exercise.

So between takes today, Mrs R (she of the lovely café and waffle maker) sent her youngest round to ask for sponsorship.  I answered the door wearing half of my pyjamas, jeans, shoes and the husband's dressing gown.  He looked wary to say the least.  I was in a rush, so looked at the piece of paper he was holding, and asked him a question.  Did I ask him what he was doing? No I didn't.  Did I ask him who he was raising the money for?  No I didn't. 

Did I say very quickly, 'How much has every one else given you? £10? Good, put me down for the same'.  Yes, I bloody well did.  Now I'm not proud of this, as obviously he had something quite demanding planned, in order to earn my £10.   Which was why I was surprised when he knocked the door again half an hour later.  I was still in my bedroom in a state of undress, so the lovely lady from the television went down to the door.  He was there to collect his sponsorship money. 

Which is why I spent what was left of my short evening pondering as to what he had done to earn this sponsorship money in half an hour.  Well it wasn't swimming, running or staying silent, so what was it? 

When I leave for work this morning, I'm taking that £10 round.  It's a small price to pay to get the lowdown on what you have to do these days to earn a tenner.

Legally, anyway...

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Milk and alcohol...

I haven't yet received a reply to my carefully worded letter to the over zealous traffic warden.  I picture him sitting at his desk surrounded by begging letters, tapping each one to the tune of Eeenie Meenie Minie Mo with his chewed biro, before deciding which one will be let off.  I'm not holding out much hope to be honest with you.

Son number two finally surfaced yesterday, calling me just as I was thinking of texting him the words all mums send to their kids every now and again....'Are you still alive?'  Well it turns out he's having a wonderful time (drinking), has met some great people (while drinking) and is loving his housemates (who all go drinking with him).  He's loving the 30 minute walk to his university as it gives him time to sober up.  Well that's encouraging I suppose, at least he's stopping drinking long enough to learn some new stuff. 

He's coming home this weekend for The Siblings' Big Night Out.  I think he's looking at this week as training before going out with the older ones, who are well versed in the demon drink. The husband and I, although not invited to join them on this night of debauchery have decided not to book anything for Saturday night.  We need to be here as we may be needed to do things...

1.  Open the front door at 4.00am as none of them would have thought to take a key ( still no spare in the Key Safe, so no good looking in there)
2. Steer son number two towards the downstairs loo.
3. Stop daughter number two from cooking a three course meal (she always has the munchies)
4. Lay out the Anadin and glasses of water on the kitchen worktop.
5.  Try to stop daughter number one talking.  This is a problem when she is sober, but when drunk, she achieves words per minute which could get a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
6. The husband and I have never seen son number two the worse for drink.  This is because he is very careful when and where he does it.  This Saturday, there will be no place to hide, so we could be in for a nasty shock.
7. Get son number two out of the downstairs loo and put him to bed.
8. Share the burnt pizza which daughter number two has prepared (when drunk, she always forgets that she is gluten intolerant - half an hour later she'll be moaning about developing a 'food baby')
9. Get son number one and daughter number one into bed.  Daughter number one will still be talking at this point.  I have a feeling that son number one will need to be helped upstairs by the husband.
10. Go back into the kitchen, where daughter number two is clutching her bloated stomach, whilst eating cornflakes (also not gluten free )

I reckon we'll be back in bed by about 5.49am.  Just about the time the alarm, which the husband will have forgotten to silence, will go off.

You know the saying about 'if you can't beat them, join them'?  Well I am going to suggest to the husband that we break open the bottle of Grey Goose which is in my hoover cupboard (I know.  This makes no sense whatsoever).  I reckon that if we start drinking that around 10.00pm, we should sleep through the whole lot, and will wake up at around 9.30am only to find all four kids sleeping in their cars.

Now that's a good idea.....

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Lovely Rita...

Well I've had better days.....

Yesterday limped into action with me locking myself out of the house.  Eager to get to work early, I had grabbed my keys (or something which looked remarkably like them) and slammed the front door after me.  As the door shut with a very reassuring click, I glanced down at the keys in my hand.  They weren't mine, but one of the kids.  No problem, I thought, they'll have a door key on there somewhere.  Trawling through the various keys, and trying every one to see if it fitted Cinderella style, there were none which fitted my door. 

I then headed round the back to see if any of those doors were open.  Now on a normal day, at least one would be open, as the husband is very lackadaisical about security (this is because he is from the North).  Many a night has been spent with the garage doors wide open, and to date nothing has been pinched.  I put this down to the burglar's fear of the piles of valuable things (crap) which the husband and various returning children have piled up.  It's a death trap, and I have started leaving a note if I have to go out there, in case I don't get back alive.

So back to the door.  All the back doors were locked, and then I suddenly remembered the Key Safe.  This is a handy piece of kit which stores a spare key for times such as these. Having finally located the bloody thing (I had never used this until yesterday), I called the husband for the code.  The Key Safe was duly opened, revealing....nothing.  Obviously the person who had last benefitted from the key FORGOT TO PUT THE BLOODY THING BACK FOR THE NEXT PERSON WHO FOUND THEMSELVES IN THE S**T.  So the poor old husband had to come back from work and let me in. 

And my day got steadily worse after that. 

I had the dentist yesterday afternoon.  Parking up in my usual place, I headed over to the machine and put a pound coin in.  Well it didn't like that and words on the display read 'Please remove your money'.  OK, I thought, let's try another one.  It didn't like that one either, nor the third and fourth ones I tried.  Not wanting to be late for my lovely dentist (him with the sense of humour) I gave up, reassuring myself that as we don't have a traffic warden in my town, I'd be fine for half an hour.

So whereas earlier in the morning, there was nothing where there should have been something, this time, there was something where there should have been nothing.  Speaking to the lady whose house I was parked outside, it would appear that as from Monday my town does have a traffic warden. The proof was flapping on my windscreen in all its yellow glory.

Oh happy day...

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Boys and girls come out to play...

Son number two has been gone for 48 hours now.  I still haven't plucked up the courage to go in his room, and as time goes on, I am only putting off the inevitable.  I am not talking about the emotional upset of going in there.  Please don't picture me face down on his bed, inhaling the smell of him while my tears soak his pillow. No, it's more the level of mould on the old mugs of tea which are bound to be residing on his windowsill.  A quick headcount of the mugs has revealed that I am two short.  Perhaps tomorrow....

He has only phoned me once so far.  This was to ask for money and happened about four hours after we left him.  I've heard nothing since.  I know he's still alive, as I can see when he has been on facebook last.  I remember doing this with daughter number one when she first went off to the fleshpots of Crew some years ago.  Why is it that we think that something is going to happen to our children as soon as they are out of earshot?  Thankfully, I have learned from the other three that no call equals happy, so I will welcome the silence for the time being.  God help him if he doesn't call before the weekend though.  There will be trouble, I can tell you.

Son number one has returned to university for his final year, hanging up his smart shirts which he wore for his internship in London, now preferring the scratch and sniff approach towards his t-shirts.  ELL, son number two's girlfriend, is at the same university, and has promised to keep an eye on him for us.  I did feel that it should have been the other way round, what with her being in her first year, but as she is substantially more sensible than him, perhaps it is the right way round after all.

We continue to house daughter number one, who is between homes at the moment.  What is worrying me is that she is rather enjoying the clean piles of washing which appear regularly at the end of her bed.  She also likes the cup of tea which is popped on her dressing table at 6.00am each morning.  The husband thinks that I am making it look too attractive here, and that she will never go.  I am prepared though.  If her new home isn't ready by Christmas, I'm going to start hiding dog biscuits in her duvet.  The frenzy of schnauzer activity and wet noses being thrust in places where they shouldn't be should ensure a rapid exit. 

And then there's daughter number two.  Ensconced in her flat and holding down a very fascinating job in pensions (these are her words, not mine).  Her LSB (Long Suffering Boyfriend) has just returned from a thigh-slapping, beer-drinking weekend in Germany.  I like to think that at some time while he was there, he may have slipped on a pair of lederhosen.  I imagine that these are tricky to put on, especially if they're on the snug side, and possibly a bit like those awful surgical stockings they make you wear after an operation.  I wish that they would make these look a bit more attractive.  How about a leg version of a tattoo sleeve?  Now that's something I would be proud to show off.

This coming weekend, these four wonderful adults are having a night out together.  It's fantastic knowing that not only do they miss each other, but that they actually enjoy each other's company.

The husband and I are banned from this night out.

Can't imagine why...

Monday, 26 September 2016

The good, the bad and the ugly...

Waking up in a very quiet house yesterday was slightly unnerving.  The dogs were still asleep, and daughter number one hadn't come home after a Big Night Out.  And of course, there was no TV babble coming from the bedroom of son number two.

Having now come to terms with the fact that my ironing pile will be drastically smaller than it has been in previous weeks, I realised that there are some negatives with not having a teenager in the house.

1.  I'll have to call him if I need to watch something on Netflix.

2. No one here knows what that lead connected to the television is for.  It's just hanging out the back and mocking me, with its 'Come on, take a guess' attitude.

3. I have no excuse whatsoever to buy Rolo puddings - I always blamed the speed they disappeared on son number two, so they will remain off my shopping list for the time being.

4. The husband hasn't got anyone to ask the dreaded question which he often asks when sitting in front of his PC.  'If I want to......'  No good asking me my friend, you're on your own.

5. It's no longer feasible to text asking him to make me a cup of tea.

But on the other hand...

1.  Once I have tidied Armageddon (his bedroom) there's a good chance it will stay like that for some time.

2.  My food bill will halve (Tesco will see a dramatic drop in their profits this coming quarter).  The money saved was not all previously spent on Rolo puddings, I promise.  There was probably some bread in there too, and possibly chips.

3. The husband's socks will remain in his drawer, and not take a short detour to the room down the passage, where they will meet other 'borrowed' socks which were liberated some months before..

4. My shampoo/conditioner/serum/hairspray will all be where I last left them, rather than disappearing into a large pile of detritus in his bedroom while I am at work, only to be found several months later, empty and covered in fluff.

5. There will be glasses in the cupboard...at any time of the day. I will no longer have to brace myself and go into his bedroom looking for one.

6. My opportunities to nag are almost non-existent now.  I may have to think of something to nag the husband about instead. 

Back to son number two then.  I did manage to not call him until Sunday afternoon which I think was quite impressive.  Already he sounds like a student. 

'I'm off to get my Fresher Band, and can I have some money for my gym membership?'

And there was I, thinking I was going to be having a bit more money each week.

Fat chance...

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Goodbye kiss...

Son number two has done an Elvis and left the building.  The husband and I had decided to get to his seaside hovel some time before he did yesterday morning.  There were a couple of reasons for this.  Firstly I was desperate to do mum stuff, like deciding what went where, making the bed and hanging the curtains (you'll be pleased to know that an appropriate pair were finally located - more of these later).  Son number two had told me that he didn't want me doing any of this.  Sod that...I'm a mum.  It's in my job description, sandwiched in between washing socks and driving lessons.  So getting there early, I got the chance to do all of the above and more. 

Secondly, getting there early meant that when the other parents started tipping up around lunchtime, we were almost finished, and could make a relatively quiet getaway.

But enough of that, let's get back to the curtains.  These were delivered on Friday, staying in the packaging until the great unveiling on the 'smaller than a shoebox' bed which son number two is sleeping in.  I envisage diagonal positioning to ensure his feet remain covered.  So I had bought some curtain hooks to put on the Swish rail, and utilised the husband to hang the curtains up (standing on a crate of beer in the absence of a stepladder).  So far so good.  As we pulled the curtains across the rail, the whole thing came away from the wall.  The husband then pulled out his power tool (steady ladies) and drilled through the rail to the wall.

Unfortunately, this now meant that one curtain now covered three quarters of the window, and was impossible to open as the husband had screwed the curtain to the rail.  Back out with the power tool, and tah-dah....we had a perfectly positioned pair of curtains which finally met in the middle.  I was a bit disappointed with the Swish rail though.  'Swish' implies a smooth brisk movement, but this rail was more like British Rail ('We're getting there').  The curtains shuddered up that rail, making a couple of unscheduled stops on the way and eventually limped all the way back again. They won't take much abuse I'm afraid, but at least they are up.

So then is was time to say goodbye.  I hadn't been looking forward to this bit of the day, but he simply gave me the biggest hug ever and told me he loved me.  The hug went on longer than usual, and I savoured every second of it, and there were no tears from either of us.  To see the happiness in his face and the excitement for his new life was enough for me. I had brought him to this point with love, meaning that he was now ready to fly.   My job was done.

I got back into the car, and watched him walk away.  Sensing that I was a little sad, as befitting a mother saying goodbye to her baby, the husband, ever sensitive to my changing moods, took my hand and murmured in my ear, 'Fish and chips?'

He always gets it right, that man of mine...

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Gap...

Over the course of Friday, I noticed that gaps were beginning to appear around my house.  First thing to go was the large television which was in daughter number two's bedroom/dogs' bedroom/daughter number one's bedroom.  In its place was something so small that daughter number one will be wanting a telescope for Christmas.  Either that or she can borrow the husband's new wonder-glasses for evening viewing.

Next to go were my towels.  I had suggested that son number two take three towels of different colours so that he could work out a rota of which one needed to be in the wash at any particular time.  But he is obviously far more discerning that I give him credit for.  He insisted on having three towels which were all the same colour.  Now I can see exactly where this is leading.  No towel will be washed for three weeks.  When they start standing up by themselves, he will put all three into the washing machine, forget about them for a few days and then put them through another wash cycle to make them smell less like mildew.  At this point, he will probably shower, realising only too late that he has no towel.  I imagine him dabbing at himself with swathes of toilet roll, only emerging from the bathroom an hour later looking like he's cut himself shaving in some very peculiar places.  Never mind, he'll learn.  As he keeps on telling me, this is no longer my problem.

He packed all his clothes away on Friday afternoon, and put them in his car with all the other stuff vital for a successful university life.  Unfortunately, as the temperature dropped on Friday evening, it suddenly dawned on him that he had no jumper to wear as they were all in the suitcase.  Just as well there was one of the mine to borrow.  Our  heating is not allowed on until at least the 1st of October.  Even then, as the glorious 1st gallops over the horizon, the husband is still standing guard on the thermostat, and it's a brave person who pushes the dial above 20 degrees (centigrade, before you think I am married to Scrooge).

Son number two has decided to get all the essentials in today, and when he comes back next week (so soon?) he will take down some decorative items to titivate his hovel.  Between today and Saturday, I will be boxing up all my treasures, and hiding them in the loft, just in case something takes his fancy. Mind you, I can't see him making a space on the one shelf in his room for my ceramic pigs or hurricane lamp so perhaps they are safe after all.

But the biggest gap will be the one which used to hold him,  All 6'3" of him.  Admittedly, he's ever so skinny so the gap is narrow, but I will miss the noise, mess and craziness which seems to hang around him wherever he is. 

And the hugs.  The heartfelt, all encompassing hugs.

That's what I'll miss most...


Friday, 23 September 2016

My boy...

So it was son number two's birthday yesterday.  It was quite odd, as coupled with the expected celebrations, there was an all pervading feeling of excitement (him) and sadness (me of course).  It's odd feeling sad around his birthday, but with Saturday looming, I feel time is running out.  I am asking myself whether I have prepared him for this new chapter in his life.  Does he know how to use the washing machine, has he bought pens, where will his socks go?  He said to me last night that although he expected me to worry about these things, I shouldn't, as to him, they are not important.  Quite right really, but I still don't like the idea of his socks littering the carpet and him shrinking his best jumper on a boil wash.

So he was up at 6.00am, not wanting to miss seeing the husband before he left for work.  Well, that's what he said.  Naturally, as with all teenagers (even those up the higher end of the spectrum) I actually think he was more interested in opening his presents early, rather than having to wait till we were altogether again last night. 

I have never known anyone who can be that cheerful at that time in the morning.  His face was beaming, and as we snuggled up on our bed in our pyjamas and dressing gowns while he opened his cards and presents, I felt a little wistful.  I was wondering whether this would be the last time we did this.  I read somewhere a few months ago that you never know it's the last time you do something with your children until it's too late.  Remembering this, I took a moment to enjoy his company and share his happiness.  Knowing him as well as I do, I would imagine that he'll be back next year to do it all again, but as we know, nothing in life is guaranteed (except death and paying tax according to my father).   But he is a human version of a homing pigeon, so unless he gets distracted somewhere round the M23 by food, I'm sure he'll be coming home at regular intervals.

ELL, his long time best friend-now-girlfriend drove up from her university to celebrate with him.  I was relieved to see that she hadn't changed at all after one week as a student.  This fills me with hope that son number two won't appear on his first visit home, not only with the obligatory dirty washing, but with dreadlocks and several tattoos courtesy of the Tattoo Parlour at the end of his road.  Looking at the people hanging round there when we paid a visit last week, I would question whether any tattoo would be spelt right anyway.

Seeing the two of them together last night, it reminded me of something my dad said to me about thirty five years ago.  He told me that he was really jealous as I had my whole life ahead of me.  And that's what I see in these two.  They are on the brink of something incredible as they start their university lives.  It will be a time they'll remember, with some bits they'll be desperate to forget I expect (especially if son number two insists on wearing the BananaMan suit with Mrs S bought him).

I've seen all three of his siblings go, but never have I felt the cut of apron strings as strongly as I do with this one. I suppose that's because there was always at least one of them at home all the other times.

It may be time to start looking for another dog...

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Yes, I'm changing...

Yesterday was not a good day.  I seem to be at that stage in my life when I don't really know whether I am coming or going.  You may think that this is because of son number two's pending departure, but you'd be wrong, as I seem to have that covered.  He still hasn't got any bloody curtains, but hey ho, the mornings are dark and as he'll be running his life on the student clock, by the time he gets up in the morning, the lady in the house opposite will have done a morning's work, so won't be there to be shocked at the sight of him in semi-undress.  She looks like she's been there some years actually, so I expect she has seen just about everything that could possibly go on in the den of iniquity over the road.

So back to my bad day.  You'll know from previous ramblings that the jolly old menopause has been riding shotgun with me over the last few months.  I realised yesterday as I was staggering around Reading looking for birthday presents for son number two (it's today, talk about sailing close to the wind) that carrying seven carrier bags in Marks and Spencer is not advisable when the sweat is running down your face and neck, creating a very unique water feature around the bosom area. 

I must of looked like I was about to explode, and with no hands free to delicately pat the sweat away, I resorted to grabbing a pair of size 8 trousers off the rail and running into the changing room, barely registering the snort of derision from the girl in charge as she noticed the size of the trousers I was dragging behind me. 

Throwing everything on the floor, including the trousers which are obviously manufactured for the crazy stick people who live in Reading, I tore off my shirt and flapped at myself with the birthday card I had spent half at hour choosing in Clintons.  Once the hottie had passed, I redressed and walked out of the changing room to be faced with the same girl.  She held out her hand for the trousers.  'Any good Madam?' she asked, her tone of voice insinuating that perhaps I had thought that there was a 1 in front of the 8.  'Yes, they were perfect', said I, clutching the trousers for all they were worth.  'I just need to go and look for a top to go with them'.

I didn't bother waiting for a response, but hung them where I thought they would cause most disruption...on the men's thermal socks rail.  That'll teach her...

I also realised yesterday that my joints are less forgiving now.  Checking my watch, and deciding that I had to leave there and then to avoid the rush hour traffic, I headed for the escalator to the car park.  Now I am normally able to skip up these steps, but it would appear that those days are also gone.  Puffing like someone with a 60-a-day habit, I resigned myself to resting the now eight carrier bags on the step in front of me, and just stood still letting the escalator do its job.

And don't even get me started on the search for a Colin the Caterpillar birthday cake for son number two (a family tradition, before you ask).  I mean, what kind of store runs out of them, and has an assistant who thinks that a Percy Pig cake is a good alternative?

But today is another day.

Surely it must be an improvement on yesterday...mustn't it?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Don't want to leave you...

I took son number two out for lunch yesterday.  This was for several reasons.  The first was that I was starving, having been dieting for over 25 hours (that's a record, in case you're wondering).  Secondly, it's his birthday on Thursday.  Thirdly, I wanted some time with him which didn't involve anything university based.  And lastly, but most importantly, the shop next door to the restaurant I suggested sold curtains.  So I thought I would ply him with risotto and chocolate fudge cake, and then steer him towards the curtains.

Well the lunch was lovely.  There was even some gratuitous flirting on the manager's part which son number two found excruciating.  I did too, but smiled through it as befitting a grateful old bag with a Space Hopper overhang (muffin-top days are just a distant memory).  So suitably stuffed (with excellent seafood risotto before you start thinking that I was swayed by the flirting) I steered him into the curtain shop.  It was a quick visit I'm sorry to say, as the choice was limited, and in my son's words, the patterns were appalling.

So still no curtains.  I just hope that the lady in the house opposite to his has a strong stomach and poor eyesight, and not necessarily in that order either.

So back home again to look at yet more curtains.  This is becoming like something off the Krypton Factor and I have given up all hope of finding a pair before he leaves on Saturday.  I have visions of his spare duvet cover being pegged up on the curtain rail, looking a rather amateur puppet show, while the rest of his housemates scream out 'It's behind you! and Oh no it isn't!'  Anyway, curtains or no curtains, we are slowly coming towards the day he leaves.

He was a bit wobbly yesterday (too much risotto perhaps) and he told me that he was starting to feel just a little bit excited about moving out.  I told him that as a mum, it was my job to prepare him for this, and to make sure that when he was ready, he would be able to fly.  And here was his response..

'Oh you've done everything you can to make me ready Mum.  It's not that I'm 'not ready', it's just I quite like living at home'.

I feel a bit like a mother hen, ushering her last chick towards the front door.  The other three stampeded out of here like three Thompson gazelles, desperate to escape the shackles of living with their parents, but this one?  Well he's a bit different, and I may have to put things in place in his room to make it a more pleasant place to lay his head each night.  I am thinking of the following:

1. Chocolate...lots of it.  In places where he wouldn't think to look.
2. £50 notes secreted around the room
3. A taped version of me singing 'You are My Sunshine'.  This is not because it will send him off to sleep, but one airing of it will make him grateful to be anywhere other than where I am.
4. A life-size cardboard cut out of me to stand in the corner of his room.  Son number one has one of these of himself which he was hiding around the house over the summer in the most inappropriate and annoying places.  I would imagine that once the shock has worn off of having his mother staring at him in a disapproving manner, son number two will turn it towards the window (the one with no curtains) and use it to ward off any ne'er-do-wells who might be considering breaking in.

It might work, who knows.  The funny thing is that he'll be back in a week's time for a night out with his three siblings.  I am expecting a different boy to come back rather than the one who leaves this Saturday.

And that's how it should be...

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

It's so easy...

So it was back to work yesterday - four hours amidst the bins of South Oxfordshire.  A place where strangely, I feel very much at home.  It was lovely to see my friends again, and to see that my mug had been hidden in my drawer by the boys I work with, so that it wouldn't go astray while I was in Devon.  They know what's important in the sales office of Binland. 

It was a fairly stressful day yesterday what with son number two getting ready to leave the building on Saturday.  The two of us headed off in the rain yesterday afternoon to buy all the things we hadn't thought of before the last big shop of stuff.  He offered to drive, as he knows I am a soft touch at the petrol pump and by the time we had been away from my front door for two hours, I was around £150 lighter in pocket. 

Boys are strange creatures.  When daughter number two headed off to university, it was all fairy lights, scatter cushions and matching throws.  There were pretty towels and bath mats, flowery shaded lamps and fake candles.  All son number two was concerned about yesterday were the curtains (they had to be the grey chevron patterned ones for some reason only known to him).  I can't begin to tell you how hacked off he was when the illiterate youth on the counter at Argos told us, through a gum chewing set of gnashers, that they weren't in stock.

Throwing his hands up in the air, he said to me, 'Nothing's ever easy, is it mum'.  I thought about coming out with some parental platitude about it not being worth having if it was easy, but decided to simply agree with him.  He's right.  Nothing is easy at the moment.   There have been a lot of times over the last two weeks when things haven't gone to plan but in the end it has all worked out.  He has been very organised with house hunting and sorting out the finances with no help from me at all.  This from the boy who doesn't seem able to get his dirty clothes from his body to the linen basket without leaving them on the floor for two days.

You see, I'm used to him coming up to me with that daft look on his face asking, 'Can you help me mum?'  Well, those days seem to be over for the time being, but I'm not naïve.  There'll be a time when he needs help again some time in the future - probably when the money runs out in the first week, and he can't afford to buy hair wax.  So I am suffering from Stress By Proxy - worrying on his behalf in this next stage of his life.  I'm worrying that he hasn't bought any folders or pens for his university work and that he won't have enough space for his thirty six t-shirts and boat-like shoes in his bedroom.  I just want it to be easy for him, but as a parent, I suppose we all want that for our children.  But now's the time for him to sort out the problems, and not me.

Changing the subject, I headed out this evening to a talk by a local lass about the effects that hormones can have on your body.  This was fascinating (a word I don't use often in my daily routine) and I found it really informative (again, rarely used).  There were many ladies there of a certain age and we were asked to complete a questionnaire to find out which hormone effected us most.  The lovely lass then gave us scores which would point us in the right direction depending on which hormone was giving us a bad time.

And mine?  Well it was the stress hormone.

Quelle surprise.....

Monday, 19 September 2016

Movin' on...

So after Saturday's 'Spot The Cock-Up' on the flat-pack furniture assembly, it was a quieter day for us yesterday.  Well I say quieter, but that was shattered when Mrs S (she of the new home) turned up just as we were finishing a particularly good roast dinner, courtesy of moi.  I know it was good as there was silence around the table - always a good sign.

So back to Mrs S.  She has a delightful habit of handing over a bag of goodies to mini adults heading off to university for the first time.  Let me take you through what was in the bag...

A fancy dress banana suit - Son number two was made to try this on immediately.  I mean, no one wants to see a too tight banana now do they?
Pro-Plus - For those mornings which seem to morph into the night before
Red Bull - See Pro-Plus
Two emergency packet meals - For when the money runs out a week before payday
A Hawaiian fancy dress - Always useful when you have nothing clean to wear
A sewing kit, with different coloured threads conveniently threaded through the needles (these are possibly exchangeable for a hot meal)
A pack of cards - So he can play Patience when he has no money to go out
Two pregnancy tests - Apparently, these are highly valued amongst certain girls, so can be exchanged for money or food
Chocolate - This won't make it up the stairs to his bedroom at home, let alone Brighton.  If ELL had been here, it wouldn't even have made it from the kitchen table.
Tequila - See Chocolate
A torch - for those times when you can't scrape enough money together to feed the meter
Face paint - For Fresher's Week so that he can paint his legs yellow when wearing the banana suit.  Preferable to wearing yellow tights I expect.

There were other items in there which I can't talk about, what with this being read by older ladies who may not be prepared for such revelations.  I am alright seeing them, as I have had three go thorough university already and there's really nothing left that can shock me now.

Son number two's girlfriend ELL went off to Bournemouth yesterday.  Son number one is already there, starting his last year, and I think ELL is hoping to bump into him.  The trouble is, that son number one has taken the dreaded full size cardboard cut out of himself down to Bournemouth, so she might spend a couple of evenings chatting to him, and wondering why she's getting no response. Mind you, it would probably be the same  if she met the real thing after an evening of Frosty Jacks.

So I have four more days with son number two before he goes.  I'll try and make him the meals he loves, and take time to listen to anything he has to say.  I am also going to try and not tell him to tidy his room, or sort his washing out.  I won't nag about wet towels or the amount of half empty glasses lined up on the window sill.

I will miss all of that mum stuff...

Yeah right.  For about five minutes....

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Right, said Fred...

It was a big day for us yesterday.  It was part one of the house move for son number two, the last of our offspring to head off to university.  He is going to Brighton to study strange looking people who wear too many patterned clothes at once, along with some tree huggers and lefty liberals if the locals are anything to go by.

He had pre-warned the husband and me about the state of his new home.  To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised.  The house has six bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen...so far so good.  However, the floor planning came to a grinding halt when it came to the lounge.  The three seated sofa (I would imagine a seating rota will be introduced for the six of them) simply sits in a larger than usual passage, sharing the floor with a rather dilapidated Henry Hoover.  I would imagine that Henry has been living in the house for many years, and could tell tales of unspeakable things he has seen.

So the reason the husband and I had gone down, was to put together various pieces of furniture.  A double bed (son number two is freakishly tall, and will sleep diagonally on the small double which just about fit in the room), a table and a desk.

The husband, suitably tooled up, started on the bed.  I just happened to enquire as to why the middle legs didn't reach the floor.  The look I got from the husband implied that if I wanted the bed to be finished, I should keep my trap shut.  According to son number two, the husband employed a clever adjustment with some wood to ensure that all six feet now reached the floor.  He also told me quietly that there would be no jumping on the bed as it probably wouldn't stand any rough handling.

But it was the desk which proved the husband's undoing.  Halfway through screwing drawer runners on, he asked me why on earth I hadn't bought ready assembled stuff.  Funnily, I thought he was enjoying the challenge, but apparently not.  Now the husband, like most men, doesn't need the instructions when building a piece of flat pack furniture, but when he was doing the desk he had the booklet open, but was flicking from page to page, looking mildly bewildered.  And why was this?  Well, it was because he was looking at the instructions for the bed, which was already finished (to some degree).  I helpfully pointed this out, and he wasn't half as grateful as I thought he would be.  It was at this point that I headed off to find a sandwich shop.

So six hours after getting there, the husband had finished putting three pieces of furniture together, and we were on our way home.  Waiting back at the house were daughter number one, daughter number two and the LSB, son number two, and the newly re-christened ELL.  We very thoughtfully brought home pizzas, which took so long to make that I had time to knock back two rather large glasses of red wine.  This was not a wise move - when the waitress brought the many boxes over, I muttered something to her about never having four children.  She looked slightly nervous, and said that she only had one child.  Excelling myself in my Malbec befuddled brain, I said to her, rather too loudly, 'Stop at one and quit while you're still ahead'.  The husband manhandled me out of the restaurant, which wasn't easy carrying twelve boxes of pizza, dough balls, salad and garlic bread.

But eating around the table with them all, I realised that having four children is bloody marvellous, and the partners they bring into our crazy family just add a little sensible balance....mind you having heard some of their tales last night, it appears that they may not be as sensible as one thought.

And now they are all going.

I will miss their hugs, their laughter and just the loud 'being' of them all.

Even the ones which aren't strictly mine...

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Lucy in the sky with diamonds..

So waking up yesterday after the biblical storm on Thursday night, it was time to pluck up courage to do a rather unpleasant job.  I am rather good at steering clear of the task in question, preferring to do anything else to avoid it.  So between doing the dreaded task, I managed to walk the two dogs, do a Tesco shop, and clean son number one's bedroom.  That was an education, I can tell you.  I then managed to wash and iron all of our holiday clothes in record time. 

So with nothing left to do, I had no excuse not to do the dreaded job, however hard I tried.

Dragging my feet, I headed up to the bathroom, where the most hated apparatus resided.  The scales.  It was time to face the music after a week of cider, fish and chips, cream teas and cornets.

Stripping down as far as I dare, I exhaled fully, whilst sucking in my stomach (has to help, doesn't it?) Earrings were removed, along with my watch and a hair scrunchy.  Stepping very gingerly onto the scales, I braced myself for the verdict.  If my scales were the talking kind, I would have expected it to shout out in a strangled voice, 'One at a time please!'  Looking down, my face now going red due to lack of oxygen, I waited as the dots on the display stopped running across the screen.  The suspense was killing me (along with the lack of breathing) and then all of a sudden, there it was.  In black and white with no place to hide.

I shan't disclose what my poor scales said (it's enough that you all know that I am nearly 53) but if I said that I shall only be eating celery for the next month, you probably have a fair idea what I am up against.  This is sort of ok for me though.  My wonderful friend Mrs S (she of the newly decorated cottage) once told me that she considers September to be a good month to start something new (like starvation?) as the kids are going back to school etc, and you tend to reclaim part of your life back again. 

So I am not worried.  With all the kids going or gone (except for daughter number one who shows no sign of moving on in the foreseeable future) it will give me the chance to get back on the food treadmill of life.  In the meantime  though, it will be loose trousers and long shirts for the next couple of weeks until the lack of food starts having an effect on my plump rump.

On a completely different note, son number two announced that he and his BFF are now an item.  This gives me quite a dilemma.  For the last nine months she has been known as the BFF, but what now?

Various suggestions rattling around my head are PFDIL (Possible Future Daughter In Law) or LPI (Lightly Pencilled In).  My favourite though, and the one which she shall be known as going forward is ELL (Everyone Loves Lucy)

Because we do....

Friday, 16 September 2016

Good times, cheap wine...

The last night of our week away in the shed went off with a bang. The dogs had given up all hope of ever being able to walk again, so the husband had to cycle to the pub with the dogs being towed behind in their dog wagon.  And that is where they stayed for the next two hours.  The shout came up for a bottle of wine, rather than the customary couple of glasses for me and the mother, and this is where it went slightly wrong for me. 

The bottle ordered  was 14% apparently. Now this means absolutely nothing to me.  It's a bit like tog values for duvets - I have no idea if a 10.5 if for summer or winter.  Perhaps if I knew how high the tog could go, I would then be able to work it out for myself.  So 14%?  Is this low, or so high it would render you comatose within ten minutes?  Well, from my point of view, it would appear to be the latter.  Halfway through the main course (delicious, thank you Masons Arms) the effects of the 14% started working through my body, starting at my feet and head, meeting somewhere around the mouth.  Based on the laughter coming from my dining companions, I was being very entertaining (I can't remember saying anything that funny, so I'll have to take their word for it). 

After dinner, there was a half mile walk back through the woods.  I had a torch, but for some reason, the 14% had suggested that instead of looking where I was going, I point it up at the trees. 

'What are you doing?' asked the husband, following me at a snail's pace behind me on his bike.  Well apparently, I was looking for owls.  Let me tell you, it all made complete sense at the time, but in the cold light of day?  Mmm, well, let's just say that it wasn't one of my finer moments.

My legs were feeling the biggest impact of the 14%, and had started working independently of each other as we walked through the woods.  The husband has a very strong torch on his bike, and I do have a vague recollection of looking at my crazy shadows as they jumped erratically from side to side, and him shouting at me to 'Stay on the bloody path'.

I was relieved not to have a hangover yesterday morning, as a four hour drive is not the best thing to endure when your head is doing its own version of the River Dance (with clogs naturally).  We left the shed at the husband's allotted time of 10.00am.  Stopping at Beer to buy fish (or 'stopping at Fish to buy beer' as I said while under the influence of 14% of something) we then headed out of the village towards home.  As we drove up the hill out of Beer, the husband realised that we had forgotten to leave the car park permit at the shed.  It was still sitting in all its isolated glory on the dashboard.  A quick U-turn, and back to the shed to leave the permit before having another attempt at getting home.

As we got nearer home, I started to worry what would greet us.  Would the house still be standing with only daughter number one and son number two in residence while we were away?  Well, it was a very pleasant surprise as I walked through the front door.  I don't know how much of this was down to Lady H who was on duty yesterday with her dusters and brooms, but the house was spotless, and the IRONING BASKET WAS EMPTY!

Oh happy day...

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The tide is high...

Yesterday saw the holiday in the shed draw to its obvious conclusion.  As befitting a last day, we trolleyed up to the Sea Shanty at the end of the cobbled road and ordered breakfast.  Full English for the husband again (he'll be sorry when he puts those work trousers back on).  Here's how the conversation went:

Me: A Full English breakfast please, a bacon, sausage and egg bap and three toasted teacakes.
SS: We've got no eggs so we're only doing baps.
Me: OK.  One bacon and sausage bap, three toasted teacakes and a Full English without the eggs
SS: As I said, we're only doing baps, so can't do the Full English
Me: (Jokingly) Can't you get some eggs from the shop next door?
SS: They've got no eggs either.  That's why we we're only doing baps.
Me: (Now realising that the Sea Shanty have a non-humour clause when employing staff)
OK.  I'll have two sausage and bacon baps and three toasted teacakes.
SS: Fine.

All of this and three hot drinks amounted to £23.00 so we were assuming that these baps would be something else again.  Well they turned up and looked rather meagre to tell you the truth.  Not buttered (don't get this, as you wouldn't not butter a ham or cheese sandwich, would you?) one piece of bacon, and one sausage sliced so thinly it was almost transparent.  Our menfolk were not best pleased I can tell you.

It was then onto the beach for the rest of the day, where the four of baked gently in the sun.  The shout came up for alcohol around 11.55.  The mother thought this a tad early, but once we'd calculated how long it would take the husband to go the shed, retrieve beer and wine and return, we figured it would be past midday, so perfectly acceptable.

We had taken the two dogs down the beach, where they destroyed every other beachcomber's day in some shape or form, beating up other dogs, scrounging for food, shaking over unsuspecting sunbathers and dragging seaweed willy-nilly. 

Reg, who I can always count on to let me down, excelled himself though.  As I was heading back to the shed for refills of wine, he sort of followed me, but took a slight detour to a rather large gentleman who was face down in the sand fast asleep, his head nestled in a cosy cushion.  As Reg headed over to him, I was trying everything I could to stop Reg from actually reaching him, knowing that a wet nose in the face is not the nicest way of waking up.  (I speak from experience).  Reg, getting the hint from my whispered threats sort of got the idea that he had to come away, and simply cocked his leg up the cushion.  The only positive was that the man didn't wake up and was none the wiser.

As the afternoon drew to a close, the tide turned, and the husband started telling us that we would be perfectly fine staying where we were.  He was proved wrong on several occasions, one of which was when the tide caught hold of one half of his dreaded summer footwear.  I almost cheered as it was drawn out to sea, but 'luckily' the husband managed to rescue it. 

One day, my friends, those sandals will end up somewhere where he can't hear them scream....

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Lightning bolt...

A new café opened up yesterday which was just a few steps away from our shed.  There was a generous full English breakfast for the husband and a crammed bacon sandwich for me.  The added bonus was that it was all free.  How can this be, I hear you ask.  Well, it was Open House at the mother's shed this morning, and she offered us breakfast.

This was a welcome break from the 'Eat as Much as You Like' breakfasts which we have been eating.  I always have to remind the husband that this isn't a challenge and that there are no prizes for the most sausages eaten in one session.  But the mother's breakfast was perfect, and we followed this with thirty minutes of Homes under the Hammer.  This was a new one on me, but I went with it.  I mean, you don't want to appear rude in someone else's shed, do you?  By the look of this programme, there are thousands of people buying old wrecks of houses and spending a fortune doing them up.  A smarmy old estate agent then comes along and tells them that they needn't have bothered as they are still in the red.  I really don't know why they bothered.

So yesterday the weather was changeable to say the least.   A five hour thunder storm raged across the bay, but undeterred, we headed off to Lyme Regis for the day.  Coats were on and off more times than I care to count, and with two waterlogged schnauzers we eventually succumbed to alcohol.  In the pub, we encountered a very strange man with a furball on a lead.  My two were not really sure whether they were sniffing at the right end, until the furball started to bark.  The strange chap at the end of the lead, who must have been 6'3" in his socks, and was sporting a Stetson (I told you he was odd) said I could pick her up for a cuddle, which I did. My two dogs were not happy about this, and their eyes narrowed and lips curled to see their owner stroking another puppy.  Hurriedly handing her back, I asked what her name was.  'Fluffy', replied John Wayne in a Glaswegian accent.  At least my dogs have fairly normal names which I don't mind shouting across the beach.  I don't think he could say the same about little Fluffy, though.

As the rain subsided, there were cornets for the two dogs, and cockles for the grown-ups.  For some reason the fish man gave us two cocktail sticks each to eat the cockles with.  For one awful nanosecond, I wondered whether I was to use them as miniature chopsticks, but it appeared that two sticks are better than one when trying to cram as many cockles in your mouth before you have to get back in the car again.  The husband's car was on borrowed time on the meter, hence the rush.

So suitably cockled out, we headed home, all in desperate need of a cup a tea, a sleep and a loosening of the top buttons.  I reckon that's down to the fudge we all ate.  Did I mention that we all bought a large bag of Roly's Crumbly Fudge and pecked at it between cider and cockles?

This is because we are playing East Devon Bingo.  So far, we have ticked off cream teas, fudge, crab sandwiches, ice cream, cider and cockles.  This leaves just fish and chips before I get a full house.

And the prize?

Reinforced knickers by McAlpine and elasticated trousers for a start, rapidly followed by starvation for the next month.

But it would have been worth every delicious mouthful...

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside...

Now that the mother and Step Daddy Dick (SDD) are in the shed down the road, all heavy exercise has been suspended for the time being. I could almost weep with relief...

We headed out to Sidmouth yesterday, home of the pastel cardigan and small dog in matching jacket to owners.  You can almost smell the formaldehyde as you coast down the hill into Sidmouth.  It's a pretty town, but the shops are purely for those of advanced years with limited vision, hearing and mobility.  Actually, thinking about this, between the four of us we have every base covered, with the mother and SDD being slightly hard of hearing, the husband with his varifocals and me with my legs.  These seem to have lost the ability to bend overnight, and every time we sat down for some kind of food, it was taking me longer and longer to get them moving in some kind of co-ordinated rhythm. 

Food seemed to have been the overwhelming topic yesterday.  A full English was the first post of call, followed  by visits to two separate bakers searching for the perfect jam doughnut.  SDD ate the first one en route to the second baker, but we never got the verdict on that one as it remained untouched.  The reason for this?  More cider in another pub.  Suitably lubricated (everywhere except my knees) we headed off for more walking.  This time, along a very wet and stormy coastal path.  There was a small hill which I had to climb, which just about finished me off, but as a crab sandwich had been suggested as blackmail/bribery/reward (call it what you will) I positively cantered up it. 

Sitting back down in the café where we had eaten breakfast about two hours earlier, we all ordered crab sandwiches, only to hear the devastating news that there was only one left.  Well, this was a problem.  Eventually, as the mother had offered to pay, we said she could have it, with SDD settling for a prawn sandwich, and the husband and I ordering a cream tea. 

The food turned up, and we all waited for the mother to offer us just a nibble.  The sandwich looked perfect, and it looked like although  there hadn't been enough crab for two sandwiches, this one sandwich surely had benefitted, with the crab oozing out of the soft granary bread.  Apparently, she doesn't share which became very obvious as she emptied the plate at a rate of knots.

I must confess though.  The husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our cream teas.  I did say to him how lovely it was that they gave you far too much cream and jam, so that you wouldn't have to scrimp.  Having said that, there wasn't a smear left of either jam or cream in the bowls, which I am blaming on the husband as he finished after me.

Devon, you are turning me into rather a round looking person.  I can now see that no number of steep hill climbs will give me enough calorie credit for the pints of cider, cream teas, fish and chips and crab sandwiches.  Ah well, the diet will start on Monday.

Of course, this assumes that the husband and I can actually get into the front seats of his car without getting wedged between the steering wheel (him) and the glove compartment (me). 

And as for the dogs?  Well they will be on strict rations next week too.  I've had to let their collars out a notch.

A bit like me and the husband with our belts I suppose...

Monday, 12 September 2016

Over the hills and far away...

It was decided that we would walk to Beer this morning.  Note I say 'to' and not 'for' in case you think I am turning into some cider fuelled lush.  This walk entailed half a mile of sheer hell.  Imagine hills steep enough that the grass grows horizontally and where there is not a sheep brave enough to graze...well that's the first bit.  And then, just as you take your ease on the bench dedicated to PLOB (Ancient Devonish for F**k me, that was steep') you look behind you to see ninety steps, carved into the hillside.  At this point, I should mention that I had already taken my asthma inhaler four times, drunk half a bottle of water and possibly wept a little. The steps are apparently used in some testosterone competition, which are very popular with men of a certain age just now.  I wasn't to be beaten though, and forced my legs to do their job and get me to the top.

Once there, it was downhill all the way.  The sun was shining, the breeze was warm, and all was well in my world.  I was wearing my FitBit, and gave Miss R regular updates as to how many calories we'd burned off.  Getting to the café  on Beer beach (Ducky's - fantastic place) we both ordered sausage sandwiches with a carrot cake chaser, calculating that we still had calories to spare after the mammoth walk.  We used these up with rather lovely cornets.

We had taken the dogs with us, and the husband, ever keen to show how responsive they are to his call let the dogs off to run free.  This was fine until other dogs appeared over the horizon.  Reg seems to have started a new habit of punching new friends on the nose, and expecting them to want to play with him.  This ended as you would expect, with the husband running down the steep hill home after the dogs.  If he had been entered into that Cheese Rolling competition, I think he would have done rather well.

Back to the sheds, and it was time for more pints of cider as a reward for getting back in one piece.  It was at this point that the mother and her beau, Step Daddy Dick, turned up.  They were swapping with Miss R and living in the shed for the second part of our week.  Miss R showed them round the shed, and the mother was quite taken with it.  She headed back to the car to get her luggage, and reappeared at Miss R's shed about twenty minutes later, looking very red-faced.  It would appear that the mother and her beau had walked into what they thought was Miss R's shed, and started unpacking, only to be surprised by a couple in bed (clothed thank goodness).  The gentleman very politely asked them if he could help in any way, at which point the mother, realising what had happened, reversed slowly out of the shed next door muttering how sorry she was.  Many, many times.

Our day ended sitting on the beach eating fresh fish which the husband barbecued, washed down with cold beers.  As it got colder, Miss R left to go home, and the rest of us decided to call it a day.  I was quite relieved that we weren't heading off to the pub again.  Mainly because I seemed to have lost two kneecaps, one hip, three toes and my sanity on the morning's cliff walk.

Oh, and Poldark was on...

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Free wheelin...

It would appear that contrary to all I have believed in up till now, I am in fact able to drink from a pint glass without my world caving in.  I have now demonstrated this on several occasions in the last 24 hours, but still find myself unconverted with regard to a pint glass.  My excuse for preferring a smaller glass is the fact that my cider went warm in the pint glass.  At least, that's the reason I am sticking to.  It has nothing to do with my desperate need to be thought of us a 'lady'.....

So let's talk about yesterday shall we.  This was a day with some serious laughter in it.  We started off Desperately Seeking Breakfast, taking about two hours before we found the right place.  We hit The Cosy Teapot in Budleigh Salterton in a big way, with two birds, two dogs and our chauffeur eating them out of house and home.  We managed three meals in one sitting, with the husband having a full English fry-up, Miss R had a sensible crab sandwich, and I settled for two toasted tea cakes. 

It was then back to the sheds, where the husband decided that he was going into the sea for a swim.  He quietly revealed to me that under his swim shorts he was wearing diving shorts, thus ensuring, and I quote, that 'he didn't feel the cold'.  Now correct me if I am wrong, but I think the husband was not so much concerned about the cold, but more about the effect of the cold, and what it can do to your extremities.  He can't fool me...

Miss R, ever up for a challenge, soon joined in, throwing caution to the wind, and going in fully clothed.  She told me that she had forgotten her swimsuit, but like the husband, I think she wanted to stay warm in the sea, hence the t-shirt and shorts.  She was wiped out spectacularly, fortunately, I had my camera running at just the right point, managing to film the whole hilarious experience.  I'm sure that many of you have watched this on our facebook page again and again.  I know I have.

We ended back at the pub yesterday evening, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the competitors of Branscombe's newly revived pram race.  Well, they were a lot later than we thought, so more cider was drunk, accompanied by some fish and chips.  Now the problem was that we had ridden to the pub on our bikes, having intended to leave while it was still light.  Unfortunately, by the time we left the pub, night had well and truly fallen, and it was with some trepidation that we got on our bikes.  The husband had drawn the short straw, and was also towing the dogs in their wagon...but at least he had lights....unlike me.

Miss R and the husband thought it was a good idea to put me in the middle, as they both had lights on their bikes.  Riding through the woods in semi darkness with no lights and two and half pints of cider swilling from side to side is not the best idea in the world, also my brakes weren't brilliant.  The fact that we made it home in one piece will never cease to amaze me, and I got off mine as we reached the path to the sheds. 

Two wheels and shag-pile gravel are never a good combination, even when you're sober...

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Jammin'...

Miss R turned up yesterday with torrid tales of traffic jams and slower than a snail camper vans.  That'll teach her for having that half hour lay in...

As we'd been waiting for Miss R to turn up before heading out anywhere, the husband and I hadn't eaten breakfast (this is purely down to the fact that we had no food in the shed as yet, choosing to eat out at every mealtime thus far).  There was a loaf of brownish bread (what is this 50/50 bread all about?) and some butter, but no jam, and eventually we succumbed to some toast.  I think the real reason neither of us wanted to eat was down to the fact that when Miss R did turn up, we would probably be eating out somewhere, and the toast would have counted as breakfast, meaning that croissants, bacon sandwiches or toasted teacakes were off the menu. 

When she eventually arrived, she brought the rain with her.  We waited, and we waited, and we waited, but gluttony got the best of us all, and Miss R and I coerced the husband into driving us into Beer for a mooch around the shops.  That's what we told him, but let's face it, we were really after the first place which a) sold food, and b) allowed dogs in. 

We ended up in a great little place called Osbornes, nursing pints of cider (Miss H, you'll be glad to read this I am sure) and eating crab sandwiches.  While we were there, an old chap wandered in and sat down at the table next to us.  There are no words to describe this old boy, but he looked like a Father Christmas who had fallen on hard times.  His clothes hung off him like a scarecrow, and he was carrying a battered bag for life (not too sure whose life it was expected to last for, but if it was his, it was doing well).  His hair was about shoulder length, white and frizzy and he also had a peculiar ripe smell.  Mmm..nice, just what you want with your crustacean.

So he sat down, and the waitress came over and asked him if he wanted his usual, at which he replied in a terribly posh voice that he did.  What was his usual going to be I wondered.  Well, it was the following:

A hot chocolate
A pot of tea
Two jugs of hot water
A pot of marmite
A pot of jam
A very, very large port

He proceeded to pour hot water into the Marmite and jam pots and shake them vigorously, before starting on the hot chocolate.  He kept glancing over to us, and as I was facing him, I dropped the occasional smile.  I couldn't believe what happened next though.

Eyeing us suspiciously, he called the waitress over again, and asked to move table.  Obviously, our clean clothes and lack of offensive whiff had offended him somewhat, and he scooped up his cups, glasses and other paraphernalia and headed to the other side of the restaurant.

Perhaps he's not a dog lover, or maybe the view of a couple of old birds tanked up on cider, giggling with an apologetic looking husband wasn't his cup of tea.

We'll never know...

Friday, 9 September 2016

Step by step...

So it's day one of our week away in the shed.  I say 'shed', but it's really a very posh beach hut on the South coast, with all mod cons.  Thank goodness it has wifi, otherwise I would have to have written this in a pub whilst necking the usual half pints of cider.   (I am a lady, and never drink from a pint glass, unlike others I could mention...you know who you are Miss H..)  I can only begin to imagine what the spelling would have been like.

So we had a trouble free journey down for a change.  There were no traffic jams, no accidents and only a sprinkling of ripe language from the husband as he reprimanded various drivers from the safety of his driver's seat with the windows up and the car door locked.

The shed hadn't changed one bit since last year.  It's a complete haven from our lunatic life at home, and is totally governed by food and drink.  Of course, the husband likes to temper this with something called 'activities'.  Experience tells me that these can range from a slow amble along the beach, right through to a clamp-ons and safety harness hill climb.  We did this twice last year, and if I remember rightly, I had to get a taxi back as my feet downed tools, sobbing quietly in their walking boots.

But we started off gently today.  A lovely walk along the beach with the dogs in tow.  We didn't go too far, as we were both hungry, so a stop at the pub about 200 yards from our front door was on the cards.  Half an hour later, after several beers and ciders and a couple of chicken sandwiches, we were off again, marching up the beach with the dogs.

Suddenly, the husband stopped.  'Where are my glasses?'  he asked frantically patting the top of his head.  'I know I had them at the table'.  Ten minutes of pocket emptying (mine as well for some reason) proved fruitless, so we headed back to the pub, retracing our steps.  Sure enough, the pub had them, and the husband looked like he'd been reunited with some long lost friend. 

Back at the shed, we both dozed off to the sound of the waves.  Funny how cider can do that.  Waking up two hours later, the husband was pottering about the shed.  'Oh no, where are my glasses now?'  I might have to get him one of those chains which doctors' receptionists wear around their necks.  This would be dual purpose, as not only would he never lose his glasses again, but I could hang onto it as he's racing up some hill, thus slowing him down to my pace.

Miss R turns up tomorrow.  She is a good companion for the husband's cycling/walking/climbing activities, as she's very fit (as in the exercise department, rather than looks, but having said that she is quite a foxy lady too).  She'll be egging him on with some cycling challenge, after which he'll probably be a broken man who really should have known better.

If you ask me, all you really need for the perfect holiday is a bit of sun, a strip of beach, a deckchair and a bottle of cider. 

I'll leave all the strenuous stuff to the other two I think.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Staying's worse than leaving...

So yesterday, at around 2.00pm, my holiday started.  To celebrate my nine days of rest, I started with two loads of washing and an hour's ironing, working on the assumption that if I got it out of the way now, I could head down to Devon with a holier than thou conscience.  How naïve of me.  Here are the things which are causing me some angst, as we leave two or three adult kids in the house...

1.   I just used the last dishwasher tablet.  This gives the children the green light to not switch on the dishwasher for the whole week.

2.  There is no bread in the house.

3.  Lady H (she of the bionic mop) is due here today and also on the Thursday we return.  I anticipate her coming into a relatively tidy house today, but next week will be a different matter after a week without me traipsing around after children and the husband with a bin bag and a bottle of anti-bac.  When she opens the front door next week, she may do a double take on the sight which greets her.  I can guarantee that there will be at least five pairs of shoes in the hall, and my worktops will be littered with the detritus of son number two's cooking.

4. My magnificent hanging baskets will not be watered for a week.  When we return, they will be beige and crunchy, as will my one house plant which has never died on me.  The windowsill it sits on is known as Death Row in my house.

5. On our return, I will be greeted by a mountain of washing so high that the summit will be topped by a mountain goat.  The fridge however, will be devoid of anything other than a solitary tumbleweed.

So I will try to forget what's going on at home while the husband and I are having our week away in the shed.

I mean, what's the worse that can happen...

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

You can do magic...

Yesterday was appointment three of five at the dentist to sort out my crazy teeth.  How you can spend so much on having a tooth replaced so it looks prettier than the ones you were born with, and yet, it crumbles at the first sight of a piece of pork crackling I'll never understand.  So tooth number one is complete and functioning again.  Unfortunately, because there was so little of my own tooth left, the remainder of it having gone the same route as the aforementioned crackling, my lovely dentist had to put a metal filling in.  As it's right at the back, no one can see it, but I feel like Jaws (either the baddy from James Bond or the shark with a penchant for late night swimmers...take your pick).  I am expecting to set off every airport security scanner and will also have to allow for the extra 25gm when I weigh myself each week.

So having had this done, with a numb jaw, I had 45 minutes to kill before heading off to the osteopath.  It's been one of those afternoons when I keep on asking myself, 'What's going to go next?'  To be honest, there isn't much of me left that's not kept together with strong glue, supported by industrial strength elastic, dyed, plucked or pinned together, so half an hour in the capable hands of my wonderful osteopath was minor compared to all the other stuff. 

So back to my unexpected 45 minutes of me-time before I took my vest off.  Cup of tea, naturally, and a Bakewell Tart, courtesy of my local café.  (Not Mrs B's café in Abingdon - by the time I got there and back, there would have been no time for one of her legendary sausage rolls).  Sitting there with the tea, I stared at it like it was my worst enemy, capable of throwing itself down my chin whilst I was assuming it was being drunk in the normal way.  I had taken the tea upstairs where it was quieter, and after a few failed attempts spent a most enjoyable half an hour drinking my tea with the aid of a spoon, and sucking on my Bakewell Tart which I had broken into tiny pieces. 

Then it was a quick rub down of my bosom shelf (I love my Wonderbra as it performs the toughest of miracles on a daily basis) brushing off the soggy crumbs and tea stains which hadn't quite reached their intended destination, preferring instead to sit on my bosom proclaiming to all that could see me, that here was a woman who ate like a pig and wasn't too sure where her mouth was.

Having made myself look vaguely presentable, it was time to head round the corner to see Mr Magic Hands. I would normally have refreshed my lipstick at this point, but sanity prevailed thank goodness.  It could have gone anywhere, and I may have ended up looking like one of those sad circus clowns.  Never a good look.

Within ten minutes of getting there, he had me in a headlock that Hulk Hogan would have been proud of, slowly pulling my head from the depths of my shoulders, where it has been residing for the last few weeks. It was at this point that he started telling me about his forthcoming holiday.  A cruise nonetheless. With the good side of my face pinioned up against his left thigh, and the numb side probably drooling a little, I asked him whether he had allowed for the fact that he would probably be wearing elasticated trousers at the end of the fortnight.

And here comes the revelation.  He takes several pairs of linen trousers with him - all the same style and colour, but in varying sizes, with the largest being saved for the last night's Captain's Dinner I expect.

Now why have I never thought of that...

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Any which way...

In my attempt to be marginally fitter than I am at the moment, the dogs got dragged around the woods again yesterday afternoon.  The husband has invested in a lead splitter for the two of them to make my life easier.  For those of you who don't have two dogs, this is a normal lead which clips onto two short bungee straps, which are then attached to each dog, in the hope that the two of them will trot side by side like a couple of well trained ponies.  Well that's the plan anyway....

So I had cause to use the lead splitter yesterday afternoon.  There were a couple of horses joining us on the path, and Reg, who is easily bewildered, tends to take a sideways swipe at horses, primarily in the hope that one of them might play with him.  This is the technique he has perfected with Percy, and it works very well, often leading to games of tag or chewy beardy face.

But I like to play safe, so I clipped the two dogs onto the lead, and walked slowly towards the horses, and it was now that it became apparent that the lead splitter does have its faults...

1.  Our dogs travel at different speeds.  Percy tends to plod along quite calmly, while Reg only has one speed, and that is top.  This means that Percy has to walk faster to keep up with Reg.  Watching them this afternoon, I decided that this is the dog equivalent of a treadmill, in that you have to keep going until someone switches the machine off (or releases Reg).

2. Leg-cocking can be awkward.  Both dogs use the same leg, so depending who is walking on the left hand side, one of them will get an early shower when the synchronised cocking occurs.

3.  No prisoners are taken if one of them gets a whiff of something good.  Whoever's nose is en pointe for that afternoon will drag the other one to every bush, nettle, car tyre and gatepost to leave a 'calling card'.  Once again, the dragged one will end up being peed on again.

4. You can't let the dogs fall behind you.  Yesterday I was nearly wiped out as they overtook me,  one on each side of me, the thick elastic wrapping itself around my ankles like a vice.  At one point, I felt like I was running a three legged race on my own...

Reaching the horses, Reg decided that he had never seen one before (daft dog has the memory of a goldfish) so sat down and refused to budge.  Percy, on the other hand, was keen to get past the horses, as he is sensible enough to know that once past them, he would be off the lead.  So with Percy pulling and me pulling, our joint effort resulted in Reg's collar coming off.  This was his cue to run like hell back towards the blackberry bushes which we had been sampling.  Smiling apologetically at the horsey ladies, Percy and I turned back and retraced our steps back to where Reg was snaffling about on the floor, looking for fallen fruit. 

We ended up going home the way we came, as nothing I did would persuade Reg to walk towards the horses again.

Even blackberries....

 


Monday, 5 September 2016

Like a virgin...

It was time for an impromptu visit to the cinema on Saturday night.  Miss R was put in charge of getting the tickets, which was brave of us after the last time. (All I am going to say is wrong film, wrong seats, wrong cinema, early exit).

Jason Bourne was on the menu, and the husband, daughter number one and I met up with Miss R, her Latin lodger Senhorita Sofia (she is of Portuguese extraction), and Miss R's wonderfully charismatic friend Madam C.  As usual, Miss R and the husband managed to eat the bulk of their pick-a-mix before they had to pay (it's only a matter of time before the Bon-Bon Police track them down) so laden down with all the necessities, ice cream, coffee, stolen sweets and nachos we headed in to the cinema.

Now I have a theory about films which have music playing all the way through them.  I think that they are trying to hide something.  In this case, it was a plot.  Twenty four hours later, I'm still not too sure what the hell it was about, but there were enough car crashes to keep the ambulance chasers in business for some time, and Matt Damon still managed to look pretty at the end of the film, not withstanding the fact that he had been fighting with numerous Eastern Europeans, got rammed by a SWAT truck, and shot at several times.

It all ended well though in the end, as you would expect from a franchise that doesn't know when to call it a day.  It was then off to a bar for a quick drink, and Miss R made a phone call to order a takeaway.  'Was it Chinese?' I hear you ask, 'or a lovely curry?'  'Pizza?'

Well no, it was none of the above.  Her call was made to Tony at the local kebab van.  Miss R is on first name terms with Tony, although he insists on calling her a totally different name to the one she has.  After all these years, I expect it would be embarrassing to correct him.  Miss R is thoughtful like that.

Sitting in the car while Miss R and the husband collected the kebabs, daughter number one and I looked at the queue.  They were all shapes, but mostly one size, and at one point, I did want to shout to rather a rotund chap, 'Step away from the Kebab Van Fatty', but decided against it as there's nothing worse than a lukewarm doner.  I am sure that the bacteria are sitting in the polystyrene tray with a thermometer, waiting for it to dip below boiling point, when they will pounce causing a rather nasty case of the trots...

We all headed back to Miss R's house, where she laid out knives and forks for the kebabs.  She's gone up the sophistication ladder that one.  I remember the days when we ate them straight from the paper after a night out, wiping our greasy fingers across the lovely velour upholstery in our cars.  I suppose it was just as well that we didn't have leather upholstery back then.  What with the leather trousers which were de rigeur in one part of the 80's, we would have been all over the shop, but to be fair, our trousers would have had a lovely sheen to them.

So it turned out that Madam C was a doner kebab virgin.  As she ate the last bits of processed, thrice heated floor sweepings and some thinly sliced cabbage, she proclaimed that she hadn't realised what she'd been missing all those years.  Experience tells me that it would have been a different story when she woke up on Sunday morning.

Furry tongue anyone?

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Salad days...

Feeling rather organised, I did my supermarket order on Friday night for delivery Saturday lunchtime.  Knowing that daughter number one and son number one were back in residence, I had worked out what I was going to cook for dinner each night for the coming week, taking special care to pick healthy and nutritious meals for us all.  (This wouldn't be my choice, but as daughter number one is a PE teacher, I can't be blamed for her not being able to keep up with the 13 year olds she teaches.  I mean, no one likes a podgy PE teacher shouting 'Wait for me!' do they?)

I headed off for the usual Saturday family breakfast with Miss R, Mrs W and the mother.  Mrs Jangles wasn't there as she'd had a better offer (coffee in bed and some antibiotics I believe) but the chat flowed as usual, and we put the world to rights over tea and toast.  There was a small child breaking the sound barrier on the table next to us, and Miss R who is sensitive to this kind of noise, suggested that a new venue might be on the cards, now that they were allowing children in.

So my shopping was due to be delivered between 2.00-3.00.  After an hour of pacing the hallway, looking at my watch, I headed back to the laptop to see if I'd got the time wrong.  Well it turned out that the time was right, but the payment card I had saved had expired four months ago (shows how long it is since I've used it) so my shopping was currently doing a sightseeing tour around Oxfordshire in the back of a lorry, being unloaded and reloaded at each of the driver's stops.  He was probably kicking and swearing at it each time he moved it out of the way, so I was expecting a few broken eggs and dented avocados.  Unfortunately, by the time the supermarket got hold of the driver, it was too late to ask him to do a U-turn back to me, so it's been pushed over for delivery today.

Discussing this with the offspring, it appears that daughter number one will not be eating at home at all this week.  She has 'things planned' after school (probably Homework Club, Trampolining and Gluing 'n' Sticking).  Turns out that the husband, son number one and I could have eaten our usual meat and two veg quite happily rather than heading down the 'food my food eats' route.  I would love to see the essay which started...'Lettuce...Discuss'.  It would probably be a bit wishy washy with little substance, a bit like the lettuce I suppose.  Give me a roast potato any day of the week.

Talking of health foods and other things I don't quite get, she has left a plastic container of something on top of the kitchen cupboard.  I thought it was hundreds and thousands for sprinkling over iced cakes, but apparently it's some kind of grain.  Reassuringly, she wasn't 100% sure what it was, so I expect it will stay there until one of us is brave enough to admit that we're never going to eat it, at which point it will be sprinkled down the waste disposal in the sink. 

The container might be useful though. 

I like to picture it full of Maltesers...

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Tutti frutti...

As the weather looked like it was on the turn again (curse you, September), I decided to haul the dogs around the woods on a six mile hike.  I am in training you see, but there is a slight chance that I may have left this a little too late. 

Next week, the husband is taking me and the dogs on a holiday by the coast.  Last year, I clocked up about sixty miles over the week, most of them uphill if I remember rightly.  Having walked no further than the end of my road for almost nine months, I am worrying that my lack of fitness might hold the husband back.  He takes no prisoners when on a walk, and I vaguely remember having to carry Percy for the last two hundred yards when coming back to the shed (It's actually a posh beach hut, but has been rechristened the shed).  I may have to resort to this next week, throwing myself onto the beach, and pleading with my baby blues for a fireman's lift.  It's either that or I strap Percy and Reg to a skateboard and get taken back by them, resembling a middle aged, female Ben Hur.

So back to the walk yesterday.  It was all going rather well, until we chanced upon an elderly couple stripping the hedgerows of blackberries.  Percy took a sideways glance at them and carried on walking.  I shouldn't have stopped to speak to them, I know that, but I just couldn't help it.  All I said was 'Lovely afternoon. isn't it?'  and that was it. 

It was the start of a two minute chat about what breed my dogs were, how far I had walked, how old Reg was and blackberry jelly.  While all this was going on, Reg had moseyed over to where several plastic bowls were neatly lined up, full to the brim with blackberries.  And this is where it all started going horribly wrong. 

You see, Reg loves blackberries.  Let's face it, that dog will eat anything that stands still long enough, and while Mr and Mrs Forager were chatting to me about their love of blackberry jelly, Reg had started sniffing around the bowls.  As the subject then turned to the changing weather, Reg had plucked up the courage to stick his snout into the proverbial trough, and started ploughing through the blackberries.  I knew that if they looked to their right, they would see the literal fruits of their labours disappearing down his gullet, so pointing to a heavily laden branch, I leant down, grabbed Reg by the collar and dragged him away from the now half empty bowl.

Throwing a frantic 'goodbye' over my shoulder, Reg and I trotted round the corner, where Perfect Percy was waiting patiently.  So we carried on with our walk, with Percy meandering in his usual way, while Reg flitted around, his blackberry juice stained beard making him look like one of the Ant Hill Mob.

I was more than sure that the blackberries would be making a reappearance sometime, but it would appear that Reg's constitution is stronger than I thought.

I just hope that Mrs Forager had enough left to do her jelly justice...

Friday, 2 September 2016

Wrecking ball...

Daughter number one is heading back home for a few months while her bijoux residence is jigged about by the husband.  I'll be honest with you, I'm not too sure who is more excited about the impending building work.  Daughter number one with her pictures of kitchens and fabric swatches, or the husband who keeps muttering under his breath about removable walls.  The plan is to create an extra bedroom from the many cupboards the flat has.  This is good news as far as I am concerned, as once it's finished, the husband and I are planning to have a sleepover, switching the heating on high, turning all the lights on, and then opening the windows as it's too hot.  Payback time beckons at last.

So she sent me a message yesterday, saying that she had started moving her stuff in, but wouldn't be moving in till Sunday.  Now Lady H (she of the dynamic dusters capable of removing a lifetime of dust bunnies) was here yesterday while daughter number one was hefting boxes of stuff (crap) up the stairs.  I am hoping that she wiped her shoes each time she came in from the car, as Lady H has extremely high standards, and is not a woman to be trifled with.

A further message was received saying that the empty wardrobe, three drawers, bathroom cabinet and bedside table were not enough to cope with her possessions.  Various items had been farmed out to the siblings' wardrobes and drawers and even the husband got a small pile of his own.  The strange thing was, that most of what she gave him was actually his. 

I can't tell you how many times I have been blamed for the disappearance of his cycling shorts a year ago.  Lo and behold, there they were, neatly folded on the husband's side of the bed, the pile topped with an empty headphone case and a Go-Pro.  I did think about hiding the shorts (they are not the most forgiving garment the husband has in his wardrobe) but as she had included him in the message, that particular ship had sailed.

She had left by the time I got back from work.  A quick look in the dogs' bedroom (which used to be daughter number two's and soon will be daughter number one's) confirmed that she had made herself at home.  In fact, she'd even gone so far as to fill the laundry basket with dirty clothes.  She'll be expecting them to be washed, ironed and hung up by the time she moves in on Sunday.

She won't be disappointed...

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Follow you, follow me...

I got followed by a film star today....

Now before you start thinking that I am talking about some star of screen or stage tearing after me down the High Street, waving an autograph book under my nose, let me explain.

I have a Twitter account which I generally use to blatantly and shamelessly hawk my blog on.  When I first started doing this a few months ago, I started to see various people and organisations follow me.  For the Twitter virgins amongst you, this means that they get to read my daily twaddle as and when I tweet it.  If you're still unsure, it's a bit like throwing a free ad in the Exchange and Mart - making sense now?

So when I started, my followers were mainly dog loving folk, obviously enjoying the tales/tails of Percy and Reg as they attempted world domination in my house (actually this is still carrying on, with Percy taking more of a back seat as Reg struts round the lounge in jack boots and serge).

As time progressed, and I started tweeting more prolifically, virtual marketing agencies started to follow me, in the hope that I would part with copious amounts of money to further my market.  Fat chance as I am happy talking to thin air most of the time (except when you are with me of course, dear reader).  They are still carrying on following me, but I do tend to block them as there are only so many times I can see adverts for gold coins, self-published books (not such a bad idea) and dipped doughnut biscuits (hang on, quite like that one...)

So as time moved on, there came a day when I published 'All Fur Coat and no Knickers'... (http://tracyrich31.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/all-fur-coat-and-no-knickers.html)  I can't even begin to tell you what kind of people this attracted.  Needless to say, there were several 'ladies' (possibly of the night) who I had to block, and a couple of men who I had to report for their suggestions (some of which I never even guessed were possible).  It appears that putting #NoKnickers is not the best idea for attracting decent folk to your blog website.

So my followers are now vary varied, with weirdness peaking with a kick boxer from Kazakhstan and a retired Irish jockey following me.  Goodness knows what I said to make them want more, perhaps they have a fetish for middle aged ladies with unpredictable hair and a dodgy hip, who knows?

So the actor who joined my merry band today is a little bit famous apparently. Perhaps he is hoping that if my blog ever became a film, he might get a part.

He's quite dishy actually.....I'm always open to offers...