Saturday, 31 December 2016

Danger zone...

Yesterday was daughter number two's birthday.  She has never forgiven me for this, but as I often remind her, if she hadn't decided to defer her entrance into this beautiful world for almost three weeks, then she wouldn't now be suffering the annual insult of,  'I've bought you a bigger Christmas present to cover your birthday'.

Because I do hold myself partly responsible for her eventual birthday, I always try and arrange something a little special for her, so that we can separate her birthday from all the Christmas pizazz going on around us.  A few months ago, Tom Kerridge (Superchef, and adopted Marlow boy) announced that he was opening a pop up cinema for just two months in Marlow.  Well, this sounded good, so after a quick ring around, I bought twelve tickets and sat back and watched as the whole event sold out within a space of days.

So last night was the big night.  The cinema goers last night were me, the husband, daughter number one, son number one, daughter number two and the LSB, son number two and ELL, Miss R (she gets everywhere that woman), her friend Mr B, Wormy and his girlfriend Miss B (no relation to Mr B as it happens). 

Walking into the cinema, I wasn't sure whether we had stumbled into a DFS warehouse, as there were rows upon rows of squishy red sofas lined up.  There was a bar (never had that in my day, it was all Kia Ora and a bag of Revels) and we settled down in our sofas and waited for the main event.  Here's the thing though.  We were going to see Top Gun, a film I have never seen much to my family's disgust and shame.  I probably had seen most of it at some time or another, just not all in one sitting, so when the husband found out that this was the film we would be seeing, he was overjoyed.  His sister always tells me that he looked like Tom Cruise when he was younger, and I think that the husband now believes that he and Tom were separated at birth. Every now and again, I have had a tiny whiff of what his sister is talking about, it's the eyes I think.  It's certainly not the bank balance or the penchant for strange religions.

So going back to the cinema, we had food delivered to our sofas which was excellent, as befitting Mr Kerridge, and ice creams brought round in the intervals. I had strawberry and honeycomb which was delicious and a far, far cry from the tiny one-mouthful pots which require a mortgage which cinemas seem to favour these days.

But what about the film, I hear you ask.  Here goes..

1. Music all the way through in a film never bodes well - something to hide perhaps?
2. Tom Cruise was very young.  Has he had his nose and teeth done since this epic?  Not sure.
3. So sexist.  Sent out a bad message to my kids (cougar/seamed stockings to work)
4. Too many planes and not enough topless beach volleyball for my liking
5. Bad pants (even Tom couldn't make those Y-fronts appealing)

But all in all, it was a fantastic night, and a throw back to the old days of cinema going.  And this is what made it special, as it brought back memories of how good something can be if you are not just looking at a profit and loss account. 

If you have the chance, you should go - I think that there were a few tickets left (Grease today - if only daughter number one had hung on in there for twenty four more hours).

And I still didn't manage to watch the film in its entirety. 

I blame the Prosecco, the squishy sofa and cuddling up to my own Tom Cruise who has a very well padded left shoulder...



Friday, 30 December 2016

Walking in a winter wonderland...

Firstly, please accept my apologies for the later than usual post today.  This is what happens when you are trawling the Home Counties with a car full of drunks in a fog so thick you could knit an Aran sweater out of it.

Some months ago, the shout came up from my nephew, Wormy (he'll hate me for this pseudonym, but Mr G sounds too boring for this loopy boy) to arrange something special between Christmas and New Year.  Several suggestions were made, a couple of which I'm not sure were legal, but in the end we decided on a trip to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.  The final count yesterday was vastly reduced due to sickness and general apathy, but the hard core party ended up as me, the husband (who was moaning quietly about a sore throat), daughter number one, son number one, Miss R (naturally), Wormy and his beautiful girlfriend Miss B. 

As alcohol was involved, the shout went up to drive as far as possible, then get the train in.  I was never going to drink, as it's daughter number two's birthday today, and I didn't relish the thought of celebrating that by sticking my head down the loo all day.  Anyway, I digress.  We all managed to get there at round about the same time which is surprising as the trains all started out in three different counties...

Wormy steered us towards the German section of the fair, because as we know, 'German' equals beer plus sausage, and the whole evening went disgracefully downhill quicker than you could say Bratwurst.  I was slightly disappointed, as I was expecting to see a similar set up to what we saw in Berlin last year, but unfortunately, it appears that the Brits looked at the whole German market phenomenon with its baubles, gingerbread and wooden toys, and decided that beer, sausage and scary rides would be a far better option.  Miss R and I did manage to buy the obligatory daft hats though, so it wasn't all bad.



Talking of the scary rides, after drinking for six hours, the rest of my party decided that it would be a great idea to be thrown about sixty feet in the air for three minutes.  I encouraged this, because I reckoned that if they were going to throw up, then this would be a better time to do it, rather than in the husband's car on the M40.  But needless to say, their constitutions did them proud, and they headed off for another beer.  I had bought myself a lovely hot chocolate while they were being chucked about, queuing for ten minutes for the luxury, and I arrived back at my little group of daredevils (idiots) to find Miss R in the throes of an asthma attack after the rollercoaster ride. 

'Have you got your inhaler with you?'  she asked, sounding like she'd developed a fifty-a-day habit since I last clapped eyes on her.

Well I did, and I handed her my hot chocolate while I rummaged through my bag looking for it.  Between handing it over and getting it back, she had managed to drink three quarters of my precious hot chocolate, all that was left was that sticky, gritty bit at the bottom.  There's gratitude for you...

When I finally managed to get them all out (the place was closed so the time was right) we had been there for almost nine hours.  Son number one suggested getting an Uber to get back to our abandoned car, which was a great idea. The lovely man dropped us back at Gerrards Cross and then it was down to me to negotiate the fog for thirty miles to get us all home safely. 

Sitting in the front seat, the husband started muttering about how sore his throat still was, and that he was definitely coming down with something.

Well, I beg to differ...

I wonder if it had anything to do with singing 'Living on a Prayer' at the top of his voice while dancing on the table in a large tent with about two thousand other people?

Time will tell...


Thursday, 29 December 2016

My life...

I had been looking forward to yesterday (Holiday Wednesday I think our American friends call it) as it was the one day this week when nothing was planned.  I'd like to say that I was looking forward to a day of relaxing, but I'd be lying, as I was more interested in getting rid of the three remaining children, three dogs and one husband, and claiming back my house from the ghost of Christmas past. 

But it was not to be.  I had forgotten that I had volunteered my services to daughter number one.  There was an ulterior motive to offering to do the cutting in on the decoration front (sooner it's finished, sooner she's moving out) so I was quite happy to get the brushes out.  However, what I hadn't planned for was daughter number two offering my services as taxi driver to the Long Suffering Boyfriend (LSB) who had to be at a railway station an hour away at 8.00am.  This meant getting up at 6.00am, which I may forgive them both for by sometime in March....

So it was a morning of decorating for me and the two girls.  At 1.00, daughter number one decided that enough had been accomplished, and we all downed tools.  She wanted to take us out for lunch to say thank you, which daughter number two and I thought was a damn fine idea.  Daughter number one delved into a bag and took out a clean pair of jeans and a sweater, and got changed. 

I looked down at my jeans, which had more white and less blue material after four hours of   decorating.  I took off the equally paint splattered sweatshirt, and turning it inside out, I tied it round my waist.  Daughter number one then produced a pack of face wipes so that we could clean our hands.  I was dubious, but it worked a trick, and my hands ended up as the cleanest bit of my entire look, but unless I was going to go into the posh pub with over zealous jazz hands, I couldn't see that this would divert people's attention away from my jeans.

Walking into the pub, daughter number one, in her clean jeans and sweater, led the way, with me and daughter number two looking like staff on a freebie.  But it was lovely, and once I had got used to ignoring the strange looks from other diners, I was fine.  Let's face it, it's not often you see a lady on the wrong side of middle age looking like an '80's throwback with her extreme stonewashed denim...

Getting back home, the husband was still at it with the digger and dumper.  The drive was looking very pretty with its new stony carpet, and he was well on the way to removing what was left of the hedge.  You'll remember the hedge massacre back in November? Well the hedge has been resembling something Boudicca might have erected to keep the English out, but it is now no more, replaced by a neatly dug border while we decide what to do.  Knowing the husband and me, it will still be a neatly dug border this time next year...

The third schnauzer who has taken up residence with us for a few days has made himself quite at home.  He has invaded Reg's toy-box, and redistributed the contents all over the house.  He also has a way of looking at you while you eat which is reminiscent of a salivating hyena, and I have taken to eating in the downstairs loo to avoid the guilt trip.  I'm not too sure how long he's here, but to be honest, when you have so many children and dogs already, you barely notice one more.

Going back to the house, it's about now that I start to get a little edgy when I look around.  Every room bears scars of Christmas..

The lounge has unwrapped presents stacked up on the fireplace
The hall is full of the tree and a million dropped needles
The downstairs loo has a modern art display of empty toilet rolls stacked up on the back of the loo
The stairs carpet resembles Narnia, the only good side of this is that it covers the bits Reg chewed
The kitchen is a crime scene.  Anyone who crosses the line runs the risk of emptying the dishwasher

The only room which remains relatively unscathed is our bedroom.

It's my sanctuary, and if the state of the house doesn't improve soon, I may lock myself in and not come out till February when it's safe...


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Games without frontiers...

Life is getting back to a slightly more level keel now.  I have stopped eating anything which stops moving long enough, the kids are hitting the sales, and the husband has a digger on hire.  We all know that no man is happier than when in possession of a digger, and mine is no different.

We decided some time ago that as most of the stones on our drive have disappeared, we would replace them.  While I am thinking about it, where do all those stones disappear to?  I have visions of someone down the road creeping up our drive under cover of night and nicking a bucket full of my Oxford stone.  Over ten years, I'm sure the thief's drive would resemble shag-pile gravel...


So, the husband was outside nearly all of yesterday, with son number one on the dumper truck, delicately removing the top six inches of our drive.  My new laptop had arrived, so I was very happily ensconced in working out how to transfer Microsoft Office from one PC to another (not possible when you can't even get the old one to bloody power up) and then the husband knocked on the door.  Wondering what he wanted this time (coffee or more sausage plait) I hauled my sorry carcass off the sofa and opened the front door. 

He was bent over, clutching a miniature schnauzer.  Checking that our two were still indoors, I wondered for about three nanoseconds who he belonged to.  And then I remembered.  This was Modo, come to stay at ours for a couple of days while his owner was away.  You may remember the hell we went through when Reg tipped up here, so you can imagine my concern that the three of them would get on.

Fast forward five hours, and all three were fast asleep in the lounge.  Percy rather liked Modo, and tried to hump him for the whole of yesterday afternoon, finally giving up when dinner was served.  Reg, sensing competition in the mummy-cuddle stakes, tried to steer Modo away from me, body slamming him in a move which Big Daddy might have used in 1972, but eventually, in true schnauzer style, they all decided to get on, especially when biscuits were offered.


This was small fry concern compared to Boxing Day evening though, when the kids decided that a game of Cards Against Humanity was due.  No problem for the husband and me, as there is a law in this house that if we don't understand the card's contents, we are not allowed to ask the children. However, and it's a big however, my parents were also playing.  When the Mother leaned over to me and asked me what a Bitch Slap was, I knew it was going to be trouble.

And I was right...

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Wide open spaces...

So I survived...You'll remember from my last blog on Christmas Eve that all service had come to a grinding halt as I had spectacularly launched a full bottle of nail varnish remover over my laptop.  I did try and wipe it off, but when the 'E' disappeared from the keyboard (rather too vigorous in the rubbing department perhaps), I realised that my laptop was, in the words of Monty Python, a 'wooden overcoat job'.

So thank you for granting me a couple of days off.  It gave me more time to eat and drink, something I really didn't need to be honest.

So what have I been up to?  Well apart from eating and drinking so much that The Boundaries Commission are considering inserting a new county somewhere between Oxfordshire and Berkshire, I managed to cover a lot of ground.

Christmas Eve was spent splitting my time between wrapping up those last few stragglers, putting my head in the oven (there was nothing cooking, I just came close to throwing in the towel on a couple of occasions), reminding the husband that we needed beers and trying to guess which of the two boys a cream jumper was for.  Every year I create a spreadsheet which is my go-to for the kids' presents.  Unfortunately, this had been on the receiving end of a fair sized glug of acetone, so wasn't able to help me as to which name to write on the label.  I gave up in the end and tossed a coin, which is why son number one ended up with it...

Christmas Day was spent at Miss R's, where she excelled herself on the culinary front, serving turkey, and a piece of beef which was so large, I swear it lowed on the way to the table.  Miss R had to resort to using a large axe and hacksaw to break the bones before cooking, mainly to get it into the oven, and all of the guests looked slightly concerned at the sight of her draining board...


So on to the Main Event...

The meal was lovely, and to be surrounded by those you love best (except several of our children who had had a better offer) is the perfect was to spend Christmas Day.  But it was the games which tipped us all over the edge.  Along with most of the families in the civilised world, we had chosen the mouth guard game as our after dinner entertainment.  Once we'd realised which way round they went (this bit was funnier than the game actually) it was all systems go.  This was the cue for a plethora of Gromit impersonations and unwanted drooling.  This was most unladylike, so I took to tucking a napkin under my mouth guard to catch the deluge. Son number two and the husband excelled at this game, where us ladies of  a difficult age had a few close calls....


There was then a game with a kazoo, or a gazoo as Miss R kept calling it.  I was concerned that she might have confused it with a gnu - I would have liked to have seen her get a tune out of that, mind you, that rib of beef could probably have sung a passable 'My Way' given half a chance. 

With the washing up done, and the table cleared, we headed off home, and I reminded the husband once again that we needed beer for Boxing Day.  It was our turn to entertain you see, and I had planned well on the food front, but because I am not the hugest of drinkers, I never think about buying alcohol.  This explains why I had to send out all four children on Boxing Day to get beer from the little supermarket. 

I had also asked them to get some smoked salmon as the four packets I had bought for Christmas had been polished off while we were away in Poland.  Of course, no one thought to tell me till Boxing Day, so off the kids went with a list of booze needed, plus the smoked salmon and a couple of other bits.  Walking back through the kitchen door about half an hour hater, son number one slapped a packet of Palma ham onto the kitchen worktop.  Eyeing it up quizzically, I asked him why they'd got that.  Well apparently, the shop had no smoked salmon, and Palma ham was suggested as the perfect alternative.
Just try telling the non-meat eating guest that....



Saturday, 24 December 2016

Stop right now...

Just an uber quick message to all my lovely readers...

I'm going to give myself a couple of days off from the blog.  This is for several reasons as listed below...

1.  I would imagine that I will be eating so much over the next two days, that I won't be able to get close enough to the desk to type.

2.  I may not be sober for more than ten minutes, so may write something incriminating which I may come to regret.

3.  I will be spending beautiful time with my wonderful family, something to be treasured.

4....and this is the main one...

PC World doesn't open till the 27th December.

A word to the not so wise.  Never do your nails at the same desk which houses your laptop, as a bottle of Cutex Nail Polish Remover poured over your keyboard is not helpful.

Let's regroup on the 27th December, when I can regale you with tales of shame and stories of inappropriate gifts.....

Merry Christmas to you and yours, from me and mine.

The Bird is signing off for Christmas...

xxxx

Friday, 23 December 2016

Listen to the music...

As Alice Cooper used to say... 'School's out'. 

It was my last day at Binland yesterday, and as you can probably guess, not much work was done by anyone.  What with two pots of flapjack (it was Fat Friday, so these are my normal contribution) biscuits, doughnuts and sweets, I think that most of the workforce simply turned up yesterday, ate, got fatter, and then went home again having achieved absolutely naff all. 

Master B and Master P reached new levels of daftness yesterday, and I did ask them whether they had been eating Skittles on the way into work, such were their levels of hysteria.  Master B was hopping from foot to foot, desperate to know whether I knew what presents I was going to get, while Master P spent the first hour at work cursing. I'm too discreet to divulge further, but enough to say the air was blue.

Once Mr W had left the building, Master B decided that it was time to re-educate yours truly about the current music scene.  He put various snippets of 'music' on but to be honest, none of them was what I consider music.  One of the artists sounded like a 45rpm single which was put on at 78rpm.  Master B, if you are reading this, I'll explain when I next see you.  Another one was basically some bloke sitting in his car having a moan. What a 25 year old has to moan about is beyond me, especially one who makes a fortune from whinging in a Ford Escort.

But is was Master P who proved to be the biggest shock. 

'Is it my turn now?' he had asked eagerly, his little rosy cheeks plumped up like a greedy hamster.

Steeling myself for more of the same, I was pleasantly surprised when the gentle tones of Marvin Gaye filled our tiny office. For one moment, I thought he might have been taking the p*ss out of this middle aged bird, but apparently not, as Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers followed.  Who knew that the little whippersnapper was a Soul Boy.  Of course, this all makes sense when you think about it, as most mornings he serenades Master B and me to Lionel Ritchie's 'Hello'.  I always assumed his car radio was stuck to Radio 2, but it would appear that he listens to it out of choice.

But I shall miss them both over the next ten days, so if it gets too much like hard work next week with our four back home, I might head back to work for the day for a bit of peace and quiet, and time away from the oven.

There might even be some morsels of food left over from yesterday's Fat Friday Fiesta.....

Wonder woman...

I genuinely believe, that if I stepped into a telephone box and opened my coat, you just might get a glimpse of a red and gold bustier, and some rather tight starry drawers.  The husband has taken to calling me WonderWoman (oh to have her cleavage - if I wore that bustier, there would be a four inch gap between the whalebone and me, and all you'd see when you peered in would be my size 7 feet) and I put this down to the fact that I have singlehandedly organised Christmas this year. 

If you remember, the husband's contribution to Christmas stretches as far as buying and erecting the Christmas tree.  No mean feat, but once this job is done, he dusts himself off and starts dreaming about my Christmas pudding (please note that I said this in singular, and it is not a reference to the WonderWoman analogy).

Mr W, aka the Voice of Reason, asked me yesterday at work how I managed to fit everything in.  I ask myself this quite regularly, and have come to the conclusion that whereas most people like seven or eight hours sleep a night, when the chips are down I survive on around four.  I like to be ahead of the game you see, and the three hours before all hell breaks loose in the morning gives me the chance to internet shop, wrap, plan, iron and do washing (only after 6.00 as I am so thoughtful...).  Oh, and another thing, I also get to write some nonsense which people find quite entertaining...

So yesterday, I worked the morning at Binland, and then headed home.  Within twenty minutes of walking through the front door, I had iced and wrapped my three Christmas cakes, and had used some rather ripe language when I realised that my sausage meat was still in the freezer.  There was a quick change of plan whereby the sausage meat was left to defrost while I wrapped the remaining presents up and made dinner.  I then went back to the sausage meat and made two plaits.  The husband, who has an inbuilt sausage plait radar system, turned up in the kitchen just as I was doing the egg wash, and gave me the look which he has perfected over the years, resembling a Labrador who hasn't been fed for a week. 

Seeing the way he was eyeing them up, I gave him the news he was dreading to hear...

'I'm not cooking them till Boxing Day, so you'll have to wait.  They're going in the freezer'.

Weirdly, this statement resulted in a flurry of activity, with the husband walking the dogs and clearing up after dinner.

I think he's after a reward.

Possible of the sausage variety....



Thursday, 22 December 2016

Numb...

It all seems to have got a bit giddy in Binland this week.  I am blaming Christmas naturally for this, but there is other stuff which is contributing to the general merriment and emotional see-saw of the place.  (I don't like roller coasters, preferring the see-saw which is much closer to the ground).

Master B and Master P, still being young enough to remember believing in Father Christmas, are getting more and more feral as the week progresses.  The one thing which is hindering Master B with full on party mode is toothache.  He has a wisdom tooth coming through, and rather than go to the dentist this week and have it whipped out, he has chosen to go after Christmas. And why is this?  Well, it's because he's worried that the dentist might put him on antibiotics after the extraction, which will mean he can't drink over the festive period, something he has been looking forward to since August.

Now as you know, many a dentist has had intimate knowledge of my gums and teeth, and I can honestly say that the antibiotics were the least of my worries. Having suffered a dry socket on one occasion (please look this up, it's nowhere near as exciting as it sounds) I can remember very clearly sitting in my car in a state of catatonic shock waiting for the sweating to subside before I could drive.  the pain knocked childbirth into a cocked hat, that's for sure.

So back to Master B and his tooth.  He pulled something out of his jacket pocket on Monday and plonked it down on his desk.  A small white plastic bottle, with a long narrow nozzle, apparently this was going to solve all his problems.  But first of all, he had to cut the top of the nozzle off.  Who would have thought that using a pair of scissors would be so difficult. Perhaps I was silly handing over my 6" blade office scissors to him, when perhaps he might have been more comfortable with the rounded blade ones, but when he finally managed to snip the end of the nozzle off, he almost lost his left eye. 

He then dripped the miracle cure onto the offending tooth, thankfully on the lower set rather than upper, otherwise he would have to have done a headstand for perfect application.  Anyway, duly applied, Master B marvelled at how the pain had disappeared almost immediately.  At least that is what Master P and I thought he was trying to say.  Unfortunately, the medicine had also dripped on his tongue and lower lip, and for the next couple of minutes Master P and I were subjected to a rather passable impersonation of Marlon Brando's Godfather. 

So he has finally booked the appointment between Christmas and New Year.  Talk about hedging his bets...

I'm almost on top of my Christmas preparations.  If I were climbing Everest, I would be taking the flag out of my backpack, ready to unfurl it, and plant it triumphantly into the breast of a well stuffed bird. But yet again, I am only kidding myself, and will continue functioning on four hours sleep a night so that I can get things done, finally crawling up to Christmas day like one of the Walking Dead.

Mothers of the world....let's get a wriggle on....


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Radio radio...

Yesterday saw Miss R and me back on the airwaves of Marlow FM.  In case this means nothing to you (possible), this is the local radio station of Marlow FM, and if you're not local to the area, there is a chance that you may not have heard of it (probable).

Miss R and I help Chris Zaremba, the DJ, present the Christmas show, and I know for a fact that he really looks forward to this every year. Who am I kidding...he even claimed to be ill yesterday in an attempt to keep us away, but we are made of stronger stuff than that, and turned up at the allotted time, with Miss R also bringing along a well developed cold just to add to the mix of the germs in the studio.

For Miss R and me, it's just a chance to talk nonsense for three hours, play our favourite music and eat Christmas goodies.  This time it was stollen, which gave us the perfectly reasonable excuse to roll out our dreadful German accents.  This peaked with the competition which we always have at Christmas, with 'Ve vill ask ze qvestions' being bandied about 'villy-nilly'.

The competition is always a tricky one, as we like to pose questions which are Marlow related. This year we decided to add in a couple of Christmas related ones, with the promise of a bottle of champagne for the person who could answer as many as possible of the three questions posed. After an hour and a half, we had only had one caller, and that was our dad, and he only got two right.  If he'd won the champagne, I would imagine that he would have brought it to Miss R's on Christmas Day, so we were quite happy to let him win.  It was at that point that Chris reminded us of the 'Friends and Family' rule, ie, they can't win anything, so it was back to the drawing board.

Eventually, a lovely chap called Malcolm called in and gave us the answer to the first question.  It wasn't what we had in front of us, but to be honest, he sounded so convincing that we went with his answer.  The second question he got very easily about a singer's name who was born on Christmas Day. (This was helped by Chris playing a record by the lady we were after, and telling the listeners that it was a big clue).  The third question was a tricky one.  We had asked which classic Christmas film was premiered on this day in 1945.  Malcolm naturally gave the right answer.  The trouble was, it wasn't the film I was thinking of.  And why was this?  Well yours truly had relied on the internet to give me the answer which was a big mistake. Malcolm's 'Christmas in Connecticut' sounded just as likely as 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946, and not 1945 as I thought).

Anyway, time was running out, so we told him he was right on all three and that the champagne was his.  Miss R said she would drop it round after the show, to which Malcolm said he would be out as he was taking his grandchildren to Winter Wonderland for the day.  One thing is for sure.  That champagne will never make it to Christmas. 

I gave it till about ten minutes after the grandchildren have gone home...

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Ready or not...

The husband and I crawled through the front door on Sunday night around 10.00pm, to be greeted by the two fuzzballs as they launched themselves at us from the sofa.  Looking around at the state of the house, it would appear that they weren't the only ones who had missed us.

Son number one had messaged us from the sanctuary of the sofa to tell us that there was no food in the house. I'm not too sure what he was expecting me to do from Krakow, but the husband very politely suggested that he get in touch with one of the other two siblings who were in the vicinity and get them to buy bloody food.  (Son number one has his hand in plaster and is unable to drive.  He can however work a laptop, a remote control and a mobile phone, thank goodness). 

Daughter number one came to his rescue with an impromptu roast dinner, which was thoughtful of her, as it meant that the sons one and two wouldn't go foraging in the freezer, and eat all my Christmas food already bought (this amounts to one frozen turkey, so I wasn't too worried). 

So the washing machine was full, as was the overhead airer, the laundry basket, the ironing basket and son number one's second holdall.  There were clothes everywhere.  Seeing a small window of opportunity, I emptied the washing machine of its five damp items (who knows if these were clean or dirty, I was too afraid to get close enough to find out) and put in the carrier bag of dirty washing which the husband and I had accumulated over the weekend.

Surely you must have had more dirty washing, I hear you ask.  Well no actually.  I had managed to get away with one pair of jeans, and a pair of leggings over four days, and the husband had worn just two pairs of trousers.  It had been so cold out there, that to be honest, the thought of removing any clothing whatsoever was not a good one, so our clothes had been very limited to jumpers and jeans.  Most of the space in the dirty washing bag was taken up by thick knickers and walking socks...now there's an image you're not going to be able to shake off for a while for which I make no apology.

With the weekend over, yesterday morning I was up early, and I started making a list of things to do before Christmas peeks its head around the corner and frightens the pants of me.  Half way down the sheet of lined A4, I realised that it might have been quicker to jot down what I actually have done in preparation for Christmas.  It boiled down to five things:

Made Christmas pudding
Made Christmas cake (still no marzipan or icing)
Bought turkey
Bought seven gifts (twenty four short)
Bought wrapping paper and gift tags

All in all, I have to squeeze everything else in between 1.00pm on Friday and 6pm on Saturday.  If I manage to do it, I shall be giving myself a very big reward at 7.00pm on Saturday night.

Prosecco....lots of Prosecco....

Monday, 19 December 2016

Time to say goodbye...

So yesterday was our last day in this beautiful city.  We were all a little jaded after Saturday night at Moskio Oko (http://www.morskieoko.krakow.pl/home-en/) where we had drunk dubious vodka and eaten stunning food.  I had to hold Miss R back, as they had a live folk band there, giving it all they had with a violin, double bass and some very loud singing.  We all know what Miss R is like when alcohol and music are on offer simultaneously, and it's not often pretty.

The food was excellent, although Miss R and I had eaten goulash soup as a starter, and then considered it perfectly acceptable to eat steak (Miss R) and veal fillet (me).  The husband, always the more adventurous of us, had eaten black pudding as a starter (you know what they say about being able to take the man out of the North, don't you?) and had then gone onto wild boar (or roast pork as he insisted on calling it).  No puddings (at last, a sensible decision), but the husband insisted on treating all of us to a shot of honey vodka.  There was an ulterior motive behind his generosity as neither Miss R or I like honey, so he managed all three shots, before confessing that he didn't like honey either... Silly man.

So yesterday, we all looked a little haggard at breakfast, and decided that an element of four wheel travel might be preferable for our travels.  I'm not saying that we have walked a lot, but I am at least two inches shorter that I was on Thursday, so we booked a couple of hours on a stretch golf buggy with central heating (stay with me on this).  The warmth came from a hairdryer hose stuck onto a small heater - obviously health and safety isn't as important in Poland as it is at home.

We managed to bag a private tour with an English speaking tour guide, and we trundled around the older parts of Krakow, including the Jewish Quarter and the ghetto.  The Jewish Quarter which once was the home to 68,000 Jewish people, now contains a mere 200.  All that is left are the ghosts...

After our tour had finished, we headed off to E.Wedel, the most famous chocolatier in Poland, and had all of our senses attacked by the most amazing hot chocolates, pancakes and warm chocolate sauce. The waistband on my jeans, never the most forgiving of items after the abuse it regularly receives, finally gave up, and folded over into an attractive pleat.  Payback will be long and painful over the next few weeks I feel.


We then did a bit of last minute shopping.  I bought a really warm coat - half an hour before we headed back to the hotel (should really have bought this on Thursday, as I may still be in possession of all my fingers), and Miss R bought two Christmas baubles which she had been watching all week, waiting for the last minute to buy them in case the fragile glass broke.

Back at the hotel, we got our cases, and unpacked them, so that we could repack our purchases before we left for the airport.  Miss R gently placed her baubles in the centre of her case, and then quite delicately thrust her finger straight through one of them.

I suppose it was less to carry home, and anyway, I never liked the red one, as I helpfully told her...

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Something special...

Yesterday we were due to head off to the Salt Mine in Krakow.  As Miss R had been up since 2.00am (this is what happens when you go to bed at 8.00) she was up and at 'em very early, and we trailed down to breakfast about twenty minutes later. 

I was very keen to go to the Cloth Hall, and buy some Polish nick-nacks to take home, so this was our first port of call after breakfast.  Even with the blue sky and brilliant sunshine, it was bloody freezing, and Miss R and I were very pleased to be wearing our reindeer hats, although it was difficult to tell which red nose belonged to the hat or to ourselves on some occasions.   

We stumbled across a stall selling kits, not unlike Airfix, but made of wood, and the husband was desperate to find a motor bike, a completed one of which stood in full mocking glory on top of the display.  Unfortunately, even helping the lady trawl through around fourteen piles, he was unable to find one.  The lower lip was stuck out, and he sulked for at least seven minutes.

So the Salt Mine was a more positive experience for the husband, who must have used the word 'incredible' at least 240 times over the 2km walk.  This is one place that you really should visit if you are in the area, as it shows Polish pride at its very best.  Three hours of walking, and oohing and aahing later, we were back in the taxi. The salt mine had been a very comfortable 16 degrees, which meant that Miss R and I managed to lose the reindeer hats for a couple of hours, but within four minutes of getting out, we were frozen again.  The taxi driver managed to hack all three of us off, by insisting that it wasn't cold at all, and he was lucky we didn't finish him off with the salt cellars Miss R and I had purchased from the gift shop.  When Miss R asked him for the fourth time to turn the heating up, he pointed out that her side was as high as it would go, and he was quite comfortable thank you.  Borrowed time, that one...

So back to the hotel, more layers put on (Miss R and I had so many on, that we were unable to bend our arms at the elbows, so had to rely on the husband for our drinks).  The hats came off after Mulled Wine number two, and around the same time, my legs stopped working.   Someone sensible (this may have been me, but to be honest, after two mulled wines, your guess is as good as mine) suggested that it might be an idea to walk/stagger back to the hotel and have a nap/hot bath before we ventured out again.  So this is what we did, stopping at a shop en route so that Miss R could buy copious amounts of vodka.

The husband had something rather lovely happen to him on the way home.  A young women with a red umbrella approached him (he was walking in front of us, refusing to walk with me and Miss R in our reindeer hats) and asked him if he's like some 'special time' with a couple of beautiful ladies.  I'll be honest with you, I would have liked his reply of, 'No thank you, I have two already,' to have come out a lot more quickly than it did.  There was a definite moment of reflection went on there, and we had to have a little chat with him later in the evening.

Miss R and I were broken women as we arrived back to the hotel.  All I could think of was how many layers of skin I could remove in my boiling hot bath, and Miss R was probably wondering if anyone would notice if she was one bottle short when she got home.

And then we went out again.  A taxi collected us from the door, and a taxi brought us home again.

This meant that Miss R and I could leave off the thermal drawers as befitting a posh meal out...


 
 

 

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Crying...

Yesterday I visited Auschwitz for the second time.  As someone who once upon a time had a Jewish grandmother, there is nothing witty, funny, or banal that I can tell you.  So I am going to fast forward my day to about 4.00pm.

We had spent about three hours in the car traveling, and around four shivering.  By the time the husband, Miss R and I returned to the hotel, all we could think about was being warm again.  Our poor taxi driver had to keep increasing the heat in the car on our return journey, and each time he increased the temperature, I watched several more beads of sweat roll down the back of his neck.  Even keeping all our outdoor clothes on, including hats and gloves, we just couldn't get warm.  In fact, Miss R, who had been wearing a very sensible (here comes the sarcasm) pair of expensive black suede wedges boots only managed to get feeling back into her right foot about an hour after we got back to the hotel.

We had decided that we would take a mooch around the town square when we got back.  This was predominately to buy me a pair of pyjamas, as once again, I had left mine at home.  This is yet another of my irrational fears.  I have to wear something substantial in bed in case there was ever a fire.  The thought of being carried over a fireman's shoulder in a flimsy nighty puts the fear of god into me, and I'm not too sure that it would do much good for the fireman either.  You see, I am always thinking of others...

So getting back, I suggested a quick drink at the bar to warm up. As you can imagine, both the husband and Miss R were completely up for a nifty snifter to warm up our cold bones, so into the hotel bar we trolleyed.

What I hadn't meant, when I suggested a quick drink, was a bottle of Prosecco drunk at breakneck speed by Miss R and me.  About fourteen minutes I would guess.  So when we walked back out into the cold evening, we were still cold, but didn't really care as much.

First stop was at Benetton, where a couple of pairs of pyjamas were bought. and then on to dinner.   We sat outside in the square, inside a poly tunnel.  At least that's what it looked like.  It had patio heaters inside (I would never imagined that plastic and a naked flame would have got on so well) and it was like walking into a greenhouse, which gave us hope that we might be able to remove our gloves at some time in the near future.  Another bottle of Prosecco and three bowls of goulash, and we were well on the way, and not just to thawing out I must say.

It was coming out of the greenhouse, which could hold several thousand tropical butterflies successfully, that the full force of a Polish night hit us.  We shivered all the way back to the hotel, with my teeth doing a passable impression of one of those wind up set of teeth you used to be able to buy.  Back at the hotel, it soon became obvious that the day had beaten us into submission, and that it was time for bed. 

'What time is it?' asked the husband, to which Miss R and I replied '7.00' and '8,00'....only one of us had put our watch forward as you see.

So bed it was, at 7/8 o'clock.

But putting on my pyjamas, in my safe, warm hotel, I thought about what we'd seen earlier in the day.  We humans have such capacity to be cruel to each other. 

But we also have capacity to love.

And perhaps one day, that will get the upper hand in every corner of this world...


 



 

Friday, 16 December 2016

Cold as ice...

So the Three Musketeers are taking on Eastern Europe this Christmas, and have launched themselves onto the poor unsuspecting people of Krakow for a few days. 

We flew from Terminal 5 yesterday ('Flying for Grown-Ups', as I call it), and Miss R regaled me with stories of how good the shopping would be.  I needed to buy a warmer coat and a new bag, so was looking forward to the whole experience.  Walking up and down the terminal, searching for goods which had a price tag of less than five numbers, I asked someone where Next was.  Terminal 3 apparently, so the coat remained unbought, but I did manage to buy the bag - thank goodness for Accessorize....

The husband, never best left alone with the general public, managed to get himself thrown out of WH Smiths after arguing with a member of staff as to why he wasn't allowed to hand over his cash to a real person, rather than a self-serve machine.  Luckily, there are three WH Smiths in Terminal 5, so we managed to get what he wanted before they emailed his picture around banning him from all retail outlets in the airport.

The flight was smooth and quiet, with minimal child screamage (always a huge bonus where Miss R is concerned) but the landing was a little hairy.  I came out with 'Oh my, we have a bouncer' which Miss R giggled about for the next two hours in between singing Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey with me.  Coming out into the cold Krakow evening, I once again cursed Terminal 5 for not having proper shops, and we grabbed a taxi to our hotel.

Miss R had surpassed herself on the hotel front.  I'm not saying that our room is big, but I shall be investing in a loud haler so that the husband can hear me from the bed, and a small car might be useful to get to the bathroom (some level of forward planning will be needed to get the timing right for any visits).  I'm just hoping that we are in the same time zone...

We overlook the square, with its trams and horse drawn carriages, and it's like stepping back in time.  Walking round the Christmas Market last night, I think Miss R would liked to have stepped back in time to about August, when it might have been warmer. It didn't matter how much beer, sausage or pancake we made her eat, she remained a lovely tinge of blue until we got back to the hotel.  This will teach her to wear proper socks in future.

We only managed to lose the husband twice in the town square (you can't take your eye off him when there are food stalls at every turn).  He's very easily distracted, taking great pleasure in the hugely vulgar Christmas decorations and the foot long sausages. And as for the Sterling/Zloty money conversion, we gave up trying very early on, just deciding that everything was cheaper than we thought. 

We finally fell into bed around 10.00.  I say 'fell', but I think 'threw ourselves' might be more accurate.

And then we were warm...


Thursday, 15 December 2016

House of cards...

Is it just me, or does anyone else out there have an irrational anger towards Christmas cards?

I used to send them out religiously with lists of recipients and a pre-printed label template already set up with a festive sprig of holly in each corner.  In each card, I would address it to the recipient, write a short greeting (never the same one twice) and finish it with a flourish of a signature.  It never worried me if I didn't get one back, I simply enjoyed the sending bit.

And then I had kids...

This is where it all started to get rather challenging. Before the kids appeared, I was quite content to write 'To Steve, Janet, George and Becky'... (this is a made up family before you start asking who they are) because it was just my name at the bottom of the card.  Then as the husband and the kids came along, card writing started to become rather arduous.  It soon became obvious that referring to the six of us as 'The Tribe' wasn't sufficient, as I was reminded each time I opened a card, beautifully and thoughtfully addressed to me, the husband and the four children (in age descending order).  I also tried writing mine and the husband's names, followed by 'et al', thinking that this might be more acceptable as it was Latin...no chance.

And then there are the dogs.  As we are a dog-loving nation, naturally we include our beloved fur babies in the Christmas cards also.  So not only do you have to remember your friends' children's names (most of which you have never seen) you also have to know their dogs' names.  Woe betide the Christmas card sender who forgets the newest addition to the family - whether that be two-legged or four.

I suppose I did the cards properly for about four years after the kids came along.  As each November came round, I would set aside several evenings to write them, sitting in the lounge and saying to the husband every now and again things like  'What, they've had another one?'  The relief when I posted them all out was palpable.  I would thrust them into the post box with a snarl, and vow that next year, I wouldn't bother.

I reached a zenith about ten years ago, when I was making Christmas cakes and puddings for a living.  By the time it got to Christmas, I was completely tinselled out after hawking my wares around Christmas Fair after Christmas Fair.  Cards were way down the list of things to do.  I think that particular year I only ordered the turkey on Christmas Eve, and I had sold our Christmas cake, so had to bake one from scratch forty eight hours before we wanted to eat it.  Unforgiveable, as we all know that a cake needs feeding copious amounts of brandy to be best enjoyed.  Bit like myself...

So I started telling people that I only sent them every other year - that worked for a while until friends started asking whether I'd forgotten to send them a card, as surely this was the year I sent them...

So I am coming clean...

I send no cards.  What I do is choose a charity close to my heart and send them the money I'd spend on cards.  This year it's Schnauzerfest.

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=Schnauzerfest2017&isTeam=true

The money raised gives ex puppy-farm schnauzers the opportunity to give and receive love freely.

And isn't that what Christmas is all about? 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Give peace a chance...

Much to my surprise, the Christmas tree is still intact and upright (unlike some of my work colleagues on Saturday night I might say).  Reg seems to have taken a laissez-faire approach to it, not even glancing at the lovely shiny things as he wanders past it.  He hasn't even attempted to pee up the trunk.  Mind you, the bucket which houses the tree is rather large, so he may have to get help to pee to avoid splash-back from the green plastic . Of course, he could be lulling me into a false sense of insecurity, all the while planning some full-scale offensive when I am least expecting it, probably around 10.30am Christmas Day, just as we are getting ready to leave for Miss R's house for Christmas lunch. 

The presents have started arriving for the children courtesy of the poor postman and several courier companies, who by now must be fed up of writing those 'You weren't here when we called' cards.  A couple of them now allow you to request that they leave the parcels, which I rather like.  They make you sign away your life first though - who knew that it was so risky to leave a cardboard box (contents value of £7.92) by your back door?  My outside table and chairs from Argos are worth more than all the presents put together, and yet that stays outside quite happily.  As I write this, I am imagining the children whipping their calculators out (I'm old school) to work out what has been spent on them.  They know how much that table was, and are worrying that their presents will be limited to a tangerine and a pair of socks...

Anyway, back to the deliveries.  My office, which around this time of year becomes a much scaled down version of Santa's Grotto (without the elves, conveyor belt or open fire) is starting to feel a bit cramped.  You know when the farmer mows a field, till all that's left is a small circle full of rounded up rabbits?  Well that's how I feel, surrounded by boxes, bags, wrapping and Sellotape, my little head peeking out every now and again over the parapet when it's safe to do so...ie when the kids are out.  I like to save the wrapping till the absolute last minute, savouring the panic when I run out of paper with three left to wrap....I never learn, but maybe this year I'll try and do it a bit earlier..(Not too sure who I am kidding here, as my Christmas cakes are still naked and wrapped in greaseproof paper rather than marzipan and fondant icing).

I still don't know what to buy the husband.  It's the same every bloody year.  I ask him what he would like.  He says 'World Peace'.  I thump him, and ask him again, to which he replies, 'Nothing, I have you and the kids, what more do I want?'  Of course, this is the right thing to say, if not strictly true.  There is always something we want.  Whether that is an hour of peace without an ankle biter asking a question starting with 'What' or 'Where', or perfume or a new book, there is always something.  He hasn't asked me yet, which is a shame, as I have a list as long as your arm...

And World Peace, although a wonderful idea, is nowhere to be seen.....

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

I feel pretty...

In between sleeping and eating McDonalds yesterday, I somehow managed to decorate our Christmas tree.  This was no mean feat, as there was a step ladder involved (something I can't be trusted with even when I am sober) and 3,500 lights.

The husband, whose responsibility towards the tree tends to come to a grinding halt somewhere between getting the thing upright and putting the decorations on, gave me some assistance from the sofa (mainly pointing out the places I'd missed which I didn't think was particularly constructive).  Daughter number one was there fleetingly, and helped me a bit, and then I was on my own with the tree, three suitcases of baubles and other Christmas paraphernalia. 

Three hours later, it was all done.  Because of Reg (the dog with a penchant for carpet and anything else he can destroy) I had to push the decorations as far as possible up the branches, and subconsciously, I had left the bottom two feet or devoid of any swaying, shiny stuff which he might find attractive. We also made the sensible decision not to hang any chocolate on the tree this year, once again to deter Reg from launching himself at the tree through the first floor banister.  Of course, with son number two and ELL having an addiction of epic proportions where chocolate is concerned, I doubt that the chocolate would even have made it on to the tree.  Instead, it would have been squirrelled away in son number two's bedroom for future consumption...I'm saying 'future' but I think five minutes would have been enough.

The tree looked lovely, and just as I finished, son number two and ELL tipped up.  It was almost like they had been waiting in the drive until I had finished, although I am not one to cast aspersions...  There were lots of 'oohs' and 'aahs', and then they asked what was for lunch. Looking at them with my 'slits in a pig's bum' eyes I muttered something about not cooking at all, so they'd have to fend for themselves. ELL at this point said that there was no food on offer at her house either.  It would appear that ELL's lovely mum had also been on a Big Night Out...

After pestering the husband for some time to take me to McDonalds for a burger, I finally got my own way, and ordered large of everything. I was then ready to go to bed. Unfortunately, there is no way that any time around 5.36pm is acceptable for bedtime, so we managed to eke it out to 9.00pm before finally crawling into bed.

This rock'n'roll lifestyle is all very well....as long as you are not 53...

Monday, 12 December 2016

Dance, dance...

Well yesterday was a washout. 

This was all down to my office Christmas party on Saturday night.  You might remember that I had voiced my concern earlier in the week as to what to wear, not wanting to be either too mumsy or mutton dressed as mutton, but happy to walk the middle line.  I eventually settled on some black trousers and a very trendy top from Religion, so left home feeling happy.

I was meeting Mrs S and Mrs H in a pub opposite the railway station (its location alone is enough to tell you what it was like).  When I walked into the pub, I scanned the bar looking for my fiends.  The pub was full of groups of men dressed up in Christmas jumpers, with one particularly odd lot dressed as Mexicans. Poor Mrs H was being chatted up (literally - he was about 4'8") by an elderly gentleman with a broken nose.  (I'm assuming it was broken and that he wasn't an athlete in training. Looking at the way he was chucking the pints back, I am convinced that the nearest he had been to a track was to watch greyhounds running around it).  Mrs H looked very relieved to see a friendly face, but not as relieved as Mrs S who materialised ten minutes later, having been sitting around the other side of the bar. There was time for one Prosecco each, before we had to catch the train into Oxford.

We got into a very wet Oxford and headed to the pub to pick up more of our group.  Waiting for us were Mr W and Mr T.  Mr W (my manager who is young enough to be my son) had bussed in from London, and shall henceforth be known as The Party Animal.  More Prosecco, then off to the restaurant to meet all the others.

We then spent the next five hours eating, drinking, and taking photographs of each other wearing Mr B's natty hat which he had left behind.  Doubt he'll ever see that again which will bloody well teach him for leaving so early...

But the highlight of the evening for me was the frenetic dancing with a group of fake Frenchmen (I knew they were fake as their onions were plastic - not much gets past me). Mrs S and I danced like no one was watching (which they weren't anyway) and kept having to go outside to cool off, the steam gently rising from us. My colleagues took some convincing that we weren't going out for a quick cigarette.  Silly boys.

Son number two turned up with ELL for the last hour which was lovely, as it gave me the chance to introduce my wonderful work friends to him.  It's always good to fit a face to the stories I tell at home.  Unfortunately, the people he met on Saturday bore no resemblance whatsoever to those professional folk I share my weeks with. 

Drink is a terrible thing, it stole my Sunday and made me eat McDonalds at 4.30.

But it was worth it...

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Oh Christmas tree....

Well the tree is in...

The husband takes great joy in winding me up as to how big it's going to be this year (I always assume that he is talking about the Norwegian Spruce, but you can never be too sure, so some smiling and patient nodding is always advised).  We must be the only family I know who have to take a trailer to the Tree Barn to pick ours up.  There's none of that pushing it between the seats, or strapping it to a roof rack (if we did this, I would imagine that the husband's wheels would look like Bambi's legs on ice). 

As befitting our family tradition, we all bundled up to the Tree Barn yesterday afternoon.  Son number one and daughter number two were missing presumed happy, but we kind of made up numbers with son number two's girlfriend ELL.  Every year, I make the kids choose one decoration each for the tree, and over the years many memories have been stored up.  When they were younger, the decorations they picked tended to verging on horrific - I have Santa in an aeroplane, a frog on a lily-pad (typically Christmassy, don't you agree?)  There have been icicles, long garlands of bells, bird tables and piles of books (daughter number two, ever the scholar). 

As they have got older, they have tended to be more sensible, and I think we peaked last year with their choices.  Four black balls which you could put your own message on in chalk.  The husband and I were made to disappear while they wrote on the balls, and then they were hung on the tree.  Daughter number one's read 'I'm the favourite' (poor deluded girl) and son number two's read 'Don't worry, I'll pay for your nursing home' (poor deluded boy).  I can't repeat what was on the other two, but needless to say, under cover of darkness, they were moved to the back of the tree.

Son number one has asked me the same question every time we do this Christmas shop, and it's not 'Can I pay for this?'  No, he asks me every year whether we can get some spray snow.  I have said no every year, except for last year - a decision I soon came to regret.  The two boys through it would be a jolly wheeze to spray some snow on the bird table roof.  Lovely, I hear you say.  No, not lovely, as they sprayed the word 'Tit' on the roof.  I tried kidding myself that it was bird-related graffiti, but had to wait for the rain to hammer down before it started to fade.

So we finally got the decorations and headed for the till.  I am always shocked at how much a basket of tat can cost these days, and duly fleeced we headed back to the husband and the tree.  Now the husband's trailer is 8' long, and the still netted tree stuck out over the back by another 8'.  This was a monster...

It took several attempts to get it upright, with son number two and the husband taking most of the weight.  Daughter number one and I had our own responsibility - filming the husband as he sweated and blasphemed in a most un-Christmas like fashion.

And then out came the scissors to cut the net and release the tree. The feathery boughs slowly dropped and fanned out into the most beautiful tree.

It's perfect...

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Bubbles...

What better way to end a frantic week in Binland than sitting with good friends eating chocolate cake and necking five bottles of Prosecco....

I had invited my girl-neighbours round for a pre Christmas jolly, and also to make amends.  A few months ago, I had invited almost the same group of pals round for a tea party, and they have never forgiven me for supplying shop bought cakes that afternoon, still talking about their disgust in hushed tones even now.  I do get where they're coming from as I used to make cakes for a living, and I suppose they felt a bit hard done by with the jam tarts from the Co-op... 

Revisit my shame by reading Tea for two(http://tracyrich31.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/tea-for-two.html)

So I had spent quite some time this week creating several things of beauty.  These included an enormous chocolate cake with white chocolate icing, a heroic looking lemon drizzle and warm homemade scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.  I had got my teapot out with its matching sugar bowl and milk jug, and there were pretty serviettes on the table.  To finish the whole thing off, I had loaded all the goodies onto cake stands so that it resembled some Victorian high tea.

Now this would have been lovely just as it was, but the afternoon called for something a little extra. 

Alcohol...

I had a couple of bottles of Prosecco in the fridge just in case someone wanted a snifter, but unfortunately, these were gone within ten minutes of the first few ladies turning up.  I soon began to realise that my genteel tea party was going to rip off its lace pinny, throw the tea strainer out of the window, and pull on a pair of stilettos and dance on the table.  Obviously word had got out, because as more of the girls turned up, the number of bottles in my fridge started looking dangerous.  But never fear, we managed to drink them as quickly as they arrived, and when the girls finally left, I was back to having just two left in my fridge, with five empty bottles by the side of the bin. 

There was quite a lot of cake left (not much space for food with all the Prosecco drunk I suppose) so I had sent the girls away with small food parcels for their children and husbands.  It wasn't till they'd gone that I realised that I had not held anything back for my own husband and children, so yet again, I was in trouble.

But did I care?  Oh no....

Just one bottle left in the fridge now...

Friday, 9 December 2016

Broken stones...

You'll remember earlier in the week that I mentioned that I had been in a quarry for the morning.  This is one of the bonuses of being employed at Binland, as I get to see all these wonderful things which under normal circumstances would remain a complete mystery. 

I was looking forward to the quarry visit, as it meant that I could wear my jeans and walking boots all day as it was really muddy down there.  Oh joy - no tights, no hair styling, minimal make up and a free lunch.  It all sounded brilliant.  Naturally there was some hi-vis clothing necessary (orange so isn't my colour) and a hard hat.  I love wearing these as they iron out the curly rebellious bits of hair which refuse to lie flat.  This hat was rather tight, so I was expecting my hair to be poker straight on top by the end of the tour. 

Once everyone was there, the Quarry Manager donned an orange hi-vis onesie....

Can you hear the desire in my words?  I was speechless, and it dispelled any doubts as to what to buy the husband for Christmas.  I may have to take the legs up a little, otherwise he will be tripping over himself all the time, but at least everyone will see him do it.  From quite some distance I would imagine.

So the quarry tour was brilliant, but the most impressive thing is how we 'mend' the earth when all the gravel has been extracted.  Long sweeping fields of vibrant grass, and lakes filled with wildlife.  It made me very proud to be involved with something so positive.

Having stomped around in the mud for a few hours, it was time to head off to one of our other Depots to see what happens to all the stuff we throw away.  Another hard hat was on the cards, but this one was massive.  I did try and tighten it, but couldn't, so spent the next hour with it at a very rakish tilt. I caught sight of myself in a mirror as we walked through the plant, and to be honest I'm not sure how the hat was staying on.  It was at a 45 degree angle to my head, with the peak over my right ear.  I resembled Dizzee Rascal, and some quick adjustments were called for.  Of course, as the oldest person on the tour, I can only start to imagine what the younger boys thought.  I expect they thought that I was 'down and hip with the kids'....or perhaps not.

Standing on a platform watching the paper go one way and the cans another, I vowed that I would be more vigilant with what I threw away.  As I watched a half eaten packet of digestives pass me on a conveyor belt, I asked myself two questions.  Firstly, how could anyone think that they would be recyclable?  Most importantly though, who on earth leaves five digestives in a packet?  Not on my watch matey - there wouldn't be as much as a couple of crumbs left.  I did feel like I was in the middle of one of those documentaries that they used to show on Play School (though the round window and all that) but is was incredible to watch, and the packing machine with its rapid cling film wrapping would come in very handy at Christmas.

Heading back to the meeting room for a last session with the lovely ladies running the day, I was on my last 53 year old legs.  All that fresh air and a lovely lunch was pointing one way only...a little snooze.

I think I managed to stay awake for the last bit.  I'm just waiting for someone to tell me...

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Blue boy...

Master B and Master P, the two twenty-something boys I share my working life with, provide me with a constant source of amusement and entertainment.  On Monday, Master P and I were in desperate need of a boost as befitting the first day back after a hefty weekend (see 'Breaking the Habit).  It only took me to ask how Master P's weekend went, and before we knew it, we were laughing like drains.

To my lovely American readers, I do not have a clue where this saying comes from.  It's right up there with 'laughing on the other side of your face'.  What it basically means, is that we were chortling so hard that all phones remain unanswered for two whole minutes, and my mascara took a real bashing...

It turned out that Master P and Master B had been out to watch live sport on Saturday afternoon.  Master B, confusing a daylight visit to a sports stadium with an evening pub crawl, turned up with no clothes other than a shirt, trousers and a pair of shoes.  Master P, equally young, but maybe a bit more savvy, was attired in the same manner as Master B, but had added a jumper, coat, scarf and hat and even had gloves on standby.

When questioned, Master B explained that he thought it would be like a big night out, when you don't really want to be lugging a coat around, and to get a bit chilled as you nip in and out of drinking establishments is neither here nor there. Seeing him shiver, Master P dragged Master B around the stadium to look for a sweatshirt or coat to bolster his meagre clothing, but the best that was on offer was a large flag and some posters, so unless he was going to build a small fire next to his seat and use the flag as a wind break, neither was going to help with the pending hypothermia.

So instead of standing there cheering the team on like Master P was, he kept one hand in his trouser pocket, with the other clutching his pint.  Master P described the exposed hand as having a rather frightening blue tinge to it after a while, and Master B had to keep swapping hands over to stop losing all feeling in it and thereby risk dropping his pint.  Master P, always caring over his friend, had suggested hot chocolate instead of beer, but I got the impression that this suggestion was not graciously received...

Master B came into the office just as Master P was regaling the story to me, and tried really hard to explain why he didn't think a coat was a good idea on Saturday.  I'm wondering whether he has Newcastle blood in him somewhere - looking at some of the pictures you see on the news around Christmas time, it would appear that anyone north of Birmingham doesn't feel the cold. Either that, or coats haven't been invented yet.

Of course, I did ask whether his mum had not said that a coat would be advisable, what with it only being around -2 when he left home on Saturday morning, but it would appear that Master B heeds no advice from his mum (nor any other woman over the age of 45 apparently - I can vouch for this). 

Now I was relying on these two to look out for me at the Christmas Party this weekend.  I'm not too sure that I want to hand over responsibility to someone who can get it so wrong.  Surely dressing for the occasion is not that difficult? 

I'm concerned that he'll turn up in the same attire on Saturday night.  Perhaps I'll take my largest handbag, and as well as comfy shoes, earplugs and some headache tablets, I'll pop a spare coat in. 

He'll be very grateful when he's standing at that bus stop at 3.30am...

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Chillin' with you...

I spent a most enjoyable day among the rubbish of the Home Counties yesterday, but I'm going to talk about that tomorrow.  What I'd like to tell you about today is the relaxing evening Mrs S and I spent at a posh spa after my day in the rubbish.

I was late.  Not through any fault of my own, as I am a stickler for punctuality, but mainly because of the following:

The silver Corsa, who decided that it was a grand idea to break down on a major roundabout
The horsebox, which shot out of a side road on two wheels, and then crawled along the main road
The Volvo driver, who thought it was a kind gesture to let everyone through, even though he had right of way and despite being honked by the three cars behind (I wasn't one of them, can I say...)
My friends, who kept calling me, interrupting my satnav and her instructions
It was dark, wet and foggy

So having eventually turned up, I then did two laps of the building looking for the front door. I was on the point of giving up and going home, when a brightly lit door appeared.  Running in, I plonked myself in front of the receptionist who kitted me out with a robe.  He was a tad annoyed with me, as I'd come in the Member's Entrance (his words, not mine), and insisted that I would have to leave the same way to settle any outstanding bill.  This wasn't a problem, but what I hadn't realised is that because I had come in the wrong side, nothing was where I remembered it from my last visit (this was eighteen months ago, before you accuse me of 'living the life'). 

It took another ten minutes to find my beautiful friend, who very thoughtfully had positioned herself in a lounger around the pool with her back to me, so I couldn't see her.  This was my cue for another two laps of the building, taking in a café and three further pools.  I eventually found her (by this time, my stress levels were moving on to sky high) and we had two relaxing hours in the pool and in the café, followed by a lovely pedicure.



It was then time to leave.  Walking back into the changing room with her, I looked at my locker key number. 476.  This changing room's lockers only went up to 200, so we had to part company there, while I roamed around the building looking for my clothes.  Another fifteen minutes, and finally I found the right changing room, having wandered around two incorrect ones (I have to confess, one of these was circumnavigated twice).  This was after accosting various people in waffle dressing gowns, waving my key under their nose, and asking if they could help me.  I don't think I've ever been so pleased to see my jeans.

Getting back into the car, I fire up the satnav, and headed back home.  It was now 10.00, so I anticipated getting home around 10.30, just in time to see the husband.  What I didn't count on was Mrs S, calling me five minutes into my journey to say she was almost home, thus interrupting the stupid satnav lady once again.  Telling her to get off the phone as I was lost on a mahoosive roundabout, I naturally took the wrong turning, veering towards the only town name I recognised on the road sign.

And this explains why, an hour later, I finally got home, any relaxation launched out of my side window, somewhere on the hard shoulder of the M4.

But at least my toes looked pretty...

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Old hat...

After achieving a record eight hours' sleep on Sunday night, normal service resumed in our house on Monday morning.

The hangovers were gone, only to be replaced with that bewildered look on the husband's face which says 'What bloody weekend?'  It's always at this point that he likes to don his t-shirt which asks that we start the weekend again, as he wasn't ready, and that I remind him that as it's Monday, he can have a quiet day away from home, without me nagging him to do the Blue jobs on his list (he never quite makes it to the bottom and compares my list to keeping plates spinning on sticks).  The husband never seems impressed though, and my suggestion that he 'has a lovely day' is always met head on with a grunt and a look which could kill a lesser woman.. 

But we do have a lovely break to look forward to.  The husband, Miss R and I are off for a few days in Poland in a week or so.  Apart from the obviously emotional pilgrimage to the camps, I would imagine that it will be a chance to regroup before the Christmas insanity takes a firm grip on me and my wallet.  The thing is, the last time I was in Krakow it was with Mrs S (she with the beautifully decorated cottage) and it was springtime.  It was sunny and warm, and there was a lot of watching the world go by in the town square if I remember rightly, accompanied by strudel, coffee and lots of brides for some reason.

So the shout came up at Saturday breakfast that as it would be extremely cold this time, perhaps new hats would be a good idea.  You've probably guessed after all this time that Miss R and I do not have one iota of concern as to what we look like, and we ended up buying a couple of beanie hats (thermally lined, so practical) which had a red nose and antlers - very festive we thought and perfect for a snowy Poland (or Snoland as it should be called between October and April).  I have added a picture today - see what I mean?  No shame...



I couldn't see the husband in the same hat, so we have promised him that when we get to the airport, we will buy him a new one.  He is still mourning the loss of his fake fur hat which he bought when we were in Moscow a couple of years ago, so it would be great if we could find one which was similar.  I can tell that you're puzzled over the fact that as the hat was bought in Moscow, that there might be something similar in Terminal 5. 


However, as the original was bought in the Red Square branch of River Island, we may strike lucky...

Monday, 5 December 2016

Breaking the habit...

Yesterday was a day of recovery.  Daughter number one, son number two and ELL had ever so thoughtfully decided not to come home for anything (including the obligatory Sunday roast), such was their understanding as to the state of the husband after Saturday night's frivolities at a lovely friend's.

What I was more surprised at was the state of my hangover yesterday morning, ie, non-existent.  Mr and Mrs H who hosted the dinner on Saturday night are renowned for two things.  Firstly, the food is always excellent as Mrs H is a superb cook.  She lived up to her reputation with three different curries and a chocolate pud to die for.  It's Mr H who I have to watch out for whenever we are in the same room.  Every time we are somewhere together, he manages to sit next to me, and he is very over-attentive with the bottle if you know what I mean.  I have left previous dinner parties on all fours, taking several days to surface, but as I no longer drink as much or as often (these two go hand in hand - one bottle of beer and I'm finished) I tend to be a little more cautious. 

Mr H was a little under the weather on Saturday (man-flu apparently) but still plonked himself down in his customary place next to me at the dinner table.  This was the start of two and a half hours of open warfare as to the levels of my wine glass.  I eventually managed to walk away at the end of the evening having got away with four large glasses of Prosecco (each with a healthy dash of orange liqueur in it).

The husband on the other hand, didn't fare so well, managing not only four of the Prosecco cocktails but also several glasses of rather tasty red wine.  This might explain why I had managed to do all the washing and ironing, renew my car insurance, tidy my office and son number two's bedroom (always a joy) and empty the dishwasher before he surfaced. 

Leaving him to slowly pull himself together, I did a Tesco shop, and was home in record time.  I then hauled him into town to walk around the Christmas Shopping Event.  All he was interested in was coffee and bacon, and once I had got some of that into him, he stopped complaining about his headache.  Thinking he would now be more charitable in my wish to look at the stalls, I slowed down to look at some jewellery.  He however didn't and kept walking at top speed, dragging me with him back to the car.

It was then time for me to catch up on the episodes of Breaking Bad which he had secretly watched after I'd gone to bed.

Seven episodes I had to watch.  Seven episodes....

Sunday, 4 December 2016

No milk today...

Sleep deprivation is not the best thing to have to put up with when your dear old face needs every bit of beauty sleep it can muster.  When I finally sat down at my dressing table yesterday morning, I looked like I had been drained of every bodily fluid, and I could just about make out the wardrobe behind me in the mirror through my almost translucent skin.

On Friday evening I had gone out with lots of friends who I used to work with at a school.  There were teachers there (who were excellent at getting us to be quiet when the food was being brought out) and there was a matron (always handy when alcohol is being bandied around) and support staff (ever ready to listen to those needing to talk things through once the booze kicks in).  Unfortunately, there was no maths teacher present which might explain the problems with splitting the bill, but hey, you can't have everything.  It was great to see everyone, and what was best of all was seeing how we have all carved out beautiful paths for ourselves after school life.

As befitting ladies of a certain age, there  was much talk of diets (there were a couple of young whippersnappers there who opted out of this conversation).  One of the ladies had given up dairy, and had lost almost half a stone almost immediately.  'But what about your tea?' I asked, horrified that she might have had to wave goodbye to that also.  Apparently she now flits between goat's, coconut, soya and almond milk, none of which taste anything like the skimmed milk which I favour in my tea.  I have no faith whatsoever in these alternative milks.  As I said to my wonderful friend Mrs O'R, when someone points out to me where an almond's nipple is, I may consider it.  Till then, I think I'll stick to the red top.

We had the usual Saturday breakfast in Marlow, with Mrs Jangles, Miss R and I having a good old chat over some sausage and coffee.  Miss R had a date at lunchtime, and Mrs Jangles and I took some pleasure in threatening to sit in the same bar where she was meeting him.  I had suggested that we might hold up A4 sheets of paper with marks for presentation, content and style.  We got as far as the door to the bar, before we admitted that we never planned to come in and sit at the next table, and that she wasn't to worry.  Her relief was palpable...

Going back to the sleep deprivation, I had fallen into bed at midnight on Friday.  I was awake at 1.30 looking for Rennies (bloody Prosecco has a lot to answer for), and woke Reg up in the process of coming back to bed.  This was his cue for Edward Scissorhand like scratching at our bedroom door, and in the end, I headed off to daughter number one's current bedroom with the dogs in tow, in an attempt to sleep.  I managed about forty minutes before I woke up again.  This was because Reg was asleep on my head, his doggy breath hot on my left ear.

Wriggling out from underneath the Ninja schnauzer, I headed back downstairs.

I then had the first of six mugs of tea (no almond milk) before I headed back upstairs at 6.30 for another half an hour's sleep.

Which is why I resembled one of The Walking Dead most of yesterday...