Wednesday, 31 May 2017

It is what it is...

Making the packed lunches yesterday for the husband, son number two and myself yesterday (very sparse on the chicken front as you can imagine) I made a mental note to stop buying lettuce.  This isn't because we've all of a sudden discovered more exciting green leaves (let's face it, rickets is more exciting than a shredded Little Gem) but because finally, we are starting to see the fruits of our labours in the allotment.  I thought that you might like a little update on my bunting festooned patch of dirt now that the sun and rain have had the required effect on the seeds carelessly chucked in several weeks ago.

It's rather annoying how you don't remember lessons learned through life.  Because I broke a rib last year, digging was off the agenda, so this year is only the second time I have thrown myself at the allotment with gusto (I go by the old life adage that if you throw enough s**t at a wall, then some of it will stick).  Nowhere is this more true than in my allotment.  But I had remembered nothing from two years ago.  Mind you, I shouldn't be surprised at that, as even yesterday afternoon is a little vague.

Anyway, you might remember that the husband and I had decided to use the seed strips instead of spending money on expensive seedlings, and consequently, there were things we planted which I have never heard of, never bought or never eaten.  All very exciting and adventurous I hear you say.  But there is a problem.

When we planted all the seeds, I wrote down on plastic sticks what each row was.  I used a Sharpie pen as we all know that where the ink is concerned, it ain't going nowhere.  I'd even made sure that all the writing was facing the same way and the names were spelt correctly.  OCD, you have a lot to answer for.

When the summer was here last week (That was it.  It's now autumn) the husband and I strolled over to the allotment to water the dirt.  Hopefully, there would now be some evidence of growth.  As we got nearer, we could see the faint green fuzzy lines, but our joy turned to horror as we realised that the rain from the week before had beautifully washed off all of the writing on the plastic sticks.

The trouble is, until what's growing resembles something which I might see in the Tesco vegetable cabinets, then I won't have a clue what anything is.  Also, as there are a couple of vegetables growing which I have never seen before, I'll have no idea when I have to dig them up.  So I am considering pulling the sticks out, and re-writing 'F**k Knows' on each of them.

Just not with a Sharpie this time...

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Who's that chick...

And so it came to pass that yours truly came down to earth with a bump.

I had given son number two the dubious task of organising the week's shopping while the husband and I were living it up in regal splendour.  He had assured me that he was more than capable of sorting out our weekly vittles, and I transferred over to him my usual weekly food bill and entrusted our future survival to him.  'Is there anything which you definitely need?' he asked as we were leaving on Friday.  'If it's important, I don't want to miss it off my list'. 'Bold 2 in 1', I said, 'the lavender one'.  

Bustling us out of the front door, he reassured us that there would be plenty of food in the house when we returned, and, then he said those famous words, 'and you're not to worry'. There was a deal on the table naturally.  Son number two suggested that he should be allowed to keep whatever was left of the £120, assuming that there was enough food for the week. 'Yes, yes, alright', I said, keen to get away.

And now we are back.

Sunday night saw a meal of mussels in white wine sauce with some crusty bread which went down a storm with the husband and daughter number two.  As these were removed from the fridge to be cooked, I took a glance through the shelves to see what was in there.  The shelves all looked very busy, but it wasn't till I took a closer look that I realised that some of this was the remains of last week's shopping, and I threw away several bits and pieces which were well past their sell by/eat by/use by date.  All of a sudden, there was a lot more space on the shelves, and I did a quick stocktake. 

There was some meat for the barbecue, probably enough for two and half people (guess who is on sparrow portions this week).  There were also some of the Muller Corners which son number two is fond off, along with another pack of Lurpak and enough milk to keep me in tea until July.   Other than that, there was very little in there.  

And then I saw the chicken.  Now normally, I buy two extra large chickens each week, which keeps me, the husband and son number two in packed lunches for five days.  These have a roasting time of around two hours.  If I'd left this chicken in the oven for two hours, it would have resembled a dried out conker and a couple of Swan Vestas and would have served no final purpose in its short life.  

It was the smallest chicken in the world, with an estimated roasting time of one hour and ten minutes.  Now I've owned guinea pigs with more meat on their legs than this poor bird did, and with breasts that small, it was never going to make it to page three of Feather Fanciers Weekly.

But I roasted it, and left it to cool, ready to slice up for Tuesday's packed lunches, hoping that there would be enough to go round.  You can imagine my despair when I came back into the kitchen later in the day, to find that the husband had salted the chicken, disrobed it of its crispy skin and eaten both wings. 

But not to worry, what son number two hadn't spent on sensible stuff, he'd spent on Fingers of Fudge, crisps (the expensive Kettle variety which are normally reserved for special occasions), a nice bottle of white wine and a Terry's Chocolate Orange.  Oh, and a pack of twelve Bold capsules. 

It's going to be a week of slim pickings at number 35 this week that's for sure...

Monday, 29 May 2017

I swear...

As we all know, a fairy tale always has an ending, and the husband and I checked out of our castle yesterday morning.

I'll be honest with you. I'm not sure that my waistline would have coped with another moment at Thornbury Castle. Ten minutes before our final breakfast there, the husband and I both swore to each other that a) he wasn't going to have a fry up, and b) I was just having fruit.  It's just as well we didn't swear on anything sacred because half an hour later, that would have all disappeared in a puff of smoke (unlike my waistline which may need a little more time and effort).  I had ordered the homemade waffle and maple syrup with a sausage chaser the day before, and had never tasted anything like it in my life.  As we all know, anything which tastes that good is either going to increase your size, kill you or give you diabetes.  Or all three if you're really unlucky.

I started well.  Scooping a couple of spoonfuls of fresh fruit cocktail into a bowl, I piously placed it on the table and began to eat it.  Then the toast rack arrived.  The husband, who went AWOL while I was eating my melon and strawberries arrived back at the table with a  couple of croissants, some cheese and salami.  'This is all I'm having', he said, swiftly followed by, 'Oooh, toast'.

He was buttering the first slice of toast, and then gave me that doe-eyed look with his lower lip stuck out.  'I haven't got any marmalade', he whispered pathetically.  Because I love him, I went up to the cold buffet table and brought him some back.  Standing by our table like the Grim Reaper was the waitress with a note pad, her pen poised ready to sign our death sentence.

'Would you like any hot food?'  I heard her ask.  As I sat down, the husband took a deep breath and said, 'Scrambled egg and smoked salmon please'.  He had the decency to decline the freshly baked brioche which was also on offer, and then she looked at me. 'And for you madam?'  I looked at the husband who shrugged his shoulders.  'Waffles, maple syrup and bacon please'.  

So the two of us sat at the table like a couple of middle aged piggies at the trough, and decided that we'd eaten enough at breakfast to keep us going till Monday at least.

Unfortunately, in the husband's case, he lasted till lunchtime, when son number two proffered a bacon sandwich.

Lightweight (or not as it happens)...

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Are friends electric...

The celebrations continued yesterday with the purchase of a new pair of walking boots. Now.  I thought that I'd been very clever by 'forgetting' to pack my walking boots, but the husband decided that after four years' wear up hill and down dale, the time had come to replace them.  He had an ulterior motive naturally, in the way of a 'long walk'. Previous experience told me that this could be anywhere between 5 and 20 miles, depending how lost we got.

So boots purchased from some camping shop in Bristol, yesterday afternoon we headed off with dogs in tow (literally as they were still knackered from their morning walk).  The hotel receptionist had told us that we literally came out of the castle gates and turned right on to the footpath.  All well and good, but what she didn't tell us about was the fact that ten yards in, the path forked.  One path took you up a steep hill, while the other went down.  I was all for going up the steep path, working on the premise that coming home would be downhill, but the husband over ruled and decided that we would take the lower road.  

If only we'd known.

The first part of the walk was fine, a bit boring perhaps, but doable, but as we went on it got more and more challenging to find the path and any directions.  We eventually arrived at a derelict dairy farm surrounded by electric fencing.  I wasn't going anywhere near it, but the husband, in his rubber soled boots, took a firm grip of the fence, and stated that it wasn't switched on.  What he didn't reckon on as he crouched to go under the wire was having to put his hand on the floor for balance.  This resulted in some rather high pitched squealing from the husband, and some rather unattractive twitching.

Safely out on the other side, he said, 'Come on, it's fine, you'll just have to wriggle through on your tummy'.  I gave him one of my looks.  You know the one ladies, the kind which brooks no argument.  As I said to him, the last thing I was going to do whilst wearing my favourite white jeans was to do a passable impression of a snake in the grass(or mud actually).

I retraced my steps and found a stile albeit still wrapped with electric fencing but with an 18" length of hosepipe protecting my undercarriage from being lit up like a Christmas Tree.

So on we went, eventually coming to a grinding halt at a thick hedge with a barely visible gate.  Although the electric fencing had by now run out, we now had a stream to contend with, disguised by brambles, nettles and discarded bits of barbed wire.  Getting the dogs over was almost impossible, but eventually it was just me.  Head down, deep breath, I took a few long strides through it all and ended up on the other side.  The outcome was that my new cardigan was ripped, by jeans were filthy and my arms were scratched and stung by all manner of stuff.  But at least my feet were dry.  I suppose I can thank my new boots for that...

On and on we went, until at last civilization appeared in the shape of an ice cream van. We were by now in the middle of a large park, so the husband chucked his wallet at me and sat down with the dogs while I got the cornets in.  Carrying four cornets back to the bench, the look on Percy and Reg's faces made all the walk worthwhile.

My lasting memory of yesterday though will be the fact that the husband chose a main meal off the vegetarian menu at dinner last night.  The trouble was, that there was blue cheese mentioned and that sort of clouded his judgement.

As the waiter cleared the plates, he asked the husband what he thought of the celeriac.

'It was lovely', he said, 'but I don't think I'll be going vegetarian at any time in the near future', followed up with, 'It would have been better with a fillet steak'.

I think he missed the point....

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Castle on the hill...

Well the husband well and truly pulled it out of the bag for our anniversary celebrations.

We decided to take my car as the weather was so glorious.  Even now, I don't know how we managed to get two suitcases, two excited dogs and two large dog beds in such a small space, but we did.  I suppose that having the roof down all the way was a great help as the dogs were perched on the back seat like a couple of shaggy parrots and my legs were pinned down by various leads and dog bowls.  The husband, who is not abundant in the hair department, managed to burn the top of his head after four hours of the sun mercilessly beating down on him, and now resembles a Swan Vesta, and the 50mph wind played havoc with my hair, and combing it before dinner proved rather challenging.  I'm not saying it was knotted, but I'm now catching the husband up with regard to hair free areas on my head.

So, we are at Thornbury Castle, and there are no words to describe how beautiful it is.  As the husband said as we walked in, 'A castle for my queen'.  He's quite the romantic, my harnessed Northerner.  The room is like something you would see in a National Trust property, and the bathroom was incredible.  It did take us a while to find the loo though - can you find it?

Dinner was amazing, and we headed out into the gardens to finish off our wine.  Now the waiters are all nationalities, but the French gentleman who came to the husband for a signature at the end of the meal had pretty ropy English.  He explained that he had to get a signature even though we had dinner included. 'Aah', he said in a Gallic fashion, 'I 'ave to get a sign as I don't know 'ow beeg your package is....'  I was midway eating a rather lovely truffle when he came out with this comment. It was rapidly followed by a coughing fit and a large drink of water. I think that a few more English lessons might be needed.

The husband had given me my present during dinner.  He had managed to put all my blog together in a book, and as he handed it to me, he said that this was a first edition. It was lovely looking back on some of the early stuff, and two of us sat there laughing over things that had happened.

'What do you think?' asked the husband as I skipped through the pages.  I told him that it was making me think that I really should spend some time on it and stick it on Amazon to see if there was any interest.

He nodded sagely and told me that he thought it would do very well on Tinder.

How I love this man...

Friday, 26 May 2017

He's my man...

The husband has something up his sleeve.  Something other than bits of plaster, a 2" long pencil and a spirit level.  

On Wednesday evening, he implied that I would need to get back from Binland rather sharpish on Friday as he had something planned to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  Now I'm not too good on the whole surprise front. Having mild OCD, I panic about not having the right clothes, appropriate shoes, currency....the list is endless.  And then last night he came out with this comment.

'I think it's only fair that I tell you a bit of what we're doing'.

So the total sum of warning which he gave me was that we were going away for several nights.  He'd preceded this by telling me that I wasn't to worry about the dogs, which has the immediate effect of making me worry about the dogs, as it means that one/some of the children are involved.  But I let that go.  A few days away with the husband is a wonderful surprise, but his big reveal didn't go as far as actually telling me where we are going.  

I asked him whether we were going abroad, which earned me a knowing shrug, but as my passport is still in its hiding place, I think I can safely assume that there will be no need for euros. 'Can you tell me what I should pack?'  I asked. 'Just pack for every eventuality', he said rather unhelpfully.

OK.  So this means packing....jeans, walking boots, bikini, thermals, shorts, flip flops, dresses, trousers, raincoat, jumpers, waterproofs, boots, heels, hairdryer, socks, sun tan cream, after sun, fake tan (in case the sun doesn't follow us to where we were going).  It also means that I'll have to take my entire make up collection, all my jewelry (to go with all the clothes removed from my wardrobe) and various gew-gaws to make me look lovely for my husband.

It's just as well we are not going abroad as I would imagine that yet again, I would be the lady at the drop off desk rifling through her suitcase trying to find some bits which added up to 4kg, which could then be stuffed hurriedly into a separate carrier bag which would also be going on the same plane as my suitcase.  No, I don't understand it either.

Anyway, back to the weekend.  I have a set of suitcases similar to a set of Russian Babushka dolls, so I'll start with the middle one and increase or decrease as necessary.

And before any ne'er-do-well reading this decides that this weekend might be the perfect opportunity to come and rifle through my knicker drawer looking for valuables, I must warn you that there will be several large people here with two rabid dogs.


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Anniversary song...

It would have been my Nanny Joyce's birthday yesterday.  Now this lady has a lot to answer for with regard to the things I love.  Mainly...

Billy Holiday
1940's culture and music
Blossom Hill
Spring onions

She is also responsible for something quite momentous, which is the legal joining of the me and the husband.

From the moment the then-boyfriend and I met, we both agreed that marriage was never going to be on the cards for us.  Having been bitten quite sharply in the marriage department before, it didn't seem important, so we pottered on as we were for some years.  The only problem was deciding what to call him, as at 38, I wasn't comfortable calling him my boyfriend.  Presenting him as my lover made the kids pull that face  where they stick their fingers down their throat, and partner made it sound like we ran a business together.  In the end I went with 'fella', which had a sort of 1960's trendy feel about it.

Fast forward a few years, and the then-boyfriend decided that he wanted to marry me.  I was reluctant, but after three years of sporadic proposals and gentle refusals, one day I had an epiphany.  I loved this man, and marrying him would make the family we'd created between us official.  But he'd stopped asking by then, fed up of being turned down, so I decided that I would give him till the end of the summer.  If he hadn't plucked up the courage to ask again, then I would ask him.

Some weeks later, we were at a family party, and the then-boyfriend and I were sitting with Nanny Joyce on a warm Saturday evening, chatting about everything and nothing. Nanny Joyce, who had a soft spot for him, asked the then-boyfriend why he bothered with me as I must be mad not to 'snap him up'.  

He smiled at her, and said, 'Watch this Nanny'.

Turning to me, he said, ' For the millionth time, will you please marry me?' He then said to Nanny Joyce, 'See what I have to put up with?'

Taking his hand, I said, 'Yes. I would love to marry you'.

His face still had that 'I told you so' look on it, and the shock was so huge that he couldn't say a word. 

Having recovered slightly, he jokingly (I hope) said that he never in a million years expected me to say yes. But I had, so the children were told.  When we go them together and said we had big news for them, daughter number one thought I was pregnant, son number one thought we'd won the lottery, daughter number two also thought I was pregnant whereas son number two thought the guinea pig was pregnant.

So today is the first of our two wedding anniversaries.  We are celebrating ten years of marriage which might never have happened if Nanny Joyce hadn't stuck her proverbial oar in.

Like I said, she has a lot to answer for...

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Colour my world...

Parking up at the doctors' surgery this afternoon, I headed over to the car park machine to get a ticket. This is a relatively new thing in our surgery car park, and there has been much muttering about it, but I think it works just fine.  Thirty minutes for free allows for your doctor to be running 20 minutes late, and then you having to rush through your seven minutes of allocated time. There's even the chance of an additional three minutes to get any medication prescribed.  (If you are sensing a little sarcasm in what I am saying, then well spotted).

Anyway, the car park machine requires that you enter your registration number.  I got halfway through when it dawned on me that I was inputting the old Mini plate, and not the new one.  So parking ticket eventually printed, I headed back to my car.  As I opened the door and stuck the ticket on the dashboard, I happened to notice a lady sitting in the car opposite.  

She was looking at me, and speaking to her passenger, and both of them were laughing. Now I had come straight from the allotment, having planted some tomato plants to replace the ones which the rabbits had gnawed.  As it was so warm, I was wearing shorts, but I didn't think I looked particularly funny.  

Coming back to my car three minutes later (just a prescription collection, so an expected turnaround) they were still there, and giggled as I walked back into the car.  As I shut the door behind me, I checked my face in the mirror for muddy smudges, but there was nothing there, my clothes were respectable and I even had matching shoes on.  

Dropping the roof down on the car (it's a convertible, so if it's above 16 degrees, it's the law) the penny finally dropped.  The shorts I was wearing were the perfect colour match to my new car.  We were coordinated.  No wonder the lady was laughing. I suppose that if the car and my shorts had been white or black, then no one would have really noticed. However, my car is a most unsubtle Caribbean Aqua.

As are my shorts...

Monday, 22 May 2017

Basket case...

I realised yesterday that the published blog regarding cheese was my 500th one.  How on earth did I miss that?  What started off a couple of years ago as blathering on about holidays with Miss R, has now become a daily ritual, with around 5,000 generous souls taking a peek every so often to see what mischief I've got up to this time.

I looked back over some of the early days' offerings, and was shocked by my lack of punctuation and accuracy.  One in particular was comparing the mountain biking husband to Barry Wiggins.  Who the hell is Barry Wiggins?  I did nip in and edit Stairway to Heaven, with a neatly 'cut and pasted' Bradley, but I felt slightly ashamed that I hadn't checked it before pressing the publish button.  As the days have gone on, I have had several readers send me little messages along the lines of 'did you really mean "tart"?' or 'surely the husband doesn't really do that?' so now I double check and reread it all before I am finally happy to inflict it on you all.

And here is today's offering...

The weather has finally taken a turn for the better.  How long this will last is anyone's guess (looking at the forecast, I'm putting money on Tuesday week) but we have to enjoy it while we can.  With this in mind, the husband decided to throw caution to the wind and go and collect the three hanging baskets which adorn the back of the house every summer.  I'm not sure whether I've mentioned this to you before, but when he ordered them, he was completely blown away when told that he couldn't collect them till the end of May.  Now you and I all know that this is because of a possible late frost, but the husband, who is no gardener, is still getting over the shock.  Actually, the one frost we did have took my wisteria, four tomato plants and three runner bean plants, so I'm quite relieved that the Obergruppenfuhrer in charge of the baskets stuck to his guns.  

But seeing the sun yesterday morning, the husband decided that it was OK to go and get the baskets a week early, and bundling me and daughter number one into the car, we headed down to the garden centre.

'I've come to collect my three hanging baskets', said the husband with some force.  The gentleman from the Hanging Basket Police looked at him with narrow eyes and said, 'If you'd come down here an hour ago, I wouldn't have let them leave here, but as the weather forecast has just improved, I'm going to let you have them'.  Well, what a relief that was.  I had pictures in my mind of a green-fingered stand off, with the two of them clutching trowels at 50 paces.  Anyway, we were allowed to take them, and they were duly hung on their empty brackets yesterday morning.

Inspired by this, the husband decided to mow the lawn.  You'll remember that we seeded the bare earth, where once a hedge had grown, and then decided to turf it. Consequently, this area of lawn has a double whammy of grass going on, and it took him several attempts to get it mowed.  

I'm thinking of investing in a scythe for the next time.

Well, if it's good enough for Poldark... 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Big cheese...

So as you know, last night Miss R treated the husband and I to a Big Night Out.  We had VIP tickets to go to Tom Kerridge's 'Pub in the Park'. which was marketed as 'Gourmet Food, Cracking Music and Lush Vibes'.  At that point, there was no mention of alcohol, but I assumed that as Miss R had booked the tickets, then that was a given.  Having spoken to someone who had been there the night before, we were warned about long queues for the food and drink, so we did the very sensible thing and had a quick bowl of pasta in a restaurant on the way to the park.

It was a great night.  Out VIP passes allowed us to go into a beautiful Moroccan-style marquee where free Prosecco was on tap all night.  I wasn't drinking, as I had won the driver's card for the night, but Miss R took full advantage of the free bubbles, and was seen clutching three plastic cups at a time as she returned from the bar, each time taking a less direct route back.  

There were lots of foodie stalls which I love, and the husband was soon ensconced at a cheese stall, which had a plate of Cornish Blue for sampling.  Having polished off one plate, and then started another, this time accompanied with the onion chutney which was also on sale, I glanced up at the stall holder who was looking concerned that the gentleman in front of her was going to eat her entire cheese supply.  Feeling really guilty, I grabbed the largest jar of chutney and a lump of cheese and thrust a £20 note at her. This went into the shopping bag, and remained our only purchase, although if I hadn't kept a close eye on the husband, you could have added a pizza oven, collapsible fire pit and several bottles of toffee vodka to the lonely cheese.

It was then on to see James Morrison.  Yet again, our VIP tickets came up trumps as we were herded into a small holding pen at the front.  He wouldn't be someone I would normally go and see, but I just love any kind of live music so I was bopping along with the rest of the crowd, and humming along as I didn't know the words.  This was only marred by the arrival of two snogging hobbits who decided to put on a very public display of affection right under my nose.  Shuffling over slightly, I had a man in front of me who was so tall that he probably dusts the snow from the top of his head each morning, but at least he kept still, so I could peek out from behind his knees to watch Mr Morrison.

The only problem with my shift of position was that I was now standing next to a couple of twerps who had run amok around the food stalls.  The last ten minutes of the concert were spent with a large wedge of cheese (probably that bloody Cornish Blue) being banged rhythmically against the side of my leg.

As the concert drew to an end, the husband leaned over my shoulder and said 'that he's not done bad for a squaddie'. Now as you know, music is not the husband's forte, and I am only presuming that he was confusing the chap on the stage, who has had a string of successful albums over the last ten years or so, with some bloke he saw on X Factor last year.

Oh bless him...

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Singin' in the rain...

So another working week stutters to an end, and the weekend is finally here.  

It's a funny old weekend for me this week, as there is quite a lot going on.  Tonight, Miss R is taking the husband and me to Tom Kerridge's Pub in the Park, where we will eat delicious food, drink cocktails, and watch James Morrison singing his heart out.  If the weather is anything to go by, then we will be doing all of this wearing wellies and macs.  

This is the joy of doing anything in 'The Great Outdoors' in this country. There is no chance of planning anything based on the weather, because be it February, July or October, the weather could be sub-zero with something wet dropping from the sky. The only thing differentiating one month from the other is what you wear under your rain mac I suppose. As it's still May (no clouts cast as yet) I will probably go down the tried and tested black trousers route. Mind you, tuck these in my wellies, and I'll resemble a blonde Cossack. Leave them over the wellies (pink, naturally) and I run the risk of being of being ushered into a tent while a kind lady makes an announcement over the tannoy asking whether anyone has mislaid an elderly relative.  

Along with all of this excitement, daughter number two has come home for the weekend.I had to buy her a new duvet, as daughter number one nicked hers a couple of weeks ago. I'm not too sure what my logic was in buying an expensive duvet for her, when she only heads back here every now and again.  Mind you, the dogs are thrilled with it, and have had a lovely couple of nights snuggled up on their new soft bed.  Let's face it.  The bed is really theirs anyway, so daughter number two is lucky not to have come home to find a rectangular dog bed embroidered with bones perched on her mattress.  Space could have been going at a premium if that had been the case, with the last one upstairs sleeping on the floor.

In preparation of an extra one or two this weekend, I ordered my Tesco shop which was delivered yesterday evening. Son number two, who can sniff out new food a mile away started to salivate when he saw the truck reverse into the drive.

'Can I help unpack?' he asked, his eyes glazing over as he imagined all the full carrier bags which were heading our way.

History has taught me that if either of the boys help unpack, then certain items will not reach their final destination, having taken a detour to either boy's bedroom.  I put him in charge of unpacking the vegetables while I did the Wagon Wheels and crisps.

No chance of any of the green stuff going AWOL...

Friday, 19 May 2017


Reg, the younger Miniature Schnauzer who we share our house with went AWOL yesterday morning. The husband, who was having what is commonly known as 'a bad morning' had been in and out the front door so often that I thought he was doing some Okey Cokey practice, but it turned out that in quick succession, he'd forgotten his phone, then his lunch and finally his keys.  While all this to-ing and fro-ing, Reg took his chance and nipped out.

It was when I was preparing my lunch that I noticed he was missing.If cold roast chicken hadn't made up part of my lunch, I doubt I would have noticed he was gone.  That dog can hear a Tupperware lid open from half a mile away, especially the one which houses the roast chicken.  After some frantic searching and a conversation with the husband as to whether Reg had stowed away in the car, I resigned myself to standing on the doorstep in my dressing gown and yelling. 

Now this was all happening at 6.30am, and not a lot happens down my road at that time, what with normal people still being in bed, so I restricted myself to a gentle 'Come on Reggie', followed by a half-hearted whistle.  Nothing.  I then tried his special call, the one you use when all else has failed.  'Reggie, Reggie, Reggie, come to mumma!'  Still nothing (other than shame at having revealed this to you all). Of course, if I'd had the balls to shout at the top of my voice, 'Reg!  Come home you little bastard.  I have chicken', then he would have been home like a shot, but no one wants to hear this first thing in the morning.

And then there was the next dilemma.  I needed to get dressed to go and search for him. Should I leave the front door open in case he came home, or would Percy then disappear also?  Should I shut the door and risk Reg coming home? He would have seen the closed door, and shrugging his shoulders in a 'sod it' sort of way, would have headed off to the field again.

As I stood there with one foot on the stair, trying to decide what to do, his face appeared at the front door.  He'd obviously been hurtling around the long wet grass, as he resembled a toilet brush, and I reluctantly let him in.

Percy was staring at him, and I imagined him saying to Reg, 'Where the hell have you been?  You missed the chicken you know'.  Reg took a sniff of Percy's whiskers, and had the nerve to look up at me expectantly.

Fat chance mate...

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Rainy days and Mondays...

It's just what you want to see when you are a new convertible owner....a rainy day reminiscent of Noah.  Not to worry, knowing our British summers, there will be plenty of opportunities to get my top down as it were.  I am anticipating a couple of hours during August and a late afternoon mid-September if I'm lucky.  If it doesn't ever stop raining, I'm going to go to my local multi storey car-park and drive around the levels with the roof down.  Desperate times, and all that,

Driving into Binland this morning, the noise on the soft roof reminded me of a particularly challenging camping holiday in Cornwall several years ago.  I don't think that any of our children have ever forgiven us for that week. Never mind buckets and spades, our first stop was Trago Mills for seven pairs of wellies and waterproofs.  The husband's sister Mrs W was with us for that week, and I'm not sure she's even got over it yet.  This is surprising, as she is from the north and is used to the rain and cold (I'm anticipating a rude call from her later today after this comment).  

The week peaked around day six, when son number two who was sharing our tent, went down with a sickness bug.  I spent that last night in the shower block with him, which wasn't too bad actually as it was warm and dry.  The tent was a write off though for obvious reasons.  I still remember how the morning we left dawned bright and sunny. How we laughed watching the steam rising from our tent....

Not all our camping expeditions were that bad.   Some involved cider which always helps, while others featured hiding from a vest wearing, tattoo covered woman who was hunting me down as daughter number two had punched her daughter.  Deservedly it materialised.  Racism has no place in our home, be that a brick one, or the one held together with a few plastic pipes and some string.  Anyway, she followed me into the shower block one afternoon, and I had to hide in a cubicle while she whistled 'Is this the way to Amarillo?'  As the sound finally faded into the distance, it was finally safe to emerge, making another poor lady, who had assumed that my cubicle was out of order, jump out of her dressing gown.  Happy days...

I mentioned the cider, and this featured strongly through the camping holidays.  The husband made the mistake of leaving me in charge of son number two while he took the three older ones potholing.  While he was gone, I stumbled across a cider tasting shop. Half an hour later having tried all they had on offer, the husband found me on a bench slumped over the pushchair clutching a plastic 10 litre container of the best cider Cheddar could offer, while son number two beat me over the head with a cuddly Pooh Bear.

As I said, happy days...

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Driving in my car...

As we were flying over Northern Europe yesterday, Miss R turned to me and asked me if I was excited about my new car.

Aah yes, my new car.  In the excitement of my holiday, it had been pushed to the back of my mind along with the pile of ironing which I knew would await me on my return.  A couple of months ago, I'd ordered a new Mini to replace the one I've been driving for the last three years.  It was time for a change before my mileage started creeping up.  I'm not too sure why I was worried about the mileage, as I average around 42 miles a week, but it seemed like as good a time as any, so colours were chosen and paperwork was signed, and I waited very patiently for the day it would arrive.

So yesterday was collection day.  Because I'd sold my old car, Miss R very kindly dropped me over to North Oxford Mini after we landed at Heathrow.  Armed with my overweight suitcase and a large holdall, we turned up at the dealership and spotted my new Mini in the showroom, looking cleaner than it will ever do again for the rest of its days.

Miss R bid me adieu and left me with a lovely lady called Sam who I had done the deal with. Having trawled through all the paperwork, it was time to go, and Sam led me down to the car to do the handover.  Now my old Mini was the camera equivalent of one of those disposable cameras you sometimes get at weddings.  It was a 'point and press' kind of car.  This new one had more buttons and flashing lights than the Tardis, and I had to listen very carefully to what they all did (I had visions of still being in the showroom a week later having not taken on board how the thing started).  

Now I always have an automatic car, and as Sam took me through the Sport setting, I asked her whether there was an Old Lady Setting which might be more in keeping with my style of driving.  Well apparently there is, but being diplomatic, Mini call it their Green setting. As befitting a middle aged lady, I had to ask her a couple of times about starting and stopping as the fact that there was no key slot was rather worrying, but after about forty minutes, I reckon I knew all I'd need to know - even if that was just enough to start the car, go forward and stick the radio on.  

There was then the issue of getting my steamer trunk into the car.  This was where any similarity with the Tardis came to a shuddering halt.  Having tried various combinations, it finally took up a prime position on the passenger seat.  I did worry that the seat belt warning might beep at me all the way home, but apparently this new car can tell the difference between a human and an inanimate object.  I must remember that next time I am driving the husband home after a heavy night out...

I was then released into the wild with my new car who has been christened Rita (in memory of my nanny who had this as a rather groovy middle name). 

Going back to the wonderful Samantha White at North Oxford Mini ( if you fancy a new or used Mini she comes highly recommended by this ex Car Sales Manager who can be extremely critical.  

You see, I have worked out that if all of my readers dropped in to the dealership and bought a car from Sam, then the £50 intro I would get for each one would go one hell of a way to pay for Rita...

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Pool party...

So our mini break came to a graceful end yesterday with a perfect day.  The three of us had all been checking the weather reports on our phones, kindles, ipads and laptops, with everything crossed that our last day would be the one to give us the white lines and sunburn which the British sunbather is so fond of.  We weren't disappointed.

Miss R decided at breakfast that no unnecessary time was to be spent away from the pool, and because of that, she involved herself in some minor theft, and rustled up three mini ham and cheese baguettes which made it into her beach bag.  As we were polishing off a second pot of tea (using our own tea bags like any sane holiday maker) one of the two waiters passed by the bread basket, and did a double take, as he wondered where the hell all the bread was gone.

And so to the pool.  Seven hours of pure unadulterated sunshine, with a gentle breeze.  As with every day, it seemed that we had the whole hotel to ourselves, and we snoozed and chatted like three wallowing hogs in a large mud bath.  It was soon lunchtime, and anticipating this, Miss R ordered up three Spritz.  These got me into a lot of trouble a couple of days ago, so I was limited to two, as it was discovered that five was not such a good idea...

Sipping at our drinks, and munching away on the contraband baguettes, the waiter loomed on the horizon with snacks.  I love this Italian habit of feeding you up at all times, and I am expecting to have to wear a beach towel home as getting any of my trousers on is looking unlikely.  Anyway, as he set down the mini spring rolls, crisps and nuts, he cast an eye over the baguettes and then it all made sense as to where all the bread had disappeared to at breakfast.  But he never said a word bless him.  As long as we were happy, all was well in his world.

The Mother, Miss R and I even managed to get into the pool a couple of times.  Now this was no mean feat as the temperature was not what we are used to at home.  Each of us had our own way of getting in.  The Mother, ever graceful, reversed down the pool steps like a 1950's film star, dipping into the water without making a sound, launching straight into a gentle breast stroke.  I prefer the quick painful entrance, plopping off the side of the wall and then huffing and puffing up and down the pool in a frantic breast stroke, all the time saying to Miss R that, 'it's lovely once you're in'. By the way, isn't that the biggest lie ever told poolside?  

Now Miss R takes quite a while to get in (I'd done two lengths before she actually succumbed). She prefers to perch on the steps like a blonde budgie, scooping up handfuls of the glacial water and rubbing it up and down her arms and legs (like that's going to make any difference).  All this is down in time to the shrieks of shock as she descends into the water an inch at a time.  I'll be honest with you, by the time she eventually got in, I'd worn myself out swimming up and down the pool and The Mother was dry as she'd got out quite some time earlier.  I suppose we had about 45 seconds of time in the pool together before I got out.  Bracing would be a good word for the pool, as would 'Arctic' and 'polar', but it was certainly invigorating.

So it's now time for home.  We've had a wonderful time and are already planning to come back again next year.

Perhaps when the pool has heated up a little more though...

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Life is a lemon, and I want my money back...

It was an eventful day yesterday.  Having spent three hours by the pool wrapped in beach towels, waiting for the fog to lift, the decision was made to head off to the fleshpots of Monte Carlo, home to the rich and famous.

We dressed up accordingly, frightened that whatever authorities might be in charge of entry might not let us in to Monaco.  This meant wearing a a pair of shoes which haven't really broken my feet in yet, but I threw them on, not expecting that I would have to walk several miles in them. The hotel owner had told us that the whole of Monaco was only 1 km square, so in my mind, walking wasn't going to be an issue.  How wrong I was....

We decided to go by train, and having arrived at the very glamorous train station (with its own perfume according to Miss R) we headed off to the marina to look at the penile compensations moored up in the marina.  One of them looked like you'd need sandwiches and a passport to get from bow to stern, while another (the second largest) belonged to Sir Philip Green.  Nice to see that the current events haven't curtailed his leisure time activities at all...

We then headed off to the Cafe de Paris, where Bentley after Bentley drove round with various beautiful people on board.  These beautiful people were all driven by wizen old men with more money than sense, but it's always great to see how the half live.  Having spent almost £60 on three Proseccos, we headed off to the casino, where £40 disappeared almost as quickly as the Prosecco.  The shout for food then went up, and it was here that the problems started.  

By now, there were two formidable blisters forming on each foot, and every step was like walking on shattered glass. What we hadn't accounted for was Monaco being shut on a Sunday.  The one restaurant which we passed at 4.00 had been discounted as a dump. Funnily enough, two hours later, when we chanced upon it again, having circumnavigated the whole of Monaco several times, it looked like an oasis in the desert, and piling in, alcohol and lasagna were ordered and enjoyed.

As the time approached when our train was to leave, we headed back to the station and waited.  Our departure time came and went, and then the train was delayed by 10 minutes, 20 minutes, and then indefinitely as some poor soul had decided to end it all one station up.  After two hours, our train finally limped into the station, and we got on and headed back home.  

We grabbed a taxi at the station, and in my very inadequate Italian, I instructed the driver where to go.  As we reached the last couple of hairpin bends, three wild boars ran out in front of us and narrowly missed becoming the hotel's Dish of the Day.  For one moment, I thought our taxi driver might have gone back to look for casualties, such was the frequent use of the word 'mangare'.

After our very harrowing journey back, there was nothing left for it but  to drink copious amounts of Limoncello to calm us all down again.

It explains a lot, but at least it took my mind off my feet...

Friday, 12 May 2017

Bus stop...

Day two threatened some inclement weather towards the end of the day, so the decision was made to go the market in Ventimiglia. Apparently this is very famous, and market traders from France hop over the border in their Transit vans to sell their goods alongside the Italians.  

Luckily for us, the hotel owner offered a free bus shuttle service to and from the market, so at 9.45 sharp, we piled in with a German couple and an Italian couple (we are so cosmopolitan).  I was the last to get in, which meant that I had the dubious honour of sitting in the front of the bus.  As we hurtled down the hill, the hotel owner very proudly pointed out various landmarks suck as a field of artichokes and a lighthouse in the bay.  I would have rather he'd kept his eyes on the road to be honest, and we were all rather relieved to arrive at the market seven minutes later.  (The road is 2.5km.  You work it out).

'I pick you all up at 4.00pm', he said, gaily waving us off.

Well, it was as we feared.  The market was full of tat, spread out between cheese and pasta stalls.   Exiting the market after a couple of hours, our purchases amounted to a large tablecloth and a scarf.  Clutching our bags, we headed off to  bar for some more people watching (Richardson code for 'alcohol').  The bar we chose was great, as it gave you free nibbles every time you ordered a round of drinks. Three rounds in, we'd eaten a pizza, crostini, some cheese straws and the equivalent of a family bag of crisps.

The shout then came up for ice creams.  The Mother, who can get a bit lippy when she's had a few wanted toffee ice cream.  Miss R and I kept telling her that the bar didn't have that, but she was adamant.  When the waiter came over, she asked the question..

'Do you sell toffee?'
'Toffee?  Of course'.
She looked at us and said, 'See, I told you so', and then looked back at the waiter and said, 'Two balls of toffee please'.
'Toffee?' asked the waiter.  
He then looked at The Mother, and said very slowly, 'Coffee, yes.  Toffee no'.

She ended up with Tiramisu flavoured ice cream, but to be honest, with the amount of Prosecco she'd drunk by then, we probably could have convinced her it was toffee.

Heading back to our collection point, we had half an hour to kill, so we slipped into a bar and ordered 'Three of those orange drinks which everyone else is having'.  Turns out that it is Spritz - a mixture of Prosecco and Campari.  This was going down very nicely, until Miss R was spotted by the hotel owner, waiting patiently by the bus with the German couple. He gesticulated at her, and the general meaning was 'Oy, you three.  Finish your Tizers and get on the bloody bus!'

Miss R nearly choked on her Spritz as she was laughing so much, and we all hurried over to the bus like three chastised school children.  I was up front again, and the hotel owner, whose English is fairly good, said to me, 'I've been up and down twelve times today'.

I took a quick glance at Miss R who was seated behind me, and said, 'Yes, but what about the bus?'  She spent the rest of the journey up the hill with her legs crossed in case the laughter got the better of her.

I think we made it back to the room just in time, although I did keep her away from the bathroom with various kettle filling and mug washing activities...

Cold as ice...

Now I am suitably refreshed after my day's travel, it's time to catch up with what's gone on.  The Mother, Miss R and myself are in Italy for a few days, ostensibly to relax and recharge our batteries, but I think we all know that where those two are concerned, the resting is highly unlikely.  Unless you count the short bursts of comatose sleep on the deckchairs in between the alcohol.  Does that count?

We got to the hotel on Wednesday night, having been driven up a road clinging to the side of a mountain by a rather dishy Italian.  Miss R, who always likes to ride up front as it were, was unusually quiet on the hairpin-bend laden track, and only exhaled as we pulled into the hotel.  Talk about a white knuckle ride...

It's a strange story about this hotel, as we all stayed here 47 years ago.  Talking to the owner, who is two generations down from the original owners, we realised that as he was the same age as us, that we had probably known him when we were small children.  We even remembered the dog which lived in the hotel back then which was lovely.

So the first day dawned bright and sunny, and Miss R got up to make the tea.  The Mother, who is in an adjoining room as she can't be trusted on her own, had somehow managed to lock the connecting door.   After half an hour of knocking on the door and the adjoining walls, we finally managed to wake her up and she then had the audacity to complain that her tea was cold.  There's gratitude for you.

We headed down into the town for lunch, and found ourselves in a lovely square.  Having ordered the Prosecco and pasta (in that order) we settled back to do some people watching in the sunshine.  Unfortunately, the view was spoilt by several 'looky-looky men, intent on selling various bits of crap.  I took control of the situation, dealing out a very Joyce Grenfell-like, 'No thank you', which seemed to work for a time, but in the end, Miss R resorted to growling 'F**k off' without moving her lips.  Not surprisingly, this also worked.

Sadly, the two French couples on the table next to us weren't so hardcore, and by the end of the two hours were the proud owners of three umbrellas, two handbags and a matching purse. The highlight for us was a man who came round with a foil covered cardboard box which was the stage for his performing budgie.  I say 'performing', but I've seen the pigeons on my garden fence show off more than this bird did.  And he expected us to hand over money for peering into his box and gazing at his feathered friend?  I thought at one moment things might have turned nasty on the table next door as they shooed him and the budgie away.  

As he muttered at them under his breath, I'm sure I saw the budgie sharpening its beak against an old razor blade in case there was trouble.  They didn't stop at our table.  By then I had mastered a glacial look which brooked no argument and the double act headed over to the water fountain for a drink.  The Budgie Smuggler, as we had christened him, then ran his hands under the water as his partner had crapped on his hand.

It would appear that my glacial stare is more effective than originally thought....