21 September 2008

Quiet catch up

(Safe in the knowledge that few will read)

So, whats been happening since March?

My eldest son got married.

My youngest son discovered fashion and copious quantities of Lynx body spray (we suspect this was a direct knock-on effect of being discovered by girls, which he denies.) By some miracle of communication, his school has also apparently convinced him to start doing his homework this year for the sake of his exam choices. He's doing it. Voluntarily. Properly. I am thanking God under my breath like a mantra, and, I confess, a charm against him stopping as abruptly as he started.

My eldest daughter and first born baby angel, upped sticks and took her wonderful fella (finally, she pulled a keeper) and my adorable, sarcastic, mini-Joan-Rivers of a 9 year old granddaughter and moved to Lowestoft to be with my mum, who is still getting over some nerve damage from an emergency op.

My youngest daughter had her ears pierced and eyebrows waxed to be a bridesmaid to her big brother, then also had her waist length blonde hair cut into a choppy, shoulder length style and also inherited some serious fashion from her departing big sis. In the space of the six week summer break she grew up, right in front of my eyes. She's the same sweet kid, but its obvious that her peer group treat her with more respect simply for how she looks, and you can see it in her shoulders. She's not so hesitant, any more.

My husband got a secondment, working for a Government Department he really respects. The kind of people whose projects and goals and visions actually enthuse him. Its so wonderful to see his mind working like that. Soon he starts working in London for five or six months, before doing a year or more, all across the country. He is out from under a cloud and very sexy.

Me? I've been turning over new leaves like they're going out of fashion. It feels like God is teaching me stuff on a daily basis, or more exactly unteaching me stuff, undoing all the little assumptions and limits and expectations that I've hidden behind and used to force life to fit. I also feel like I'm finally getting over the aspirin, what it did to my body and my energy levels and my brain. And I've been reading the blogs - all my old friends. I just havent known what to say, so often.

Beckyboop if I may be so personal, I had that heart attack two years ago. Yes I felt sleepy and yes my arms felt seriously uncomfortable, but I was so 'sleepy', so deprived of oxygen that it didn't really matter that much. It was even a source of gentle, dozy curiosity rather than fear, when I collapsed on the living room floor in the early hours of the morning, in the middle of trying to make a phonecall. So, well, so floaty.

I got back up again, but that was not down to me. Call it God or chance or what you like. So Becky my heart bleeds for you and knows that this is so damned unfair, yet at the same time I see this immense pride and celebration of your Randy's life. It radiates from you, as does the connection and the sense that he's still around.

I just wanted you to know that, as far as the shit hitting the fan goes, heart failure is a pretty damn warm and gentle way to move on. I just wanted to say, OK?


25 August 2008

I think I might be back

This is a test post to make sure my old blog is not still feeding posts directly into facebook.

I got cold feet.
That or I was blessed with a brief insight into the personality facet I mispresented as my whole self, here on the blog.
Don't ask whether I felt I was fudging, or focusing with uncomfortable clarity.
It could be either or neither, and I claim a lady's prerogative to feign cluelessness; or admit it.
Not telling that, either.


11 March 2008

Dear Steg

H, A, happy-P, P, happy-Y,
H-happy A, P, happy-P, Y.....

* Dear Steg I am really sorry, there is this new chart song/chant/drone that is truly awful and won't get out of my brain. Its called "Licky", (L, I, licky-C; etc) and its the last little 'licky-KY' bit that really fries my head and makes me wish I didn't have such an imagination. I hear Kentucky Jelly has no flavour, not even on toast, but that's somebody else's joke. There, now I've shared. On your special day. Enjoy.

06 March 2008


In sincere honour of a post I read this morning (not pointing the finger, or anything) I want to share this video.

It is JOYOUS and, as I am learning, or re-learning, JOY is just about perfect at throwing light into corners and banishing shadows. Its near impossible to hang on to a fear or an anger, even if you hang it on the anchor of moral propriety, in the face of joy.

Love your neighbour as yourself, I dare you. No ifs, no buts, no whens nor becauses nor any of that malarkey.
Love your neighbour, full stop.
Love yourself, full stop.

Now that's done with, I owe Zilla a meme.

I am instructed to:

Grab the book nearest to you, open it up, and turn it to page 123. Write down the first 5 sentences on that page. Then tag 5 more people.

Here then, is the requisite excerpt from the 1917 Everyman's Library reprint of 'The Coral Island' by R.M. Ballantyne, issued in their range 'For Young People' which actually makes me suspect that this rambling tome may be an abridged version.
The mind boggles.

This bit is about a tsunami.

As it passed these islands, we observed, with no little anxiety, that a cloud of white foam encircled them, and burst spray into the air : it was accompanied by a loud roar. This led us to conjecture that the approaching object was an enormous wave of the sea ; but we had no idea how large it was till it came near to ourselves. When it approached the outer reef, however, we were awe-struck with its unusual magnitude ; and we sprang to our feet, and clambered hastily up to the highest point of the precipice, under an indefinable feeling of fear.
I have said before that the reef opposite Spouting Cliff was very near to the shore, while, just in front of the bower, it was at a considerable distance out to sea. Owing to this formation, the wave reached the reef at the latter point before it struck at the foot of Spouting Cliff.

And there you go.

This book was once the property of

Winnie Collard
5 Kings Avenue
Muswell Hill
London N10.

Below her beautifully scripted name and address she has added:

Form IV B
Tollington School
Grand Parade
Muswell Hill
London N10

and as an afterthought, in pencil she has added


See this is what I love about old books.

Did little Winnie own it at first, but then take it to school and not want to lose it?
Or was it a required text for fourth form English Lit?
Assuming she was about fourteen when she entered form IV B, why did she later add 'England'?
Romantic notions at the end of the first World War?
Or did she travel, and take a beloved book abroad with her?

God bless Winnie.

Oh, and I tag Ally, Doris, Lori, Vanilla and BadAunt

26 February 2008

Dear BT

Dear BT

At two minutes to three this afternoon I tried to dial out on my home phone and got redirected to the BT automated system.

After listening to the chirpy voice-over lady explaining how you apologise for the delay and explain how my call will be answered as soon as possible, once every fourteen rings of the phone (three or four times a minute), I got through to a human being at approximately a quarter past three.

You have to be on hold that long to count the rings.

So I spoke to that lady (Pam) in 'Customer Care' for about fifteen minutes, immediately establishing that she was in a call centre that only took incoming calls, couldn't give me a direct number and if we got cut off couldn't call me back. Most of the time after that was spent with her scrolling down the computer generated security questions, trying to find one I could actually answer, because I didn't have my account number handy.

She began:

"What number do you have as your 'best friend' in your friends and family numbers?"

"Um, I don't. I don't have an account with you any more."

"Oh OK then well what number DID you have..."

"Um, well it could have been my mum. Or my husband at work, or quite possibly one of the big kids' mobiles because the best friend number gets an extra discount doesn't it, but then Bigson loses mobiles like there's no tomorrow, and Bigdaughter has been through a few...."

"Well lets pick one shall we?"

"Oh OK well mum's number is......"

"Nope, its rejected that and automatically gone to a new question. So, can you tell me two numbers you phone a lot?"

"Ah, maybe because mum was in hospital a lot last year. OK but Husband has two numbers at work so hang on a moment while I try and work out when my daughter changed her mobile number, because this is going to have to be one I called while I was still your customer, right?"

Anyway eventually Pam finds herself allowed to tell me that yes, there are little things on my phone bill like three months advance bill for a broadband service we gave up last November, but no its beyond her remit to help me and she's going to forward my call to the Customer Options Team. Ah.

So that makes it 3.32 pm because by that time I am becoming quite anal about the minutes ticking away, especially as the chance of being cut off increases proportionally to the length of the call, the number of attempted transfers between departments and the number of times you are put on hold.

Hayley of the Customer Options Team picks up my call and immediately makes it clear she has no idea what Pam and I were talking about, but not to worry, because she can't make me start explaining all over again from the beginning until we've also played another round of 'find the working security question". It seems that Pam can validate my identity, discuss enough details to establish that I need to be dealt with by a higher department (one that takes transferred calls, not your common or garden outside calls direct from your common or garden outsider), but she can't transfer any acknowledgment that I am who I said I am, and Hayley can't simply accept that concept by inference from my having been put through to her in the first (or second) place.

And so we begin again.

At least once we have jumped through hoops, Hayley can finally tell me what I need to do. She can't actually help me, herself, of course, but she can tell me my options. I should have seen that coming.


After spending half an hour being put through to:
  • the automated 'push this button if you would like a nervous breakdown and please enter your full telephone number for no apparent reason because when we finally let you speak to a real person they're still going to ask what it is' department, then
  • the'incoming calls only, only a call centre, can't tell you anything or do anything, but Gee aren't you glad we're in England' Customer Care department and having arrived at the promised final destination,
  • the 'what, you think we pay attention to anything you tell those call centre girls?' Customer Options Team, I now simply have to go and plead my case with:

a) Broadband Billing Department , about the fictitious broadband service on my mystifying bill and then
b) Phoneline Customer Services Department about the remaining erroneous charges.

15:42 I get sent back to listen to the voice-over lady for TEN SOLID MINUTES and by this time its like water torture.

15:52 A man with a very strong Asian accent which is hard to follow, answers the phone and announces that he is Broadband Billing Department and can really help me. Really. And for a while he helps. He establishes that I am due a rebate on not one but two quarterly bills - most of what I paid them in October and everything they asked for in January.



Except after putting me on hold twice, at nearly ten minutes each time, the second time ostensibly because he had finished helping and was transferring me to Phoneline Customer Services Department, only an hour and a half after the whole call began, he admits he hasn't started to transfer me at all after all, and
  • although he is asking for my line to be reconnected,
  • although he agrees I have been overcharged by his department alone more than the total of the January bill
  • although that means BT has messed me around for four months
  • although I was told in October that if I paid the advance bill for that quarter, the rebate would definitely positively absolutely show up in the January bill,
could I please just pay the January fictitious bill and trust them to add the rebate NEXT time.

No I tootin' fallutin' flaming can't.

So I says
"So you are telling me, if I can't pay you money to the tune of slightly less than the amount your company owes me at this point in time, then I am going to be penalised because your admin staff didn't do their job three months ago?"

So he says
"Oh. No! No you will not be penalised, this is not your fault and we are very sorry, but if you could just pay the bill...."

So I says
"But you want me to pay this bill that I don't owe and that should never have been raised in the first place, and if I don't pay or can't pay, then someone else is going to come along and stop me making outgoing calls all over again, right? So I WILL be penalised for your company's internal cock-up, right?"

So he says
"Oh. No! Umm....*cough* right."

Then he started wanting to explain again, and my braincells started to overheat and fuse together, threatening fire, so I thanked him, said I felt ill and had to go; and went.

Half an hour later I tried to call back in for 'Phoneline Customer Services' (I'm too tired for the bold typeface now; aren't you?) and listened to that voice-over lady for roughly forty minutes with no success - 16:42 to 17:25. Oh yeah baby, got my pad, got my biro, got the little clock on the Windows taskbar.

An hour later Husband and I shared a stint holding the handset in a similarly fruitless fashion for half an hour this time, 18:37 to 19:03.

Back to patiently hearing how busy they are, every fifteen sodding seconds, first thing tomorrow, I guess, or no phone line for me.

Damn blast grrrrr.

05 February 2008

Perfect English Pancakes

Into a large mixing bowl, place:

4 ounces plain flour, sieved with
1/4 teaspoon / large pinch of salt.

Poke a dent into the middle of your flour mountain, and into that crack
one medium egg.

Sploosh half a pint of milk into the bowl.

That's everything.

Beat or whisk (or beat then whisk) the lot together until it is lump free and looking like cream.

Put a teatowel or plate over the top of the mixing bowl and leave it to stand in a safe, cool room (ie nowhere like a sauna and nowhere the cat can get it).
For a few hours.


Don't worry if it looks a bit funny - I mean slightly separated. In fact have a good look at that colour - its pretty much the same colour as the top of your pancake will go when you've successfully cooked the lower side.
Whisk it all back into a cream and get cracking. (That's UK slang for hurry along)

Heat a medium sized, heavy based frying pan containing as little oil or fat as possible, until it is threatening to smoke.

Swiftly land about half a teacup of batter into the middle of the pan with one hand, tipping and swirling the pan with the other, so that the batter reaches the edges and makes a circular pancake, before solidifying in the heat.

The top of the pancake will change colour, darkening slightly. It may even show signs of bubbles working their way through.

As soon as that happens (or sooner if any fine, delicate edges begin to look crisped), turn or flip the whole thing over and give the second side almost as much time as the first.

I know flipping is traditional, but hey, its your food, its your choice.

The second side usually doesn't need quite so long, assuming that there is even less fat on the base and the whole pan will be a bit hotter. This is when a turner comes in really handy because you can 'cheat', and peep at how the colour is coming along. If you're doing alright you should see a delicate lacy pattern.

And that's it all done!

Serve sprinkled with sugar, squirted with a dash of lemon juice, and rolled up. UK pancakes are rolled and placed side by side to fill a plate, not stacked.

(Of course you could get carried away and end up making five times as much mix, like I did, this year). In my 7" pan that came to about thirty pancakes, which means the original recipe makes approximately six.

Sounds about right.

27 January 2008

Time Meme

Stolen from Gary, who says he stole it from everybody, but couldn't be bothered to tell me it existed; because that's marriage for you.

A snapshot of time
Now: 10pm Sunday

48 Hours Ago: Playing Scrabulous on Facebook. I have about 20 games on the go, to minimise the waiting!

36 Hours Ago: Getting daughter ready to go to her Saturday morning drama club

24 Hours Ago: Listening to a rather nifty self-hypnosis tape

18 Hours Ago: Fast asleep

12 Hours Ago: Day two of rearranging the garage - including spider chasing and heavy lifting and pretty much ALL ON MY OWN, no matter what the tea boy says.

6 Hours Ago: Studying Day 6 of Paul McKenna's 'Change Your Life In Seven Days'

3 Hours Ago: School uniform laundry and washing up after dinner

2 Hours Ago: Watching 'Lark Rise To Candleford' - brilliant. I remember Julia Sawhala in Press Gang, aged 20 but playing 16.

1 Hour Ago: Nipped in to Facebook again, it IS rather addictive.

Now: Blogging whilst waiting for the cup of decaff the tea boy promised me twenty minutes ago....

1 Hour from now: Making packed lunches for the kids to take to school in the morning, and probably making my own drink, too....

2 Hours from now: Asleep

3 Hours from now: Asleep

6 Hours from now: Asl..... I should have pretended I played this earlier, huh?

12 Hours from now: Trying to do the last section of that book before I have to leave for work

18 Hours from now: Just in from work in time for kids to come home from school, so, making drinks and snacks, sorting arguments, shouting about where school bags and shoes are not supposed to be, etc.

24 Hours from now: Finishing my library book, Wifework; I hope.

36 Hours from now: In limbo - will be 2 hours since the kids left for school and 1 & 1/2 until I leave for work, plus I'll be in on my own, so, reading or cleaning or going stir crazy - my choice!

48 Hours from now: ? Who plans that far anyway? People who always always always have a toasted teacake at ten on Tuesdays?

15 January 2008

A Lull In The Storm

The rain is falling steadily and pretty aggressively, but at least its not hammering at the windows any more.

The trees in the back garden are being whipped around like fat ladies in an aerobics class, reaching first for the sky and then for their toes, but they aren't thrashing malevolently like hefty bullies looking to uproot and do damage, any more.

The guinea pig cages have been blown over. These are solid, heavy, wooden structures not meant for one person to move, not even when the ground is firm. Now our sloping garden is a foamy mudslide and I can't even get them to stand back up, although maybe thats for the best.

There has been a mass exodus - all guinea pigs gone. Mercifully no casualties are in evidence, however both the boys and both the girls have simply disappeared - hopefully to somewhere warm and safe, like round the back of next-door's shed, up against the fence and out of the wind.

We may never get them back; alternatively, taking the longer view, we may eventually get back several more than we bargained for.

We have lost a recycling box - which is annoying (in a very convenient, unemotional, safely diverting way), because I spent ages with expensive sticky backed plastic and a scalpel, decorating them to be personal to this house. If you do them boldly enough, even the coldest, sleepiest recycling man cannot fail to notice - although if one does miss the message, you get somebody else's filthy boxes handed back, while your own end up in the next street.

I'm not afraid of a bit of dirt, its just that some people don't see the point of rinsing a tin, just to throw it in the recycling, and trying to clean out somebody else's two-week-old caked on baked beans, soup and cat food, is, well, pleasant to avoid.

I imagine our box has, indeed, ended up in the next street. I just don't know whether it was taken by the wind or by someone desolate called Bert on his electric recycling milk-float looking thing that doesn't like these hills and lets the rain squall in.

Posting now, before the internet connection or the phone line (same difference) goes on the blink.

Have a nice day!

13 January 2008

Where I am

For the longest time events would present themselves (as would ideas, lines of poetry, jokes, observations) and all would shout 'Blog me!' and I would say 'No! Shut-up and go away because I do not blog any more'.

So, here I am, best intentions cast aside; blogging again.

Murphy's Law, of course, demands that I be absolutely unable to think of a single darn thing to write about, now that the outlet exists.

I'm still here, for what its worth.

That is all.

07 January 2008

Stevie Smith - Our Bog is Dood

Everyone knows the Stevie Smith line, 'Not waving but drowning', don't they? Even if they don't know the whole poem? Even if they don't realise it is also the title of that piece?

I mentioned it a couple of posts ago, and having found a link to it, had a quick look at what else there was.

There was this.

It got to me, and I can't understand why it isn't just as famous as the other one.

Stevie Smith - Our Bog is Dood

Our Bog is dood, our Bog is dood,
They lisped in accents mild,
But when I asked them to explain
They grew a little wild.
How do you know your Bog is dood
My darling little child?

We know because we wish it so
That is enough, they cried,
And straight within each infant eye
Stood up the flame of pride,
And if you do not think it so
You shall be crucified.

Then tell me, darling little ones,
What's dood, suppose Bog is?
Just what we think, the answer came,
Just what we think it is.
They bowed their heads. Our Bog is ours
And we are wholly his.

But when they raised them up again
They had forgotten me
Each one upon each other glared
In pride and misery
For what was dood, and what their Bog
They never could agree.

Oh sweet it was to leave them then,
And sweeter not to see,
And sweetest of all to walk alone
Beside the encroaching sea,
The sea that soon should drown them all,
That never yet drowned me.

06 January 2008

Big breath....

So, did I mention Husband's teensy breakdown?

Thought so.

On the one hand he's done lots of CBT and thats fantastic. As he's relaxed he's become a lot more naturally considerate, kind, helpful. In some senses its been like a fairy tale.

On the other hand, having one's life partner at home, constantly, since September, briefly very very angry but then progressively finding ways to take control of his environment and be helpful (particularly when you're not actually there);


its like playing a sort of sadomasochistic blind-man's-buff against Dr Jekyll.

Nearly time out, I think.

04 January 2008


Once upon a time a certain Zilla lady mentioned the joys of growing avocados from seed. Or kernel. Or whatever the thing is called.


Being a Brit, this is not a pastime that ever encroached upon my own, comparatively unambitious and saucer-based carrot-top and cress growing childhood.

Obviously the only thing to do was to purchase and consume several avocados during the appropriate season, scoop out and save the pits, make a whole slimy, mouldy, disastrous mess of the cocktail sticks suspension method as described by Zilla, and chuck the rest of the collection straight out the back door.*

Where, as luck or sheer perversity would have it, one of them decided to grow.

Its there still, having survived a few frosts and the interest of snails. Barring the fact that its obviously been munched, the remaining leaves /portions of leaves are green and glossy and healthy.

Down a grubby side alley.
Beside a Council kitchen door.
On top of a windy, salty hill by the British seaside.
Mexico it ain't.

Go figure.

*I have a thing against putting seeds, seedlings or even dead plants actually into the bin, 'just in case'.

*Cough, blush*

This is me tiptoeing back in, to the back of the room.

Husband has now mentioned his 'minor breakdown' on his own blog, so if anyone noticed one or both of us looking like Stevie Smith's Dead Man (not waving, but drowning) since September last year, well now you know why.

Sorry about that.

All much better now.

Happy New Year!