Monday, May 30, 2005

It's good to be back. Despite my parents' pervasive and sometimes annoying eccentries, despite my father's obsession with vegetables and my mother's rabid junk collecting, it's good to remember that i'm not just a wife and mother in a sensible middle class family, but also a hippy-tinged individual. It's good to be back.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

And I forgot to mention this: train journeys are such fun during Bank Holiday weekends, aren't they? 6.5 hours to get back from London. Engineering works on the Tube, and the major train line out of London to the South-West meant I missed the train I was meant to be on, and had to change three times during the 200 mile journey. I am now better acquainted with Reading, Basingstoke, and Salisbury stations than I ever wanted to be.
And why do they mangle those pretty overhanging bits of board at some stations by hacking them off at the curly bit? Health and safety, no doubt. You can't have that hanging down like that- some 13 foot person might turn up and bark their head on it.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

We're off to France in the morning to a place...Gasp!... without internet access. She and her dog-loving Significant Other have very kindly agreed to house- and pet-sit, and I'm hoping that he might agree to blog-sit.

There is something distinctly odd about meeting for the first time people who know more about you than your own family does (unless you are foolish enough to tell your nearest and dearest that you blog).

Last night, as we consumed a *cough*few*cough* bottles of plonk (each), basking in the August heat on the grass under the watchful gaze of the Eye and an overhead surveillance helicopter, I think I felt a little self-conscious.

That old not knowing what to do with your limbs thing reappeared. I haven't decided yet how I feel about people knowing that much about me. I put this stuff out there, but until you meet them face to face, you have no idea who the receivers of your words of wisdom crud are, or even if they actually are.

I'd already chickened out of a number of such meeting opportunities, but I already had to go to London for a reason, so meet I did this time. And I'm glad I did.

I'm not one of these people who thinks that everyone on the internet is actually a trucker named Burt, because I'm not called Burt. I'm called Kirk.

Well, they were all lovely people, and in truth it really didn't feel like a first meeting. Now I'm thinking again about being my own first name online, but vacillating, and I don't know what's stopping me.

It's possibly not wanting to be held personally accountable in real life for anything I write here, which would explain why yesterday felt weird- discussing with lovely people whom I'd never met before things that I wrote and consigned to the ether months ago.

I suppose that most people has an idea in their mind of what other bloggers look like and how they behave. Yesterday evening just confirmed to me that people represent themselves pretty accurately in their blogs. I'm still intrigued to know how I come across on here.

Friday, May 27, 2005

I'm off to see That London, lalala...

And it's supposed to be 10C hotter there than down here, so what do I wear? Such decisions...

In the meantime, here's a picture of the neighbours:

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Next door 


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wet Wet Wet 

I thought I might do some gardening today, since it's the first dry moment in ten days. I managed to mow the lawn yesterday evening, well into the gloaming- it was very nice and green and long, and so was the grass.

We had a load of washing on the line from Thursday last week until yesterday, but it was wetter than when it went out the whole time it hung there, so I just left it. We had to dry the week's uniform in the drier- in May!

They're putting in extra drainage channels along the road outside our house, possibly because the road seems to act as an overflow for the stream running alongside it about 364 days of the year.

Would you like pictures of Devon? I keep seeing things, and thinking "Ooh, pretty, in a damp and green kind of way", but I don't know whether anybody would be interested.

Monday, May 23, 2005

And He's gone again...

This time, he dug a lovely load of flower beds, from scratch, for a tenner, some food and a packet of rolling tobacco. And he took no ibuprofen the whole weekend, because the pain has subsided, Mrs Cynical.

That was the first time I ever bought cigarettes, and it felt like I was buying illicit drugs. Rather puts me in mind of the time I tried to buy a bottle of brandy in Montréal at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, but that's another story entirely.

We've decided to refloor the music room, formerly known as the Infant School in the building's educative heyday.

The current cat's pee-soaked woven pink number was impinging rather aggressively on the nostril of late, and when it got to the stage that we were holding our breath to cross the room, we made a snap deciion and pulled up the revolting carpet. Incidentally, why do people bother to have 5 cats if they are not going to provide them with adequate toilet facilities?

So far, so good. Except that a number of minor and related problems arose. Firstly, we want to replace it with wood. In order to achieve this, we need to line and reline and insulate and generally remove all contact between the eventual wood and the underlying concrete, in order to minimise heat loss.

Secondly, we want to introduce underfloor heating into the room, on the grounds that running electrical heating overnight is actually cheaper than using LPG, and that the room might easily have been used as a fridge for most of the winter despite the very large and unnattractive radiator gracing one wall.

Thirdly, let us consider the ceiling. In my humble opinion, and whatever the colour of one's walls, brick red is never a terribly good colour choice for a ceiling. It sort of lowers the room, and leaves anyone foolish to venture in with a feeling of impending doom not entirely conducive to a restful moment of relaxation.

Therefore, last Saturday before the Boff left for Greece was devoted to pulling up offending carpet and rooting underlay, and to repairing various strange features such as the hole left by the removal of the brass electrical socket inexplicably sunk into the middle of the floor, the hole near the steps into the room through which appears to be yawning an approximation of Hell, were Hell ever to be depicted as cold and draughty, and to disinfecting and deodorising the 2 metres squared of trayless cat tray.

Yesterday we repainted the ceiling to a more suitable light stone colour.

This week I shall order wood floor. The question is: engineered boards or solid wood? I have a yen for solid, despite knowing that it will buckle and bow for a few months, simply because if it gets really grubby, it can be sanded down easily and repeatedly. The solid wood is 30% cheaper. The engineered board is thinner, and will therefore block less heat from the underfloor heating. It will also mean that we can fit another layer of underlay underneath it and still have clearance for the doors. It will not buckle or bend.

What do you think? The floor itself is concrete and is quite damp and very cold.

Sometimes I think I'm not doing such a bad job... 

In our house, we have Vegetarian Wednesday. Last week, Vegetarian Wednesday was a simple affair due to the fact that I felt like a zombie.

As we munched our way happily through steamed cauliflower and squash, grated carrot and beetroot salad, and cheese sauce, I asked the children jauntily, and if truth be told, a little smugly:
"So, how do you think the average child would react if you put them down in front of this lot?"

I was expecting them to laugh uproariously at the thought of any member of the chicken nugget generation consuming only vegetables for a whole meal.

"They'd probably love it", says Sim.
"Really", say I, "because of never getting any vegetables to eat?"
"No", says he. "The average child is probably Asian, and probably living on a very small amount of money. In fact they probably do not have enought to eat. They would love to have this much food. You know, Mummy", he continued, lecturing now, "a third of the world's population lives in Asia".
"Wow", I replied, foolishly.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

And in other news... 

He's back...

The best thing about coming out of a heavy cold is the overwhelming gratefulness for feeling better, and the knowledge that even though you still feel a little ropey, at least you're on the mend. Thank you for all your messages of support.

The errant husband is back, several shades darker than he was 6 days ago, and reports a distinct improvement in his eczema while he was away -there's something inherently unhealthy about this country, I tell you-, as well as the news that he's been asked to chair some bigwig international scientific committee, the clever cookie.

He reckons that he was asked because of his abiltiy to cut the crap and speak succinctly where others ramble on unhelpfully for hours without being stopped. If that is the case, then he should be a very popular choice- a man of few but well chosen words is he.

Friday, May 20, 2005

A little ditty to insomnia 

Oh I do like to be awake at 2am
Oh I do like to be awake at 2 thirteeee
Oh I do like to feel as sick as a dog
Oh I do



Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I'm feeling very sorry for myself.
The husband rang last night and left a message after I'd fallen asleep reading stories etc.
I fouled up the speaking exams of 6 kids at school this morning by making them answer too many questions. Luckily they're only 11 year-olds doing internal exams, and the results can be doctoredremodelled to fit the criteria.
I cantered for a long time during my riding lesson. Really enjoying that.
Taught Spanish to two classes at my children's school- this is a new and permanent fixture.
Took the dog for a walk which at times felt like my last one ever.
Drove home to my paracetamol, goodness only knows how.
Have to go out again to pick the children up at 5:30pm after Latin.

It's nearly 1 am, I'm awake again after falling asleep at half past eight while reading bedtime stories, I've a stinking cold, and I seem to have filled up my Wednesday with things which do not include lying at home recovering. Oh, and did I mention I'm playing at being a single mother? Although, since my husband has not yet rung since reaching Athens, and may have shuffled into the great beyond for all I know, this could be a permanaent state of affairs.

Don't mind me, the paracetamol hasn't started working yet.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

So, The Boff had swanned off for a holconference in a posh hotel in Athens for a week. I get to be a single mother for a week. Yay me.

I've already managed to get totally furious with Dill today, so I reckon I'm not going to be that good at this malarkey.

The most remarkable thing about his trip is that The Firm comandeered a minibus taxi to Heathrow airport for the five people leaving for the conference today.

This is, absurdly, quite a bit cheaper than sending the five on the train to London, and about twice as fast, since the taxi driver was not of the hanging around variety and drove there at 85mph the whole way, completing the 175 mile journey in two and a half hours.

He should be there by now. I bet it's about 24C vs the 10C it feels like here. I bet it'll be 24C again tomorrow, and for the rest of the week. Not that I'm jealous or envious or green or anything.

I suppose I'd better go and start making packed lunches or some such domestic thing.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Him:"So when are you coming then?"
Me: "Sunday the 1st of June"
Him: "Then I'll ring on Saturday and give you a shopping list." This has been agreed during a previous telephone conversation.
Me: "All right."
Him: "But if you go to T3sco's can you pick me up two 60m rolls of cling film- they're the only ones for which the box lasts till the end."
Me: *Very unlikely to go to T3sco's unless hell freezes over, but obviously I have to go now- filial duty and all that*
Him: "And if" (Ha! As if!) "if you go near a department store in the meantime, can you buy me a kettle? Just a standard 1.5 or 2 litre one. Preferably cordless."
Him: "Also a large brown standard English teapot."
Me: "So it has to be brown- no other colour will do?
Him: "Yes, but not one of those crappy Made in Taiwan ones, they're terrible.
Me: "So you want a large brown teapot, but not one made in Taiwan, and only if I go near a department store?" *mentally rearranging my entire weekend by now*
Him: "Yes, that's right. Also the salad cream. Plastic next time please, I keep dropping the glass ones. I dropped two of the last lot you bought." *Gee, thanks for telling me, Pa. Makes it all so worthwhile.*
Him: "So when are you coming over?"
Me: "Sunday morning the 1st of June I think."
Him: "OK, so I'll ring next Saturday morning about his time and give you my list of shopping." (Which will include not just English specialities like PG Tips and OXO, but also standard vittals such as pork chops, lamb and sausages also available in any French supermarket.)

Is it any wonder I've turned out like this?

I am pleased to report that no mortgages were discussed.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Upset at being banned from the shopping centre, the dog retreated behind the sofa to sulk.

Now why would I be worried about going to a dinner party at the house of people we not only know, but are related to? It doesn't make sense.

Maybe it's because we've hardly ever been to a dinner party that the whole idea fills me with dread. I mean, it's just so grown-up, isn't it? And so conventional.

Our standard method of socialising is via far more informal parties. We've hardly ever done anything at which children would not also be welcome. It just seems so weird to go to someone's house for a dinner to which their own teenage children are not invited.

It just seems artificial and wrong, and goes sor far against the way I want to bring up my own children that I'm rather nervous of the environment in which we're to spend the evening.

Will it be characterised by self-importance and inane middle-class chat about mortgages and school fees *puking noises*? Or will we actually be able to laugh?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Can I just say here, publically, that Epson can f**k right off if they think I'mn going to pay 35 pounds sterling for a set of four ink cartridges to replace their cleverly-designed-to-be-impossible-to-refill- and-therefore-perfect-for-fleecing -customers-from-now-until-kingdom-come cartridges. I'm off to find an alternative.

And the laughable story they spin the people who sell the damned things- well, that just takes the biscuit! Like A Very Big Business is ever going to be worried about the condition of refilling sweatshops in South East Asia.

And in case anybody has a cunning wheeze- it's an Epson CX3650, using cartridges T0441, T0452, T0453, and T0454, and Oh my god, I think I've broken it...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

We have new babies! Two of the most perfect little (Guinea) pigs you can imagine- and a pigeon-pair to boot.

And here are our old new babies- the silkies. Apparently they get mucky bottoms, or so one of my students tells me. They seem fine so far.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

For once in my career as a mother, I had the present all wrapped, the card all written, the beginning and end times all known. For once, there was no unseemly scramble to get her to the party. We were all ready the night before.

And then, she decided to ruin it by being sick all over the hall an hour before the party was due to start.

The fates have spoken: last-minute is definitely the way ahead.

Chicken ledger:
1 died last week- she'd been sickening for weeks, and eventually just expired sitting bolt upright, too tired even to flop over when her time came.
4 white Silkies, purchased this morning. The children fancy to have a Silkie breeding programme, so we asked for three hens and one cockerel. They are still very young, so the seller did his best to sex them, but asked for feedback on what his efforts yielded.

Total: 4 brown rescued hens, 4 new Silkies.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

I wish I could describe how absolutely beautiful everything looks at this time of year here. There are times during the winter when you lose your faith in the existence of spring, and every year, just as despair reaches out its cold fingers to touch you, the seasons surprise you.

Unfortunately, I am still bogged down by rhymeing alexandrine couplets, but my feet are itching to grab the camera and stride about taking photos of the gorgeous hedgerows. Nothing compares to centuries-old hedges.

Hey-ho. Back to the millgrindstone. I've taken quite enough time out already today, taming the hyperactive lawn and listening to tweety fledglings under the eaves.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Hi-ho, hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to vote I go...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Can I just recommend that you never, ever try licking the stalk end of an unpeeled mango?

I just did, and I swear it must have been dipped in caustic soda or something. Nearly took my oesophagus with it, it did.

I'm still coughing and spluttering my way through a large glass of milk.

And if you ever wondered why, in the day and age of online translation engines, translators will never become obsolete, you need only glance at the fantastical language on this site.

Until you reach the bottom of the page and realise that it was actually translated by a computer with a person's name.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Back from parents' evening- other people's bratlings, not mine.

I think I just about got away with it, even though in the chaotic swap of cars The Boff and I carried out, my markbook ended up in the wrong one -my fault-, and despite the unseemly rush to get to the school on time, which involved the clipping of front door keys to dead-letter fences halfway between home and Exeter- that one courtesy of scatterbrained husband- I think I almost sounded as though I knew what I was talking about.

And Geez, I only teach 40 of the little sods, so why did I have to speak to a non-stop stream of parents for two and a half hours? I think I actually teach all the ones who turned up, but it was hard to tell without my mark book to hand...*

*Joke. Of course I know who they all are.**

**Yes, really.***

***Although I probably don't have the foggiest exactly how they're doing to the nearest estimated GCSE grade. I am a crap teacher. That's why I want to sit at home and translate instead.****

****Although going out and having colleagues is nice too.


Am about to break self-imposed deadline for handing in vacation translation, although did meet portfolio hand-in one. Damn that bank holiday weekend, that glorious sunshine and those squawky children! And damn that internet while we're at it. Tomorrow afternoon, tomorrow afternoon, tomorrow afternoon...

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