Monday, October 31, 2005

I've slept in so many different beds over the last week that when I woke for a call of nature at 3am, I struggled for a few moments to remember where I was.

I'm back home now, sans Sim buut having seen a large number of family and friends, and am pondering pitched loft insulation and French drains. If any of you have any intimate knowledge of ideal materials, techniques etc, please tell me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The nut was found by Sim, desperately and futilely clinging to the inside of a slice of bread.

Tonight I must take my Sim across the Channel, dump him with a French famliy for two weeks, and return on the following night with his eight-year old cousin Carrot. Carrot's father does not *do* Channel crossings, car rental, and just about tolerates train travel as a means of seeing his son. It's sometimes hard to see precisely what Carrot's father will do for him.

Purple Sister and the rest of her family have to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that Carrot gets to his father with a minimum of fuss, even if in Purple Sister's case eighteen months ago, it means crossing the Channel two weeks before her second child was due. Carrot's father is...unfortunately not a very proactive person, even though he has a first rate brain.

I just hope he realises that his son's childhood is sliding away, and that soon he will be old enough to take planes by himself (you have to be 12 on the budget airlines to travel alone). Childhood is such a short time in a person's life.

I would give anything for my son not to be old enough to cross the Channel with and dump with a French family for two weeks. I would want him to be eight for ever- moderately civilised, self-assured, fired with ideas, interested in everything. But he is 12, and supposedly going to senior school next September. We've put it off as long as possible, but the time has come for him to grow up a little.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Fresh bread. Now with extra nuts. 

So there I was, flinging with gay abandon flour, oil, yeast, cashews, walnuts, almonds etc into the mixer bowl.

The resulting loaves seemed unusally heavy, but I put that down to the use of buckwheat flour and ground rice as substitutes for the half-measure of white flour I normally use in my dough.

This morning, as I took the Kenwood apart to clean it, I discovered that it had shed a rather large chrome nut at some point during the mixing process. The only place it can possibly be? Why, the bread, of course.

We await anxiously for the next few days the re-emergence of the crucial part.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

At last, Midweek becomes interesting, as Joan Rivers (actually) and Darkus Howe practically come to blows over an arrogant comment of Howe's of the type that usually goes unchallenged in our mealy-mouthed, politically correct, ole UK. Well worth listening to around the 25 minute mark.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

No sooner do I take conscience of what I am, a stay at home mother of three out-of-home children, than I set about changing it. How can I be at home all day without the children? Granted, I find things enough to fill my days, but mostly menial, self-imposed tasks that I could in truth do in far less time. I have retired twenty-fivethirty years early (and counting- people of my age could be 80 by the time we retire, assuming we live that long...). Time to take charge of my as-yet-unbegun career.

I filled in the form today. I say "form", but "forms", or even "sheaf", or "entire bloody forest", seem more appropriate. Oh, ye people applying for jobs requiring only four pages of details, be thankful! To teach supply in Devon requires the filling in and signing (possibly in blood- I haven't got that far in the notes yet) of no fewer than 12 pages of...stuff, mostly, in duplicate and triplicate.

Later this week, possibly tomorrow, I shall contact publishers with a view to obtaining translation work. Gardening and guinea pig care are all very well, but...

I have a theory about GP's surgeries, based on my admittedly limited exposure to them.

They all seem, these days, to have a scarily competent, middle-aged, no nonsense female doctor, who will chat to your about secretions, gardening and sudokus whilst performing the most intimate examinations. She will scare the pants off every other doctor in the practise by demanding high standards at all times.

In each practise, there will also be a competent middle-aged male doctor with severely limited social skills- an ace diagnostician, but who manages somehow to leave patients feeling like eight-year olds trying to graps fractions. He explains things, but you don't really understand, but are afraid to ask him to explain because you'll feel stupid. He is always far too busy to re-explain anyway. You leave his surgery in a whirlwind after four minutes, clutching a prescription, but with the certain knowledge that you only addressed a tiny proportion of the problem.

There also seems to be a clutch of younger, more vibrant doctors of either sex, impeccably turned out, possessing a professional veneer that would put middle-aged no-nonsense female doctor to shame, but possessed of only a tiny fraction of the knowledge. These doctors are always going places- off on courses to specialise in this and that, seeking out the exciting training opportunites.

Lastly, but not least, there is the stolid doctor who will keep the practise's waiting times down. He is the chap who will eye you up the minute you walk in the door, ignore anything you tell him (and it has always been a 'him' so far), and type in the prescription for antibiotics as you tell him what the problem is. He will not ever undertake anything so messy as an examination. He is usually quite a comely type and a snappy dresser to boot, of the kind to charm old ladies.

He usually has excellent social skills, not a clue medically, and an extremely well-developped interest in some sport or other- usually sailing or wind-surfing, or some other expensive and time-consuming hobby whihc will leave him woith a healthy year-round tan. He will always be available for short-notice appointments, will volunteer for any out-of-hours business in order to maintain his standing in the practise, and also because it means he may take weekdays off for sailing far from the madding crowds.

He is the doctor you want to see if there is nothing wrong with you and you just need a reassuring pat on the back and some placebo pills. You leave his practise feeling as though you and he have just colluded in something dirty, like visiting a prostitute- you both knew there was nothing wrong, but you both played along to maintain the status quo.

Alas, we seem to have ended up on the list of Playboy Doctor in our practise. I must find out to change doctors.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Mrs Martha Silkie is broody, again. This time I've decided to let her sit the thing out, since she'd managed to collect four little eggs before I found her out (both Silkie hens laying every day, I had a couple of sick days during which did not check the coop).

We gave her a fifth egg from the fridge, and Bertha helpfully laid another next to her sister, which she promptly incorporated into her brood. The next day, realising that the brood would a) be hatching at the beginning of November, and b) would break its little necks plumetting the foot or so from the nesting box to the floor of the coop, I decided to move Martha indoors.

I installed her in the girl guinea pigs' winter quarters, in a little ark, where she can be out of the way of the cold, rodents, stupid clumsy Warrens and juvenile Araucanas that refuse to perch, and within easy reach of food and water.

She took a few minutes to calm after I'd moved her, throwing herself repeatedly at the wire, attempting to get back to her eggs. There's no sense in it, you see. She's just a hormonal mess, poor thing, with the same very small brain she had before she went broody.

Silkies, I am informed by this month's issue of practical poultry, make exceedingly good mothers. They go broody at the drop of a hat. Since they can't count, any number of eggs larger than two seeems adequate to sit on. There are even reports of Silkies brooding stones, apples and just plain nothing.

Martha is no exception. I discovered after a couple of days that, so devoted is she to her little eggs, she forgets to go out to eat. The physiology of the hen changes enormously while they are broody anyway. The digestive process slows down to a barely ticking over setting, and they start to produce all their waste in one go, during the five minutes they leave the nest.

Martha, who has a tiny little frame at her fattest, shrank to virtually nothing in the first three days. I had to force her off the nest on the evening of the third day, show her the water, and rattle the seed and grit for her to take notice of them. I am to be found every evening around seven now, encouraging a recalcitrant white ball of fluff to peck at her dinner.

Although she objects vocally to being taken off the nest, to be honest I could just as easily take her off the nest if I were a fox or a cat. She's in a broody trance, and has been for the last week.

I also discovered that she had laid another egg on the first day of the move to the ark, so she is now sitting on seven eggs. The chicks are due around the beginning of November -I will report back in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I am effing furious. I have been summoned to court for speeding at 38mph in a 30mph limit. I am furious not because I don't think I should have been ticketed- I was, undeniably doing 38mph as I sailed past the camera.

I am furious because the village where I was ticketed, obviously a local village for local people, has deliberately chosen to site its signs and cameras in such a way as to catch out anyone unfamiliar with the road.

It was Chideock in Dorset, a rather beautiful village with the misfortune of the A38 running straight down its main street. It was nearly midnight, and I was driving back from Portsmouth on the 12th of September. I am a cautious driver. If you ever find yourself annoyed and stuck behind a filthy and battered Ford Galaxy doing exactly the speed limit, you can be fairly certain it's me. I annoy even my husband with my insistence on sticking to traffic rules.

So you can imagine that I would be the last person to disobey a 30mph speed limit when I know about it.

The trouble with this one was that the village is in a dip, and starts just around a sharp bend on a downhill stretch of road. There is no warning of the impending local agglomeration for local people.

You just round the corner, fully laden with French wine and sleeping children, and Bang! there you are in the village, and barely ten metres past the village signs is the fucking speed camera, and you're still travelling downhill, still fully laden, braking like mad but unable to slow from the 40mph you were doing on the open road to the required 30 in the 10 metres you have available to you.

The next village along, sited not in godawful Dorset but in Devon, actually warns you four hundred metres before you get to the village that you should slow down. When you reach the village, it therefore comes as no surprise, and you are doing the right speed.

So, well done, Chideock, and well done Dorset police. You seem actually to have found a way to tax strangers. I thought I'd seen it all with the abysmal signage and road layouts in Bournemouth. Obviously I hadn't even begun to plumb the outer reaches of your twisted minds.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

We received a tantalising offer with yesterday's post. 'Dear resident of Wideriver', it began, before extolling the manifold virtues of a new Luxury Table Lamp bearing four different scenes of Wideriver upon its shade. This lamp, it assured me, "radiates conviviality", is "completely handmade" and is "skilfully finished and richly decorated with 18-carat gold*", and all "because Wideriver is worth it. (did you ever hear such a naff advertising slogan?...ah yes)

I'm always slightly wary of any writer that feels unable to use an unadorned verb- the surfeit of adverbs just screams of concealment, as do the various strategically underlined portions of text. "Look at this!" they shout. "Don't look at the rest, it's a pile of bollocks!

Unfortunately the fantastic offer price of £99.50 +shipping is valid only until the 8th of November. What happens on the 8th of November, I ask myself? Does the company begin sharking some other picturesque yet dim village?

At least, should I decide to go ahead, I can be sure of the company's 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.

The whole thing is heavily redolent of the kind of sad emails I get three or four times a day from the testators of members of my family who've died leaving millions unclaimed in Nigerian bank accounts. (frankly there must be almost as many of my relatives in Nigeria as there are Nigerian lawyers)

So, d'you I should go ahead and order one of these wonderfully detailed lamps before the offer expires? I'd hate to miss this fantastic opportunity before it is "irrevocably closed".

* 18-carat gold burned into glass at more than 570C- didn't know it was possible. You learn something new every day.

++ They don't to be especially competent at producing embossed tableware either, judging by this, nor at marketing appropriately, nor actually putting pictures of the correct place on the items. They seem to have a set of unique talents. Am beginning to think better of parting with over 100 pounds of the Boff's hard-earned... And the last line of this one says it all.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


I've spent most of this last week like a maggot- deprived of my senses of taste, smell and hearing; regular readers and those who know me will know already that my sense of sight leaves a lot to be desired.

I have therefore spent it lying on the sofa in pyjamas all day (apart from the days when a school run became necessary), quilt to the chin, watching entire series of "Absolutely Fabulous" on DVD.

The trouble with being deprived of one's senses (aside from having to watch series of Ab Fab, that is) is that one starts to think. I don't think I quite reached the level of sensory deprivation in which buried childhood memories start to return, but I do enjoy a good illness from time. And not just because I have a good reason to be cranky for a change.

So, I thought to myself, how come I used to shrug off bugs like this in three days, yet here I am nearly a week later, still feeling like a crock, and what's worse, forced to take antibiotics for the really rather nasty middle ear infection that set in with lightening speed.

It's old age beckoning, that's what it is. I may not look middle-aged yet thanks to a rather lucky combination of genes (neither parent developped grey hair until nearly 50), but my body knows the true truth- these bones have been stripping and recalcifying for nearly 38 years now.

I could well be nearly half way through my life. And I've only just begun, godammit.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I am sick, and with the customary early October head cold comes my now usual ear infection.

It all started about six years when out in a playpark with the children on Boxing Day, a great hand reached out of the sky and pushed me into the ground. It was flu that time, and I was bed-ridden for five days, arising only to lurch unsteadily to the loo.

Afterwards, and ever since, I've had a left ear problem, described by our excellent quack at the time as glue ear. As soon as the throat grates, the ear comes out in sympathy.

So I'm stuck indoors, prone, pausing only to go out and murder overgrown shrubs, before collapsing back in an ailing heap. I'm feeling sorrier for myself than I have in weeks.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Quote of the year 

"All I ever wanted was one genius. All I got were four breeding cows and an idiot."
Purple Genitor, September 2005

La fête des moissons 

Dédaigné par les bons villageois, mon clafoutis devient clafoutu.

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