Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What kind of a pillock completely and utterly forgets the PIN number she's been using almost every day for over a year, at the very moment of trying to pay for something? I must have some kind of brain damage, because it's been about five hours now and I still can't remember.

I shall have to hope for a post-snooze flash of inspiration, because I have never so spectacularly forgotten a simple four-digit number like this. Unless I want to forget it?

I am rapidly becoming an insulation and draught-proofing zealot.

In the last week, we have signed away large sums of money on new windows, to be delivered and fitted by Easter. This is very necessary, since many of our windows were bought off the peg at some cheapo builder's yard in 1971, a decade not noted for its concern with the everlasting. They are most definitely not everlasting, in fact lasting for the next few months would have been a serious concern, had we not decided to sack them first. It is actually possible in some of them to force one's finger almost all the way through the frame; the rest are not far behind.

I have insulated one of our many outside doors today- one of the cross-braced ones, with the centimetre-wide gap all around it. It turns out I used the wrong thickness of stucky stuff, with the result that shutting the door was a bit of a battle. I got there in the end- it is lucky that it's one of our lesser-used doors, as I don't fancy the chances of the rolling-pin surviving too many more pastings of that kind.

The bedrooms are mostly built into the roof. Last year we received a welcome grant from Clear Skies to top up the insulation in our attic. Unfotunately, they did only the horizontal parts. The slanted bits also need doing, as it is so cold in our sleeping quarters that we awake every morning thinking we have turned into dragons in the night. The solution to this problem involves a sledge-hammer into the plaster board, a large skip for the refuse, insulating the inside of the roof, and replacement of the plasterboard with an insulated version. I would dearly love to be able to find a "natural" alternative to the insulating materials avaialable, so if anybody knows of such substances, please may they say.

Rebuiling the slanted ceilings will also have the advantage of having access to what I suspect will turn out to be a large number of decomposing poisoned rat corpses, which in my insomniac moments I imagine slumped just a few inches from my head.

In my quest for increasingly low energy consumption, I am starting to wonder about a ground heat pump. We should be able to run it from the well, shouldn't we?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sim will, it appears, be attending City Day School from next September, since state grammar does not want him. Yah boo sucks to them, say I, intelligently.

We can be so proud... 

Don't we behave well abroad as a nation?

I would dearly love to know when, if ever, the majority of our fellow countrymen are going to realise that one behaves differently, and possibly more sensibly, abroad. Elitist though it sounds, and given that we could not afford airplane tickets as a family without it, I partly blame cheap air travel for this.

I blame sheer breathtaking stupidity and arrogance for the rest. Other countries have stupid people, but they generally don't export themselves. Only we still believe we have right to invade other countries and think we know how to behave better than they.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Worried at not hearing anything abouth the church's fate, I alerted the press. On Tuesday morning the press rang back, and pointed out that according to the council web site, the planning applications had both been refused on Monday. Which was nice.

It seems unlikely that the developer will try again, as the reasons we had for opposing his scheme were compelling enough. The village is now organising a purchase movement. Of which more anon.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

I'm a nervous wreck this morning. Sim is, as I write, sitting his second entrance exam in three weeks. This time it's for our nearest grammar school, selective despite being a state school. It's also the school we're hoping that Hen will get into -this we'll find out in March.

He already has a school place for September at a day school in Exeter, but he's set his heart on going to the state school. If truth be told, I'd rather, in an ideal world, that all my children went to the local state schools, but they just don't cater for anybody outside average.

Having endured years of boredom and marginalisation at mainstream schools myself, it's not something I wish to inflict on my happy children. If I were 12 years old now, i'd probably have been on Prozac since the age of 6, and be just about ready to kill myself by now. At least in the 70s it was not unusual for chldren to be unhappy. Now I'd be even odder than I was then.

*Crossing fingers, toes, etc...*

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Dill the picky eater 

"I can't eat this," she informs me, poking at the contents of the casserole dish with the serving spoon.

"It's all gloopy, and the skin's all yooky, and it 's got fatty bits and bones, and I can't eat it, and you can't make me!" Her voice is rising slightly.

"You must at least try it," I tell her. Five years ago, if her brother or sister had spoken to me like this, I would have been really cross with them. I know there's no point with Dill. She doesn't give way easily, ever.

I accede to her demands for pasta and brussels sprouts on one plate, meat at a safe distance on another. I skin the chicken thigh for her, and cut up the meat into bite-size chunks.

"There"s no point", she says, "I'm not eating it. Chickens are innocent creatures, and I don't want to eat them!". Said almost accusingly.

She nonetheless follows the "try everything once" house rule, sorting and putting pointedly to one side every tiny fatty-looking piece that she can. There are not many.

The innocent creature's thigh disappears bit by bit into her mouth, the plate clean but for gravy.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Sorry everybody- I'm up to my eyeballs in recent fillings, overdue filing and struggling to find superannuated degree certificates for new job applications. Am having reluctantly to trawl through about seven large boxes of mementoes from age ten to adulthood, looking for a fifteen-year old degree certificate.

Also I have a nasty feeling that my children have prettily hole-punched into confetti the letter that came the other day telling me I'd passed my MA. That'll learn me to leave important thigs lying around.

Alos, my father sends me a cheque for a regular thing that I arrange for him, made out to "Mrs Purple Boff" instead of either "Mr The Boff" or "Ms Purple Pen", even though I must have told him at least two dozen times in the last thirteen years that I had kept my own surname.

My youngest sister also insists on this aberration. Am I right to feel aggrieved that they consistently fail to listen to me, or that they repeatedly inflict their own own twisted ideas of propriety on me, or am I just being a sour cactus?

Friday, January 20, 2006

I do go through these patches of uncommunicativeness. I daresay it's a syndrome of some ilk.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

If you're still reading this by 10am GMT on the 19th, it's because we are without power in our neck of nothingness. It is due to works on the village's supply, since half the farmers regularly arise to discover that they cannot milk their cows at the right time. Might be the wrong sort of branch growing through the lines, might be something else entirely; who knows?

It is supposed to last only from 8am till 12:15pm, to which I can only snort derisively judging on past experience.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A chance remark of NiC's, over in BW's comments, suddenly reminded me of the dull list I was going to issue today, namely the number of items I choose to make because a) they're better made at home, and b) I'm at home most of the time and have no excuse not to, and c) it's cheaper to make things at home, quality for quality- I use nice ingredients, and plenty of them, which if you bought ready-made into the things you make them into, would cost a lot of money.

So, here are the things we sail past smugly in the supermarket:
1) Bread. We've been making our own for about ten years, from scratch, without the help of a breadmaking machine. I use a forty-year old Kenwood mixer, which is similar to a Kitchen Aid for you North American people, but sturdier still. If I get caught short, I make soda bread, which is made and ready to eat in twenty minutes. The rest of the time, we make wholemeal bread with seeds and nuts, using olive oil and sea salt. Recently Sim made French bread, and I've become a convert to the French bread method, which turns out a delicious crusty loaf needing less kneading (please forgive the awful assonance- I could have opted for 'requiring', but only deliberately to avoid 'needing').
To make sour dough bread, simply save a lump of dough from your first batch, pop it in the hfridge, and use it next time instead of yeast. It wears out eventually, particularly if you go a long time wbetween batches, but can get several batches of bread from the same packet of yeast this way.

2) Jam and Marmalade. There is nothing like picking your own or a farm's fruit, bringing it home, preparing it, and making it into precisely the preserves you like. No need to make do with insipid and sickly supermarket versions. You can adjust the sugar content, add spirits or other lovely things.

3) Food. Why, oh why, oh why, not cook from scratch when you can make a nutritionally balanced, home-cooked meal in the 20 minutes it would take you prepare an over-salted packaged meal? For example: grilled chicken banded with bacon, popped under the grill or in the oven, with spicy polenta or couscous, and steamed broccoli or salad- takes maybe 20 minutes if you've half an eye on the evening news at the same time, and has way more nutrients than a flour-padded pre-prepared meal.

4) Sloe gin and limoncello. Do they need explanation? Staples in our household. Certain young people I know make wine from a staggering array of ingredients (shall be sampling that elderflower soon, KW, thanks)

5) Soup. Why does anybody buy soup? It defies imagination. Also, as a corollary

6) Stock. All those manky bits of old vegetable peeling, chicken bones, giblets, etc you throw away, you might consider throwing away only after you've boiled them to buggeration and kept the water. Also, retain your vegetable boiling and steaming water to use in gravy- although the vitamins are probably as dead as dodos in it, there are decent trace minerals left.

7) Yoghurt. To be eaten with the above-mentioned jam. This absurdly easy to make. There is no need for yoghurt-makers. All you need is a small pot of yoghurt to use as a starter (a tip- every yoghurt bacteria is different and gives a different taste- choose yoghurt you like: if you like strong tasting Bulgarian yoghurt, buy that as a starter. If you prefer a milder taste, buy that instead) Any instruction book will wax lyrical about milk powder, and other nonsense you do not need. Simply heat the milk to blood temperature (you can test with a clean finger, but be aware that you might introduce bacteria which will change the taste). Alternatively, you can boil the milk, and then allow it to cool to blood temperature before introducing a tablespoon of your chosen starter, mixing it well, covering (important to avoid contamination by nasty-tasting bacteria) before leaving in a warm place (back of Aga, airing cupboard, boiler room): it needs to stay at around 35-38C for a few hours. Check it every so often; when it reaches desired thickness, put it in the fridge, and voila! Masses of delicious yoghurt for your yoghurt consuming masses.

8) Ice cream. Basic essential ingredients for home made (grown-up) ice cream are whipped cream and alcohol (limoncello, brandy, whiskey) as anti-freeze. The rest- ie flavourings etc, is up to your imagination.

Of course sometimes things are made accidentally: Sim once made butter whilst attempting to whip cream. Many's the time we've made cheese *ahem*. Also the children like to grow mushrooms in glasses and mugs in their rooms.

All in all, this is a very rewarding venture, and something which I'm proud to be able to pass on to my children as my parents and grandparents passed it to me.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I am mostly being good today, and trying to find translation work. Part of my new years resolutions, that I don't actually make, included pulling my finger out and ensuring that I generated some income every month. So that's what I'm doing. Woman of my word, I am. *harrumph*

Well, after twothree nights of 4-5 hours' sleep (it's 4am, and I've been up for an hour already), and only a few hours after seeing off the last of our 28 overnight guests, the important questions remain:

1) Why does the most garrulous, intoxicated person, and who talks the most rot, insist on retiring last?
2) Where is the second duck feather pillow? Should one frisk one's guests as they leave, and count the silver?
3) Why has an orphaned stripey sock been left? Is it in exchange for the pillow?
4) Why is it so easy to fall in love with one's nephews and nieces even if you barely know them?
5) Is my brother really turning into a carbon copy of our father?
6) Why does my mother write 'Best Wishes' in a birthday card to me? Is she a) Going senile, or b) Insane, or c) Hates me, or d) Forgot that she's known me for 38 years? Answers to that one on a postcard signed off smoochily please.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Oh, and apparently, it's National De-lurking Week. Please don't be put off by the fact that I am crabby. Leave a comment, say hello. Please.

It's Purple Birthday weekend, the mad 48 hours in wich both I and the Boff turn < another year older > to something utterly ancient. We shall be celebrating in the usual fashion by inviting over a number of friends, some old, some new, getting quite blotto, and talking rot into the wee small hours before collapsing into a heap somewhere in the house.

Since I shall be busy for the next few days cooking salmons and beef, and am in a mood anyway, expect no updates until Monday. Toodle-oo.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hen made up a new verb this evening: to flink, meaing to project ink at one's deskmate; a contraction of fling and ink.

Sim rang from school a few minutes ago to say that he's passed the 13+ he took yesterday (clearly, it's highly efficient school, to have marked the papers so quickly.) It seems that the headteacher rings the candidates' schools first, and the parents next.
Sim has another 13+ to take on the 26th of January, and we should then have a clearer idea of where we'll be sending our darling first-born next September.

As if dental work on Monday weren't enough, it looks as though Simn sat a 13+ yesterday with a dental abcess, and will require dental work on Wednesday as well. I've left a message with his dentist that the gum around the tooth is now inflamed and dark red, which does not sound too good to me.

There's a fine line between doing just enough to allow children to grow, and being neglectful, and I fear I may have crossed it this time.

Monday, January 09, 2006

One of the lovely things about living in Devon is to be able to do all the things people come on holiday to do, but in much smaller doses. For instance, this afternoon saw us hotfoot down to the coast at Budleigh Salterton, a rather sweet former fishing village/open-air older folks' home.

We went down to show the boy's rather bizarre dentition to our new dentist. He is a splendid dentist, whom we were able to get appointments with at relatively short notice mainly because the average age of his clientele is around 77, and this is high flu season. He had filled the large cavity in Sim's molar in a jiffy, prophesying that the molar would hang on only for another another few months anyway. The enamel is clapped out- baby teeth are really only supposed to last a little less time than this one has.

At the same time, we began the process to tame the poor shark-child's unruly front row, in which canines and incisors are visbly jostling for space, and falling over each other in the fruitless attempt. He has two surplus canines for a start, giving a startlingly realistic effect when he makes his Orc face.

This dentist does not remove teeth. He gave it up about thirty years ago, he told me, in same tones one might confess to former alcoholism.

It may not be as cheap, this process, as it would on the good ole NHS, but if the child keeps all his teeth, it's fine by me.

And afterwards, fish and chips on the near-empty beach, watching the tide turn and the dog be pounded by the waves, followed by a wade through the pebbly beach. Lovely.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

So tell me, what happened to yesterday? (or tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, for that matter?)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I'm all upset now. I just got the breakdown of my MA marks in the post, and discovered that I didn't do at all well at my long dissertation, at 59%, whereas every other module came out at between 68 and 74%. I spent such a very long time on it too, far more proportionally than I did on 2 of the other papers (one at least was done, dare I say it, in just a few days at the start of January 2005, when I realised I was supposed to hand two pieces of work at the start of the second term.) I don't understand why I did so badly on the long paper, and shall have to find out. *grump*

It's health week here. 

Yesterday I had to take Dill to the doctor for the first time in her life because her earache had kept her awake all night. The doctor prescribed penicillin, which decided to hold onto to see if it improved by itself. It did, and seems to have got better entirely to the extent that she is about to go to a friend's house.

Yesterday evening, Sim announced that he could not think straight because of his toothache. "Huh?" quoth I. "What toothache?". So I looked in his mouth, and found the biggest, baddest looking cavity ever seen in a first world infant molar. "God, Sim" I said. "You might have mentioned it!" "I did!" he replied indignantly. "Yes", I quipped, "but you could have told me it had subsequently turned into the world's largest intra-bucal caving system."

*wearily reaches for telephone directory in attempt to find decent dentist.*

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Man sues council after he craps his pants. Yes, we are really are barking in this country.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

My child has a beautiful blue fibreglass cast on her wrist, to prevent, as the consultant cheerfully put it, "her bone from breaking completely if she falls on it again". At the moment, she has a greenstick Colles fracture near the end of the radius -the larger forearm bone - and has to keep the cast for two weeks, since one week has already gone by since the fall. The good news is that it should heal with no complications whatsoever.

I guess we've just been lucky again: in the last two years, we've had two potentially nasty breaks in the family bone patrimony, and both have turned out to be the very mildest they could have been.

I must go to boil chickens now.

Monday, January 02, 2006

My mouse is moribund.

Its little light flickers on and off pathetically. It sometimes fails to register a click, a double click or a thump. I need to wake it by bashing it fiercely against the table.

Is two and a half old for a mouse?

Bad, bad mother 

The Christmas socks? Yess, I gave them to her. How could I foresee that she'd run into the pigsty of her brother's room in her stockinged feet, and creep out again, pausing only in the room long enough to slip over ?

Well, how was I supposed to know it was broken? The hand was warm, and she could still move all the fingers.

There was the question of the pain on moving the hand- well that could just as easily have been a sprain or bad bruising. I mean, who wants to clog up A & E on Christmas Day with a bruised wrist?

The limited rotation of the hand was a little worrying, but might also have been a sprain. She seemed fine, and even in the car on the way to the hospital, kept saying it was fine, that it really didn't hurt all that much, so couldn't be a break.

So we waited a week before taking her to be x-rayed! She didn't want to break her personal record of no hospital trips, not even to be born. That one's ruined now.

At least she got to open all her presents instead of waiting to have her wrist examined.

Hen is now the proud owner of a clunky emergency plaster, possibly to be replaced tomorrow by a funky blue fibreglass one at the fracture clinic.

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