Life, photos but not the universe


Firstly, it’s a virtue and that’s got to be good and is, of course, its own reward.

Secondly, it gives you time to consider.  Can be very good since the rewards may include new ideas, new information and not making people miserable.

Thirdly, there are times when it’s all you have at your disposal.  Not necessarily good but better than having an apoplexy while you’re waiting, arguing or struggling with the inevitable.

Fourthly, it can be a tool for getting what you want.  Perhaps this is bad, to use a virtue for your own ends?  Well I don’t think I mind being bad if it gets me where I want to be.

Of course there are times when impatience, though not a virtue, can be useful in all the other ways above mentioned although the risk of having an apoplexy mustn’t be forgotten (I really don’t want one of those).


Just thinking.

This is nice.  Rosina Wachtenmeister (see, thinking, sort of)

Anyway, I’m packing.  This requires neither patience nor impatience but much thought.  Suppose, for instance we have a really hot warm not very cold day.   Suppose all my five, very warm woollies get wet?  Is low sodium the same as reduced salt? (Mr Marvellous on a low salt? sodium? diet).   How much room is there for clothes/camera gear/boots?  What were they thinking of when they furnished the boat with carpets?????  (Summery days and gin and tonic on the deck I suppose – barefoot boating).

So I’ll be away for a while.  As usual, the neighbours will be feeding the cat and watching over stuff and various children will be dropping in and out while we are shivering on the banks of the canal.  But I’m sure it’ll be warm in the boat?

Keep warm wherever you are.

See you soon


January 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Rant. YELL! (No offence taken if you ignore most of this)

I feel as if I’m being given the runaround.

To start with there’s YELL – a very aptly named company since contact with it and all its minions have been known to cause people to utter inarticulate, sputtering cries of outrage.  Myself, I think it was designed, or is organised by, an octopus.  It has more ignorant left hands than it’s right hands could find in the kitchen sink, never mind an ink-blackened sea of invoices, sales people, personal advisors, copy checkers, area directories, account names, account numbers……I could go on but I won’t. (Much) (Oh well, probably I will)

I won’t go into details a) because they’re boring and b) because they’re so many and so inextricably entwined, confused and multifarious that explaining them would lead me to sound a little deranged.  I’ll just say it was bad enough before they decided to go online.  Now it’s worse.

As far as running around goes, I don’t think they do it on purpose.  They just haven’t got their left, right and other hands synchronised.  Thus their customers have to run around a lot.

I don’t really think Charlie is intentionally doing it either.  Just, before Christmas, we brought him a small fault on the new car to be fixed under the warranty which was about to run out.  “Don’t worry about that” he said – “I’ll get it fixed under the terms of the warranty even if it’s a bit late.  But not just now – the week after Christmas?”  That was kind of him wasn’t it?

“Or the week after New Year?

“Or tomorrow?

“Or Monday morning?

“How about the day after…

“Next week – definitely….

“Tomorrow.  I’ll give you a ring in the morning.  I’ve just found out why the man who can fix it is never here – he’s got ‘flu.  But he’s definitely got to come in tomorrow as I’ve got two or three jobs he needs to do as well as yours.

It’s a classic case of ‘your problem not mine’ but Charlie is a nice man, we know him a bit socially and he’s effectively extended our warranty to cover the absence of his mechanic so we sort of owe him.

Tomorrow.  Definitely.  Hmm.

Tomorrow came and with it , no phone call.  And I just couldn’t be bothered.

Tomorow evening came and with it a new offering from YELL.  Very nice it looked too but, unfortunately, wrong.

Now this, I have decided to bother with as Barney has gone along way past the end of his tether and into a new phase of inarticulate sputtering and fatalistic bafflement.  While I am not particularly interested in challenges, I do like a puzzle and YELL provides puzzles aplenty.

So I’ve worked out what part of the problem is and I’ve decided to phone them on Monday and speak  plainly.  I mean that – there’s no need for agression or argument, just understanding.  In other words, I have briefly gained understanding and I need to pass it on to someone who can make use of it to our benefit. So I sent them an email explaining what I had uncovered and telling them they needed to sort it out and that I’d phone on Monday so we could do so.

I have to say I yearned to write all kinds of quite unacceptable smart-ass comments.  But I deleted the smart-ass bits.  I am good.   However, I did say “if this isn’t clear I would like to speak to someone more senior”.

Then I fantasised about saying, for instance, “Oh Hello (insert christian name and fulsomely friendly tones) and how are you today this is Mrs Exasperated Customer from the (insert very long company name, spoken too quickly to be understood thus intimating that you don’t really need to know who I am and on a rising inflection??  thus suggesting that I will be happy to have a response but rushing on before any response could be squeezed in??) we’re actually offering today a chance for your business only to discover new clarity and simplicity with regard to our accounts?? your business out of all the other directory businesses has been selected for this offer because you exactly fit the requirements for it I’m happy to be able to suggest that at no charge?? to us you can rewrite the advert you have now cocked up three times in a row and ensure that the proofs of the correct advert are sent to the correct account holder?? with the correct account number and even better that the proofs can be approved and entered in this year’s directory before it’s too late??

Oh, that would be such fun.  But I won’t say all that.  It would almost certainly be counter productive.  I know this because when I receive these phone calls they are counter productive.  I always say no.  And it probably wouldn’t be instructive either since most of the people who work in big companies know perfectly well* that no one likes this kind of call and I’m most unlikely, anyway, to be speaking to the kind of person who is responsible for the  company policy that trains their staff to make those calls .

Ok.  It’s Monday and I am tackling the octopus.  So far, apart from a brief run in with an automated switchboard lady who couldn’t understand my pronunciation of ‘Rebecca’, it’s going well.  It needs to, as the books are being printed today.  So, here I am, with the last movement of Bach’s Concerto for two violins in one ear, making a cup of coffee and a cig with the hand which isn’t full of Bach.  Just now I even managed to confirm a couple of details with Barney with the mobile phone and the other ear.  All we need is for Rebecca to sucessfully check that the ‘line counter’ number leads callers back to us and give the printing hands of the octopus the correct proof – unearthed by me from a previous proof which was buried among our enormous pile of paper marked YELL.

We are now doing Bach for the second time.  (I wish they’d use the whole concerto).  Well if Rebecca can fix this during a couple of performances of one movement of a violin concerto** when it’s taken us 4 months, 15 or 20 phone calls and several dozen emails to get to the point when we can explain to Yell what it is they should be doing with their own paperwork, she’ll deserve promotion!


…. ?

Well I hope we’ve got it right.  I hope I’ve got it right.  I hope they send the right bill to the right place.  I do hope the right advert appears in the two books that are, as I write, being printed with information supplied by me.  Oo-er!  I’m feeling simultaneously extremely smug and hugely apprehensive.***

Well.  Shall I deal with Charlie now?  At least he’s not an octopus.****

*Don’t they?  Surely they must?

**It ran to 4 performances.  Could be worse.

***Ah.  Billing addresses.  Interchanged and incorrect.

***Alas!  I found Charlie and his man with a blue van and got them together with my car and it’s new part.  They attempted to fit the part.  Guess what.  It was the wrong part.  Back to square *!!*#!*!* one.

(Update:  Wednesday:  Charlie in one ear, YELL in the other.  Shall I tie the two phones together and leave them to torture each other?  I could have a shower or read a book or just go out in the rain?)

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I promised you a baby :)

And here she is.  I’m afraid I really haven’t quite got the hang of the little camera yet.

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

two down, one to go

Things to which to look forward, that is.

Yesterday we had our first gig with our new concertina player.  And it went really well.  She’s learnt enough of our tunes to play for a whole evening and she played really well.  And I must say, so did the rest of us.  And that in spite of  missing Jan (who used to know how fast any dance should go* and had a flawless sense of timing) and also in spite of the discovery, when we arrived, that I didn’t have my music glasses with me.  Barney went home to fetch them and after searching the desk, the kitchen and the music room, drove over them where they’d fallen on the drive when we first left.  Amazingly, they were intact inside the pieces of crushed plastic case and though bent, still functioned, if a bit dizzily.

Then today, we went to New Gorgeous Babe’s christening.  It was held at the church where Mr and Mrs Middle got married (a good feeling of continuity there) and the Godparents duly rejected the Devil in ringing tones.

I had a moment of quiet pleasure when we arrived.  Being apostate – is that the word?***  I’ll look it up in a minute – we missed the preceding Mass and as we crept into the back of the church I could clearly hear my sister’s voice rising, not above but among, the voices of the choir and congregation.  She is a lovely singer and could have been a pro if she hadn’t been busy raising seven children (yes, Roman Catholic) two of whom are now pro singers themselves and one of whom is a rising opera star.  At least, so I’m told : )****

It was just nice to hear her sing.

Afterwards we went to an Italian restaurant and the, now holy, baby was passed around a happy crowd of friends and family so that Mrs Middle could eat pizza.  It was all very pleasant.  And the food was delicious too.

And the thing yet to come is of course our first week on Farndon.  It’s time we started gathering up our warm, waterproof clothing and thinking about large breakfasts and lots and lots of soup.

Oh oops.  I pressed publish instead of save draft.  Well I’ll add photos later.  There weren’t many, I was too busy.

*Very important because if we get the speed wrong, the dancers either get bored or fall over.**

**Really!  We once had a dancer fall right into the middle of us with a resounding crash.  He was a bit over the limit though.

***yes, definitely.  Both of us.

****Sophie Bevan.  If she is a rising star I’m proud to drop her name.  If not I’m still proud because she’s a terrific singer anyway.

January 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Mud and Stars

As in the philosophical statement

Two men looked through prison bars

One saw  mud and the other saw stars.

Of course there may have been other people doing their own version of looking.  After all some men might have looked through the bars and seen two prisoners.  And some might just have seen bars. Then again there might have been people looking at brickwork, rust or shiny metal and yet others seeing a cleaning task or a job well done.  And the cleaning task might have been the metaphorical one of cleaning the world of idiots who see stars and pessimists who see mud or the more pragmatic one of cleaning windows.  Or bars.*

Anyway, t’s easy for me.  I’m looking out of a window and seeing water.

Now why on earth did I start this post?  Possibly because it was raining a lot?

I’ve spent a good deal of time sitting in a car  in the rain waiting for traffic, people, phone calls, all that kind of thing.  What to do?

No-brainer that one since I got  my tiny camera.  Actually I might have had the DSLR with me as well but it’s always good to have an opportunity to try and remember how a new camera works without using the manual.   Of course that’s true of the DSLR too.

Speaking of water, a little while ago, I mentioned a friend, Mr Marvellous Mills,  who had been rushed to hospital. Since then, it seems, joyfully, they’ve decided it’s probably not cancer nor is he about to die.  However, his condition is both rare and a mystery and may or may not improve – they don’t know a lot about it.  He’s much recovered but every so often has to have kidney dialysis sessions.  If the problem settles down one way, that will be occasional or even unnecessary. If it settles down the other way, it’ll be regular and frequent.

So, in case it happens that he can’t ever go on holiday again, he’s going to be on our first holiday on ‘our’ boat.  (I still can’t quite get my head round that – we have a [1/12th of] a boat?  Wow!).  Since we have no idea how soon his condition may or may not settle, there’s some urgency about possible  last holidays so we’re going off on Farndon for the first time, very soon.  When we first planned this, Farndon was firmly enclosed in three inches of ice.  It’s now melted (the ice, not Farndon) and Farndon is  in the middle of its winter maintenance.  (Her winter maintenance.  She is definitely a boat after all!).

Right.  So we are going off on our first trip in our 1/12th of a narrow-boat, in mid-winter.

Well we’ll see.  When I think about it, I realise that I’m really looking forward to our first trip on Farndon even if there are howling gales and blizzards and ice and storms.  All of which I enjoy enormously (though preferably from indoors) and she has a wood burning stove and central heating and an excellent shower so we should be able to keep warm even if we can’t go anywhere.  If it’s rain, notsomuch, (as Mel would say).  If you’re floating already you don’t need extra water!  Honest!

Anyway, tonight, Barney and our friend John are cooking curry for us and Mr and Mrs Marvellous.  I cleaned the kitchen for them before they started, then left, hastily, before I was co-opted as sous chef to two chefs – one experienced and one apprenticed.

Before leaving I glanced in.  They seem quite calm and happy.  I don’t yet see the washing up and clearing away and neither any finished curries.  All I see, just now, is two men and a the kitchen surrounded by and heaped with bowls of ingredients and saucepans.  It’s a clear night.  I shall go and look at stars – just in case.

*I wonder what would happen if children were taught elementary philosophy at primary school?   While their minds are still flexible enough to consider the shape of a question (one-sided, two-sided, many sided, round, linear?)  And come to think of it, elementary logic would be a useful  acquisition too.  One which is in very short supply in the adult world!

January 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Dinner time

In the past three days, I’ve indulged in a cooking orgy.

I’ve boiled and pressed an oxtongue, I’ve made steak and kidney pudding and jam tarts.  I’ve made moussaka  (properly with the custardy mixture and aubergines, lovingly sliced, salted and drained.  No potatoes or cheese).  I must be hungry.   Also I must be feeling an urge to go back to some kind of culinary roots but not the vegetable kind. I think tomorrow I might make lemon cake.

These are the things my Mother knew how to make.  But she was like me in the kitchen.  Passing on knowledge would have been fine but not if it meant having someone around watching and asking questions and doing things wrong.  I think I was allowed to learn gravy making just because it was useful to have a small person adding the juices and stirring while other more interesting things happened elsewhere in the kitchen.  I’m afraid my children suffered the same exclusion though Barney would happily have had all three of them around him, stirring, measuring and arguing.  Never mind, his mother was the perfect cookery teacher, allowing small people on stools to make cakes and pastry and all kinds of delectable stuff.  The children were lucky that their Grandma was a brilliant pastry cook and did a mean cup cake. I think her great grandchildren will also be lucky : )

Anyway, much of this nostalgic cooking came to an abrupt halt tonight. not with a bang but with the smell of burning.  Concerned by this unappetising aroma, I went to the kitchen and, somewhat owlishly, observed a couple of globules of shiny, silvery something, poised on the pressure cooker lid.  My hand was already turning off the heat and moving the pot but my mind was thinking “that looks like mercury but it probably isn’t  actually it’s probably aluminium since that’s what the pressure cooker is made of or is it stainless steel Oh My God the pressure cooker is melting…!!!!!“.

The diagnosis is catastrophic pressure cooker failure.  Probably the rubber band.  Amazingly the steak and kidney pudding is intact inside the melted plastic bowl, inside the overheated pressure cooker*.  It’s just a question of  cutting open the plastic bowl and extracting the pudding before they become, inextricably, one.  (Already, the plastic has melded itself onto the PC trivet.)  The  kitchen scissors and the stanley knife prove effective and I think we will have dinner tonight.  (Though it won’t be a neat little upside-down mound, more a heap of mingled steak, kidney and pastry with, amazingly, quite a lot of gravy.  A tribute to the strength of my suet crust I think but perhaps not to its lightness)

While I was manhandling the pudding, the knife and the bowl, Barney rang from the pub to say, how’s it going?

Well there wasn’t an explosion I said but I think we have to accept that the pressure cooker has failed.  Probably two or three pints of beer were sufficient cushioning against the threat of disaster because he said Oh well it’s good there wasn’t an explosion. (I could almost hear the bated breath of his companions in the background)

Yes.  I think we can have dinner tonight.  I don’t think there are any bits of melted pressure cooker in the pudding. But we’d better be careful.  There was an occasion when Barney’s Mum somehow manged to break the  casserole in which the dinner had been cooked and being shortsighted, served up a very nice casserole with fragments of shattered pyrex in it. And I also remember a dinner that Mum left in the Aga which suddenly got very hot**.  When we returned, the kitchen was full of black smoke and the dinner was a long way beyond help with a stanley knife and a pair of kitchen scissors.

Happy memories : )

*I could see it through the holes in the plastic.

**I didn’t know Agas could do that.  I thought what they usually did was go out and get very cold.

January 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

If music be the food…..

I remember driving up a narrow twisty lane a few years ago, listening intently to a Vivaldi concerto which I hoped to be able to play for a grade 6 violin exam.

I can’t remember which concerto it was or who was* playing on the CD but I do remember how the sheer deliciousness of the sound he made suddenly seemed to flow around my tongue and down my throat in a way which caused me to say out loud, “Ooh!  Honey and wine!”**  The children in the back of the car didn’t seem at all phased by this though I don’t think they realised that my comment had anything to do with the music.

This was such a delightful sensation that I found myself considering other musicians I knew and thinking “well Kate sounds like running water and the scent of primroses”.  After a bit, I noticed that whoever it was I was listening to sounded a lot like my fiddle teacher though her sound had something a little bit savoury added to it.

Anyway, I couldn’t conjure up any taste sensations when I listened to other violinists (though Vengarov came complete with compelling images of sparkling brown eyes) so I decided I probably don’t have synaesthesia.  I definitely don’t hear music in colour.  Oh except that Dave Burland has a dark brown voice but I think someone else made that comparison and I’ve just remembered it.  Also, his voice has been compared to chocolate but  myself, I think it’s more like liquid caramel which means that in the song ‘Sweet Thames Flow Softly’, he can just about carry off the lines

kissed her once again at Wapping,

(Flow, sweet river, flow)

after that there was no stopping

(Sweet Thames flow softly)

Much better anyway, than we were able to when we sang this song years ago.  Our performance was rarely helped by the fact that the first time we sang it, Alan, our bass singer, misread ‘creeping fog’ for ‘creeping joy’.  After that it was impossible ever to take it seriously again.

I have just learnt that the original poem by Ewan McColl is one that will be displayed on the London Underground. I must say, I think ‘Whalesong’, brought to my attention by the wonderful English Inukshuk is considerably better but perhaps I should attempt to take it seriously after all.

*Pinchas Zuckerman

**It was unfiltered, slightly grainy honey with a warm toasty flavour and the wine was a Viognier with an apricot aroma.

January 15, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Places that are not like home – 2

Remember ‘Marrakesh Express‘?

Our Moroccan holiday was definitely prompted by Barney’s nostalgia for the whole hippy, peace, love, pot thing.  Of course we had to go on the cheapest possible package holiday as we didn’t have months in which to hitchhike or travel by exotic local transport, only a week.  So we stayed at a place called Camp Africa* in little local style, whitewashed, thatched, mud huts and ate and drank occasionally at the exorbitantly expensive camp restaurant.  This place was patronised by local well-off Moroccan families as well as the richer tourists and one of my favourite memories was the time when we, and two holiday friends, smuggled in our own cheap wine from the village and ordered a single plate of chips and sat nibbling our chips, hiding our wine from the waiters and watching a huge family of Moroccans eating a huge banquet at the next table.  The amount of food they ordered was astonishing and when they left, the amount of food remaining on the table was pretty astonishing too.  We muttered a bit about the waste and the prices and the absence of anyone clearing up.  After a couple of minutes, inevitably, a look went round our table and we leapt up, as one, and savaged the left-overs.  It was much nicer than chips!

Naturally we went on tours to the Atlas Mountains, Fez, Marrakesh itself and Tangier (of nightclub fame).  And we swam in the sea near the camp and attempted to learn how to surf.  This was memorable because, as it was the coldest summer for many years in Morocco (oddly enough it was one of the hottest, back home), my hands got quite cold in the sea and my fingers shrank and my wedding ring, a charming 9ct red-gold band with lovely engravings of ivy leaves on it, slipped off.  Gone for ever in spite of enthusiastic searching underwater by the whole group of would be surfers.

We didn’t do a camel ride as they were very expensive – and looking at the camels, or more to the point, listening to and smelling them,  it was hard to feel very deprived about this.  Their teeth alone – often shown – left nothing to the imagination and offered nothing to be desired.  Big, yellow teeth they were, garnished with long streams of evil looking saliva revealed with prehensile sneers whenever they made those astonishingly loud, gurgling belly noises, finished off with resounding chewing and slurping sounds.  Should I mention, in fairness, that they also had amazingly large, long lashed, dark, limpid eyes?  Camels are extraordinary creatures.

Fez, the place of palaces and golden gates and delightful small boys eager to be your guide.  We learnt some basic Arabic from one of these (which I’ve forgotten completely) and taught him some even more basic English.  We were shown the golden (Brass?  Copper? very shiny anyway) gates of a famous palace and bought a brass tray “made by the same craftsman who made those very gates”.  “Really?  How long have you had this tray”?  Well at this point the language problem muddied the waters of communication somewhat and we bought it anyway.  It was very nice and we still have it.   We were also led down tiny alleyways, festooned with multi-coloured wool skeins and smelling to the high heavens which were hazy with the heat and dust.  And we had a trip round the walls surrounding the tanneries.  The smells there must have gone a good deal further than heaven and I seem to remember being told that the workers lived in their own little ghetto because the smell, like the black dust in coal miners’ skins, never left them.  It can’t have been a fun job.

We also visited a Bedouin market.  Lots of camels there and donkeys too!  And slightly scary Bedouins.  Quiet, unlike the jolly, heaving mayhem of the big market, it was a rather intimidating experience and we felt decidedly like intruders at a private event.  (I think we probably were).  In those days, I wasn’t at all aware that the rest of the world did politics.  It didn’t really occur to me that as well as being gullible foreigners, we were lazy, sweaty infidels who didn’t dress decently and didn’t know how to behave.  Nonetheless, I could sense a certain disdain and even disapproval in the air.  And we didn’t even have the decency to buy anything there.

I think Marrakesh was where the great market could be found.  And that is indeed a place to remember.  The noise was astonishing, the colours were fabulously garish and there was brass gleaming everywhere.  The smell of roasting, stewing, simmering deliciousness was overwhelming and the square heaved with people wearing djellabas and wonderful white smiles in dark, creased faces.  We were really, truly offered several small sisters and a couple of brothers for sale.  We were besieged by vendors of brass, pottery, tagine dishes, woollen djelaba, cotton djellaba, nylon (?) djelaba (“genuine Moroccan wool”!!) small brass figurines, large brass figurines, pot pipes, water pipes, hookahs and round about there…. we encountered an old university acquaintance of Barney’s.

Barney was delighted to meet an old friend and one who might be able to sell us something really local.  Something we had been warned about with extreme solemnity (and in particular that Moroccan gaols awaited any foreigner who so much as glanced at this particular kind of local produce).  Barney saw an old acquiantance.  I saw a stranger with nails like camels’ teeth and a moustache which recalled camel tails, who had somehow made a living for several years in this city where sisters and brothers (well I know they probably weren’t really sisters or brothers – on the other hand does it make a difference) were sold to strangers and where people sold pot to foreigners and then sold their information to the police.  I saw danger and fortunately, Barney hadn’t ever really been a good friend of this guy and didn’t altogether trust him.

Well, we accepted an invitation to drink mint tea with him and they talked about old times for a bit and inevitably, he made us an offer which, fortunately, due to our financial position, Barney was easily able to refuse.  I breathed a sigh of relief and was very glad to get back to the known dangers of thieves and vendors.

This was particularly alarming because I roll my own cigarettes and also roll my own filters with bits of card.  Naively I assumed that so did people all over the world.  Not, apparently there.  Whenever I rolled up, I would be observed with interest and close attention by all the locals and on one occasion, a man came over to us and took my cigarette, smelt it and thoroughly investigated it’s every detail.  Then he asked me to make one for him and smoked a little of it.  Then he lost interest in us.  I suppose he was either police or an informer so it  was just as well we only had tobacco to smoke .  After that I took to rolling cigarettes in our hut or room before going out and bought a nice little brass and leather cigarette case to keep them in.

On the evening of the camp barbecue, Barney had managed to sunburn his shoulders quite comprehensively during the day (the compleat tourist) and then managed to burn his feet in the embers of the barbecue fire in the sand.  Fortunately one of the other tourists was a doctor.  It seemed the camp didn’t have one of its own, or it was his day off or the nearest one was in Tangier – something like that.  That young man saved our holiday by producing some magical cream which  actually worked within a couple of days.

Oh and one thing nobody warned us about was the arrival at Tangier airport.  I’m told it’s still the same.  What happens is, you’re told that we’ll be landing any minute and please fasten etc, etc.  Then you look out of the windows expecting to see a city or an airport and instead, you see the sea and a line of sand dunes, getting extremely close, very quickly.  You brake anxiously with your feet and lean as far back in your seat as possible as the plane skims above the dunes, missing them by about 30 feet(?) and wonder how often planes crash here.   Then lo and behold (and breathe again), there is an airport, hidden just behind the dunes!  It’s an exciting way to arrive only equaled by the bus trip up into the Atlas Mountains where it’s being generous to say there are roads and understating to say there are precipices beside them.  It’s quite generous to say there are drivers too as what they mostly seem to be doing is smoking, talking and waving to passers by.  Watching the road was definitely low on the list of driver priorities except when another bus came round a bend that we were occupying. Tightly closed tourist eyes were the order of the day.

Well, after nearly 40 years I remember all that!  It doesn’t actually seem to have been the most blissful holiday ever – I blame my youth and possibly a little bit, the shortage of cash that made it necessary to scavenge in order to enjoy the local food.  But then I always was a greedy brat and at least I remember the camels.  (how could one ever forget camels?)  And then thinking a bit more, I realise that we never got to talk to local people much.  If we hadn’t been in the camp behind walls we might have been able to wander more and might have found Morocco more friendly.  We might even have learnt enough arabic to communicate from time to time instead of just wandering about, gawping and wishing we knew what to ask for and who to ask.

And I’d quite forgotten that we went to see Moulay Idris, some Roman ruins and a huge number of beautiful and timelessly oriental courts, universities and places of worship.  The depths of my shallowness in those days make me feel that I must now be relatively discerning and appreciative : )

I have to make dinner and bread.  I have to feed the cat.  I have to mediate between my spouse and the internet.

I shall abandon Morocco.  It didn’t broaden my mind a lot, clearly, but I’m pretty sure it was a wonderful place.

*I looked it up and was enchanted to find this little conversation on Asilah forums.


January 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pluggery and Phonehem (or mayphone?*)

I’m disconnected!

Not entirely a new experience and indeed, neither is the experience that led to it.

There’s a fault on the line.  Or maybe there’s a fault on our phone equipment.  If it’s the one, we get it fixed for free.  If it’s the other we have to pay lots of ££££££s for a callout and for work done and probably for equipment too.

I really almost wish I hadn’t tried to answer the phone this morning.

I’m quite handy with plugs and things so when I started with BT’s online fault fix-it-yourself page I was quite hopeful that I’d be able to establish whether the fault was outside the house or inside (In spite of the tutorial showing two nicely spoken young things who gave me simple instructions but alternated like a pair of mismatched twins when giving their instructions).

What worries me is that the fault is very peculiar.  The phone acts as though it hasn’t been cut off when you hang up.  So all following calls come accompanied by a ghostly, echoing “bingley trill bingley trill please hang up” and are then cut off.  Later, after checking that I could in fact call my mobile, I put the phone down and went for a little think.  When I came back it was wailing – it hadn’t hung up.  In fact the only way to hang up is to unplug it from the line box.  Got to be the other side of the wall surely?  But what a peculiar fault.

Then it turns out that although we rent the physical line from BT, we have to get the engineer organised through our provider who made me very unhappy at first by saying there was nobody to take my call.  Then they answered but after a lengthy wait said the line test had failed.  (what does that mean???)  Then they said, as Barney’s is the only name on the account, he has to repeat this process “so that he can be made aware that there may be charges”.  I offered to pay the charges and to make him aware of them.  Uh Uh.  It has to be him.  Predictably, he wasn’t very happy about that, especially as the place he’s currently working is a bit of a grey hole where mobile signal is concerned and the best chance of an uninterrupted call is up on the cold, windy roof.

After several hours of waiting for a call or an engineer we finally we learn our fate.  It’s the exchange which is broken and we should be fixed by 5pm tomorrow.  (Only around 33 hours without a phone then)

So I needn’t have unplugged and replugged every phone appliance in the house, nor taken the cord phone next door to test it nor spent a couple of hours negotiating the maze that is BT’s online fix-it-yourself page. Still it’s satisfying that I correctly diagnosed the fault as not being in here.

Although one of the things I couldn’t do today was take advantage of a fabulously dramatic sky I did get out a couple of days ago at sunset.

Well we have a band practice tonight so we don’t want any phone calls anyway.  And I’m off to visit Mrs Middle and Little Middle tomorrow so I won’t care then either.  So all in all, it could have come at a worse time.

May all your phones be working : )   (If you want them to be)


*Or even maynotphone.  Phonehem doesn’t work really because mayhem is all one word meaning, roughly, injury to a person.  Mayphone doesn’t work because it sounds much too cheerful.  Never mind.  I’m sure you get the general drift.

January 11, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Champagne and drizzle

The year started well with explosions, a bonfire and lanterns drifting into the sky.

There was champagne and food as well and what’s more, by dint of grabbing our share before anyone else (except the small children) got a look in we actually got to try all of it before the locusts finished off the rest.  (It’s a curious thing but most of our friends are in fact locusts, heavily disguised as people ^~^.  It’s nice to have so many friends).  A very good and bright beginning for 2011.

On Friday, Barney set off in drizzle, returned after a deluge and then set off again when the sky brightened a little.  As soon as he’d gone it gloomed again and then it became misty with fine drizzle.  But today the sun came out for quite a long time and being able to find my way round the house again (It can be incredibly gloomy in winter) I decided to do a bit of a sort out upstairs.  Well really, to sort out the heaps of clothes.  But I was distracted by little piles of jewelery and dust and crumpled scarves. Much more satisfying to deal with because they all have places in which to go and will look nice and cheerful when done.  And because I am a magpie* and love to play with bright glittery things.  So I was busy folding scarves (I have a splendid collection of  many coloured silks and cottons and a few saris which are just lovely to handle) and I noticed a car arriving.

Nice – visitors.  Nice visitors too it turned out.  A couple who got to know each other on Flickr through Mrs Middle’s photos and in a roundabout way, through us.  Very sadly they will shortly be leaving the country to live in Luxemburg and though we will undoubtedly keep in touch we will miss them sorely.  However, they hadn’t just dropped in for a chat about that – Oh no!  It turns out they had been shopping for an engagement ring!**  Wow!  What lovely news.  We are very happy and honoured to be among the first to know and as it happened there was at least one bottle of champagne left over from NYE.  It was a rather merry afternoon : )

Later, after finishing the sorting of scarves and jewellery, I sorted out some unlabelled albums on Barney’s itunes library which was not only very clever of me but also quite satisfying.  Altogether I feel that quite a lot of things have slipped into good places. And tomorrow it promises to be sunny.

2011 is doing well.

Hope you are too.


*All those locusts should watch out.

**and for those who are interested in this kind of thing, a very beautiful one : )

January 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments