Life, photos but not the universe

Not the house of plague after all.

Every so often one finds upon one’s person something that shouldn’t be there.  Then one looks it up on the internet – usually a mistake because a lot of the people who write stuff on the internet do it because they can’t get their problem sorted out and then a whole lot of other people chime in with more tales of despair and distress and however much you might suspect that they haven’t quite got their self diagnoses right it makes you feel mildly hypochondriac.  One of the the things I love about Google though is that whatever bizzarre combinations of words you type in, someone somewhere will have had something to say about it.  Could be a new internet game?  Typing in random word combinations and seeing what you get back.  That reminds me, when I was clearing out Barney’s email spam the other day I saw

Horse Sh….. An Exceptional entertaining experience.

Yes, well.  Little minds and all that.  Made me giggle.

So anyway I went to the doctor (just after going to the dentist – very brave) and I told her that the pea sized lump (you don’t want to know where) had turned into a walnut overnight and now it looked like bubonic plague.  She laughed politely, identified it as an infected sebaceous cyst, prodded and squeezed it with more enthusiasm than I found comfortable and prescribed antibiotics.  (I have to say, the prodding and squeezing were in fact a good thing.)   She suggested that I might do some prodding and squeezing of my own as well.  Um.  It’s a bit like reaching my toes.  I can do it but the effort can’t be sustained for long.  Oh well.  At least I don’t have any of the things I found on the internet last night.  Actually, I bet if we still had bubonic plague here (not that anyone on Google had thought of that) we’d just dose it with antibiotics and it would retreat quietly into the ranks of less-serious diseases like…. Flu? Chest infections?  Hmm.  Chicken pox!  Oh but you don’t treat that anyway.  Colds, ditto.  I give up.  Maybe I’ll remember some non-serious diseases later.  Of course Bubonic plague is still around somewhere in the world.  India?  China?  Can’t remember that either.  Hong Kong?  Oh no, that’s bird flu.  Very serious and impervious to antibiotics, of course.  Well more up to date than antibiotics anyway.

When I’d had enough of lumps, I idly began googling bubonic plague and only got as far as Bubo Bubo, the Eagle Owl.  Much more interesting and completely irrelevant.

Back at home, there was the problem of the dishwasher to consider.  It’s been cutting out the electricity.  This evening Barney pulled it out from the wall and tightened a hose clamp and then pushed it back and adjusted it’s position for good measure.  Pretty much on the same basis that you take the broken hoover to pieces and put it back together without doing anything to its innards and then it works.   We’ve done a little wash with no problems but I still feel a bit twitchy about doing a hot one.  I can’t exactly remember how long we’ve had it, it was a gift from Mr Youngest who makes bespoke kitchens and sometimes has unwanted items like cookers and dishwashers from kitchens which have been completely replaced by people with more money than sense.  Oh hark at me – don’t I sound stuffy today.  Must be all that prodding and drilling – my mouth still feels as if it’s got more teeth in than it should have.  I expect I’ll go back to normal after a week of antibiotics.  When I think about it, a new dishwasher isn’t nearly as urgent and desperate as a new washing machine would be.   I don’t mind doing a bit of washing up though I do absolutely love not having to, and having somewhere to dump it all when Barney has had a particularly creative session in the kitchen.

Sometimes, when I’ve read or heard something especially depressing or worrying about climate change, I run through the daily tasks I do and mentally eliminate all my lovely gadgets.   I conclude that when the crisis arrives, I will become even more of a slattern than I am now and all my dinners will be stew.  In fact probably no washing or cleaning will get done at all.  Then I think about stuff that is closer to my heart like central heating, the internet and my digital camera and I conclude that it wouldn’t matter about the slatternliness because I’ll have gone completely mad and frozen before anyone would have time to notice that my house was even more of a tip than it is now.  (I’m really not sure about those tenses but will it matter when the world becomes a cold graveyard for all things that require energy?).  And as for antibiotics?  Roll out the four horsemen**.

So today, I counted my blessings and also felt pleased that I’m not immediately going to die of any of the things I looked up on the internet last night.  And I felt sorry for those other people who looked up the same things and didn’t seem to realise that they should really go and see their doctor and get some antibiotics too.

And then I checked out some photos,

bridges within bridges


Moorings at the Anchor Inn (closed till Friday)


And foggy, the next morning


Twisty trees in a cutting


And the Cadbury Wharf where chocolate used to be loaded straight from the factory, onto boats.


Now I should do some stuff that I didn’t feel like doing yesterday.   See you tomorrow.

*Well I meant the modern four horsemen – war, famine, pestilence and death.  Apparently an older version has them as conquest, war, famine and death.  I don’t see why you’d need both war and conquest though.  When I looked them up in wikipedia I discovered that revelation 6:5-6 says of the black horseman and rider (generally believed to represent famine) ……..there before me was a black horse!  Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand.  Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”  Doesn’t sound much like famine to me, more as if someone inadvertantly cut and pasted their household budget while they were writing out revelations.   

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Time for a change

I mentioned the flu which I took on holiday with me.  What I didn’t take was a king sized sheet.  After many trips, Barney had finally given in and agreed to use the sausage shaped extension to our bed even though it’s a bit harder to get in and out of said bed when it’s wider (because the passageway, beside it, disappears).  Of course for the person next to the wall, it’s almost impossible to escape get out anyway but he always sleeps on the passage side so he wouldn’t know about that.  So because I forgot the big sheet we couldn’t extend the bed and on the first night I woke up with a cough that went on and on for ever and got quite fed up, since sitting up involves major contortions and struggles  in the confined space and flopping back exhaustedly brought the cough back.  So the next night I declared my intention of decamping to the living room bed.  “Shall we get a divorce?”  Barney asked.  I gave this ridiculous comment the attention it deserved and set myself up in the other bed quite comfortably thank you and apart from the continuing cough, slept fairly well there for the rest of the week.  But what with the cough and the resulting strained stomach muscles (quite painful) I came to a major decision (even more major than changing beds).

For some time now, I’ve been carrying around a small card, given to me by Youngest, who has given up smoking.  It has on it  (don’t laugh) the phone number of a hypnotherapist and the fact that the Youngests have both been a cigarette free zone for nearly a year after seeing him made me think this might be worth trying.   I’ve been procrastinating a bit.  I was going to phone him just before we went away but I lost the card.  I’ve found it again.

I’m going to phone the man now.

There.  Done it.  Booked for next Monday.

To be honest he didn’t really need to give me his sales pitch on the phone because I’d already decided that the results I’ve seen are worth paying out for – you wouldn’t believe how much the Youngests smoked before they stopped.

Thing is, I’ve stopped smoking before, for three and a half years and what made me go back to it was that it was bad for my health.  No, really.

But if I’m honest, what was really doing the damage was that I found the new improved taste of wine  so delightful (and it really was a revelation) that I took to having a glass or five at the times when I would previously have settled down for the evening with a half dozen cigarettes.  So enjoyable was it that the housekeeping bills which should have gone down since only one of us was smoking, went up (Barney liked my new taste in wine too).  And I won’t go into the details but far from leaping around like a young lamb with lungs full of fresh air, I got more and more tired and fat and generally sore and achy.  My teeth all tried to fall out.  I got ‘benign’ polyps on my tongue which caused me to look up the definition of benign.  And you wouldn’t believe how many colds I got, not to mention a permanent runny nose.  So Mr Hypno will have to auto-suggest a sensible and healthy alternative to cigs which isn’t alcohol or food!

I’m going to make a list of possible pleasures that I can indulge in instead!  Oh Yes!  I plan to be a new woman.  (He suggested excercise, sociableness and oh, something else that I already have or can’t do.  He’ll have to do better than that.)  Oh and I’d better ask him about the problems that, my hygenist, for instance, has told me I might have – yes, it really was the not-smoking that made my teeth try and escape.  And if the polyps come back I might just give up on the whole idea.

I wonder if I’m hypnotisable.  You don’t get a money back guarantee but you do get a free second dose if you revert within a year of the first visit.  He also offers treatment for eating disorders, public speaking, stress management, self esteem, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, bad habits, anger, IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome?  How on earth does that work?  I’ll have to ask.)  Bad habits though,  I’d like a cure for some of mine.  And public speaking – is that really a disorder?  Oh I’m being picky.  If it works it works and I’m not going to argue with that.  However, I reserve the right to join the smokers’ group outside at parties – as an ex, I’ll feel excluded if I can’t and I promise not to be boring about having lost the habit. And meanwhile, since time is short, I think I’ll have another cig.  And a glass of wine.   Oh and some photos.  Neither flu nor cough nor anything else stopped me from recording in minute detail every inch of bank and bridge that we encountered in between sleeping and eating.

‘The Narrows’ on the Staffs and Worcester canal


Autherly Junction


The Shropshire Union.


One of Thomas Telford’s deep cuttings


Approaching Brewood in the evening along an embankment


And moored there at night in another cutting.


Time for bed.  Got the dentist tomorrow so I’d better be up early.  Goodnight.

February 26, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Return of the wanderers

We’re back.  My word isn’t it cold!   Much colder at home than it was in the boat.  I took with me a mild version of Mrs Middle’s flu and came back with a huge cough so I’ve spent most of the last few days at home curled up in warm corners with a book.

The last two days on the boat were very cold indeed and we were glad of the odd lock for a bit of running around and jumping up and down.

We saw a few boatloads of very inexperienced boaters.  There was one family who beamed cheerfully at us while leaving paddles up at the wrong end (and didn’t seem to mind at all when I asked the slightly gormless teenage boy to drop the one on the far side of the lock) and then spent a complicated ten minutes trying to get past Barney, waiting with Farndon at the bank.  Mostly steering the wrong way because the boat changes direction so slowly that they couldn’t work out what they were doing wrong.  They’d been through three locks already so I can’t imagine how they’d managed so far.   A smallish girl got off with a tiny dog (Papillon?  Silky with big butterfly ears.) while they were doing this and stood around on the bank looking pleased with herself and also a bit confused while a young and excitable husky, tied to the tiller, jumped up and down and squawked in outrage around the feet of the Dad who was steering.  I do wonder how they ever got the little girl back on board.  Very pretty dogs anyway.

Then there was a the man who had the same trouble (it can be quite difficult leaving a lock when there’s a sharp bend just after it) and he spent a good few minutes jumping off, pushing the bow out and then running back to push the stern out so that the bow swayed inevitably back to the bank.  Then doing it all again.  It was a fairly long boat too so he probably got quite warm running backwards and forwards.  When I helped him through the lock he said “is there any sign of the teenage boy?”  So I imagined a single parent holiday and a sulky boy sleeping the day away and regretting ever coming on Dad’s boat!  Anyway we hung about a bit to make sure he didn’t actually succeed in pushing the boat right away from the bank at both ends but eventually he managed to get away without losing it.

I suppose we did many similar things long ago.  It’s hard to remember now.  To be honest, I still can’t easily remember which way to point the tiller in reverse.  It’s definitely not the way you’d expect.  But which way would you expect, given that steering a boat with a tiller is already the opposite to what seems normal on the road?  I think, in theory, the stern of the boat goes in the direction pointed by the end of the tiller.  I think.  Barney’s very good at it.

Oh, pictures.  I did take a few.

A very little boat bravely venturing among the big ones.



The two Japanese girls, obviously loving Barney.  He’s so photogenic.


And the boat with the husky at the back – this is not how I would choose to contain a large, excitable, young dog.


Penkridge moorings the first night


And the next morning



Isn’t everything brown in Winter.  Except when it’s in black and white of course.


I think I have to go shopping – and possibly take my cough to the doctor.  I do apologise for not visiting you all yet – it’s taking me days to get back into normal life.

I hope you’ve all been having a good week.

February 25, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Brewood to The Anchor Inn at Bridge 42 and back again.

The Anchor Inn was closed till Friday so we ate and drank and were merry on board!

Oh bother!  Half an hour ago I had a connection and now it’s gone.  Also, although I am connected to something, I have no signal.  How does that work?

We’ve had some fabulous weather.  Sunshine all day yesterday and a couple of hours of mist this morning with the sun glowing away up there and eventually breaking through.  Infuriatingly we were heading towards the sun so the best views, misty but coloured with early morning light, were only to be had by leaning round Barney at the back when he wasn’t needing to use the whole space for steering.

We’re on a Telford Canal – the Shropshire Union, and Telford was a man who liked to head straight for his chosen destination.  So, where another man might have followed the curves of the land and built locks where the contours refused to accommodate the cut, Mr Telford built embankments and dug cuttings.  Today we went through the only lock in 26 miles of canal which however strides above the Shropshire Plain on embankments a mile long and then plunges into cuttings which are deep enough to cut out most of the light until midday.  To some extent, it’s boring.  No locks, the slightest of curves, long stretches of straight-sided depths.  On the other hand you often see bridges within bridges and long, elegant lines, fringed with trees.  The light promises to bloom round the next corner and the promise is often better than you could hope.

Right.  It’s time to go to the Bridge Inn for dinner.  I have low hopes of the quality but it will definitely be food which is the main object.  Not much excercise as it’s just a few yards up the towpath.  And then, wonderfully, after a perfectly resonable meal, the bell ringers were practicing at Brewood Church.  A really nice end to the day.

Next day dawns cold and grey and without central heating.  Eventually it   transpires that this is because  the gas has run out.  Not a huge problem as we have a spare but it’ll be a while before everything warms up.  I’ve lit the stove which is an all or nothing affair.  Either it goes out (twice this morning) or it glows like the gates of hell and renders it necessary to strip down to underwear if you want to sit in here for more than five minutes.  Outside it’s like Hell froze over, damp and grey and icy winds.  But also high enough up to get a connection.  Woohoo!  Boating in February is GREAT!

And here is a copy of a spam I’ve just discovered.  Almost relevant.

I think Boiler is one of the most important object for our home to make it hot. I do agree that it helps us a lot as like our other stuffs but when it makes trouble then whole life is about having darkness. I face many time such problem because of my boiler.  From JJ at Boiler installation, obviously : )   I particularly love “then whole life is about having darkness”.  Such depth of feeling is somehow not reassuring about JJ’s competency at fixing boilers.

Oops, the Captain wants a hot drink with rum in it.  I don’t blame him.  Got to go.

February 20, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

From Great Haywood to Brewood.

That’s pronounced Brewed.  So why not spell it like that?

Ok, so tonight  the iphone isn’t offering me a connection. I know it’s done it before but now the netbook can’t find it.  We’ve travelled a few miles and done six locks.  Barney did one on his own and very smoothly too.  However, the paddle gear was in very good condition (easy to wind up and not a strain on the elbows or back) and I did quite a few myself – well nearly by myself.  Actually at the first one there was a couple following us so they came and helped with the lock rather than waiting and doing nothing.  At the next one, there was a boat going the other way so we helped each other  and at the one after that, there was a couple with two Japanese students in tow who were very keen to wind paddles up and open and shut lock gates so that the students could take photos of them.  After a bit, I offered to use the Japanese girls’ camera to take a photo of them, beaming delightedly.  Then there was a couple with a picnic who were very keen to help and chat and to tell me all about their canal holidays.  And that leaves one.  Which I did.

Ooh!  Today I have internet.  And would you believe, two days of sunshine?  Amazing.   All the locks have been easy so far but we’ve just turned onto the Shropshire Union Canal so they may be harder to manage.  Barney may yet have to do it all by himself.

Oops, all my batteries are about to run out.  Phone and Netbook – I’d better vanish and charge them.

February 17, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Troubled waters?

Well they might be.  Or they might be frozen?  Or misty perhaps.

As long as they’re not rain-splashed I don’t mind.

Barney tells me, that as there will only be the two of us this time out on the boat, that he is planning to do the locks single-handed.  If he can manage this feat and if he enjoys it I shall be very happy and I’ll take pictures of him hurling ropes and leaping locks and make him lots of tea and soup.  (Ooh that reminds me, must pack the bottle of rum in case it’s really cold.)

So that’s sorted.  Barney has planned our trip down to the last inch of mooring space and the last minute of pub opening times so I shan’t have to worry about dinners – unless we get held up – I wonder if he’s checked out winter stoppages!  One year we took the children on a hire boat and the Basingstoke canal was closed at both ends of the summit pound.  We  cruised up and down it twice.  No locks at all.  The children were bored out of their minds and refused to go on a narrow boat with us ever again. Now, however, they seem offended that we haven’t invited them on ours – though really, I don’t see why they couldn’t just ask.

Oh – short pause to check that the neighbours are still ok to keep an eye and feed the cat.  They’ll be in and out practically all day as she has three feeds these days.

Probably I won’t post much as narrow boats are mostly a signal free area.  I’ve never had much luck posting from the iphone anyway and although it can act as a wifi thingie, it usually chooses not to.  To be fair, being inside a long, thin, floating, metal box might have something to do with it.

More red floods from Somerset – are those sheep mad?  they’ll be swept away and dyed red if they’re not careful.


Passing another train at the station


People on the other train taking pics of us taking pics of them


A promising curve ahead and no one sticking their heads out


All obliterated by steam as we went under the footbridge.  I suppose that’s why all the heads vanished


So I spent some time after that getting smuts out of my eyes and cleaning the camera lens.  Life’s like that.

I’d better pack myself off to bed.  If Barney wants to do six locks single handed we’ll need to be off early if we want to get any dinner tomorrow night.

Have a lovely week – see you soon : )

February 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Romance of Steam

Well it sounds good doesn’t it?  I’m afraid two days of steady drizzle put out the flame of romance though it added a nostalgic haze to our train ride.

The Birthday Boy enjoyed it anyway.


The Norton Manor, about to change ends so it’s facing the right way to take us to Minehead.


Wimpishly, we abandoned the snowdrops altogether.  It was raining when we arrived at Bishops Lydeard on Saturday evening and continued to do so more or less all Sunday.  We decided that trudging for three hours through muddy woods in the rain was just silly when we could be sitting on a steamy warm train and eating West Country pasties (No, not Cornish I was told).  So we did that instead.   The B&B was nice and warm and as the owners were away this weekend we were looked after by Ian, the house-sitter.  He was very helpful and I’m sure it wasn’t his fault that the breakfast was – not of a high quality.  It was the sausage that distressed Barney most, a sad, thin, pale little creature that had surely never seen a pig or a breadcrumb and not an awful lot of grill either.  I was a bit depressed by the coffee myself.  I don’t think there was any in the water.  Never mind.  The train had a buffet with quite un-British Rail-like food.

This was a good thing as we didn’t much fancy the twenty minute walk to Dunster even though it looked quite romantic (and distantly indistinct)


with it’s castle and church and Folly huddled against the Brendan Hills.  And  five minutes walking up the main street of Minehead was enough to send us back to the cosy train, past the impressively bleak and not completely deserted beach.


I whiled away the journey by opening the windows of the train doors, grabbing shots of passing scenery and quickly shutting the windows again to avoid chilling other passengers.  (Even with the connecting doors closed there might have been a bit of a draught).  I also spent a good deal of time trying to get a photo of the engine as we went round bends.


Great fun but not at all successful – partly because there were others trying to do the same thing.  I got quite a few blurred photos of rows of head with cameras attached.  Of course, when the train bent the other way, all the heads vanished and so did the engine.  And I completely failed to get what would have been funny photo of the year – as we approached a cottage beside the railway I saw what looked like a full size shop-window dummy in the garden, dressed in a bikini.  An impressively detailed and lifelike model I thought.  And what an odd thing to have in your garden.  As we got closer, I saw that the model was holding a camera and so lifelike was it that it raised the camera and took a photo of the train.  Then it grinned at its companion, lounging in a garden chair and wearing a pair of er, briefs?  Swimming trunks?  and sat down.  Um.  In a bikini, in the garden, in February, in the pouring rain.  I would never make a reporting photographer.  I just gawped in a amazement.

You’ll just have to settle for the red, flooded river.  (That lovely West Country red soil)



After our train ride, we were earlier than we would have been if we’d done the snowdrops so we detoured through the Cheddar Gorge which was closed halfway up due to floods so we detoured back down again and were quite glad to get home eventually.  I have to say the Cheddar Gorge is an astounding thing to find among the gently hillocky Mendips.  Dramatic, razor edged cliffs crowd the tiny zig-zag roadway and tower threateningly.  It’s as if someone had absentmindedly dropped a bit of Norwegian Fjord in a gap between the hills.  Fabulous, even in a downpour.  Of course, on a rainy February day when it’s closed, it is also almost deserted which is quite different from a sunny summer’s day, when the crowds heave, ant-like and give an extra sense of scale.  One day I’m going back there at sunset* – on a sunny day – but out of season.

Oh and I forgot, we had a lovely dinner on Saturday night at the Blue Ball in Triscombe.  It’s shame it was dark as it’s snuggled up into the Quantocks and looks like a beautiful little nook.  Certainly a lovely old building – old roof beams and sloping ceilings and the food was excellent.  Less expensive than several other local eating places and more interesting.

Ooh!  Got to go and get a present for Youngest Youngest.  And wrapping paper and stuff! More trains tomorrow.**

* Because it runs roughly Eastwards into the hills and early in the morning  it would mostly be in deep shadow.  A  bit Valley of the Condors!

**More of the same train anyway.

February 12, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Pear-shaped day

It all began last night (that’s last week) when we found that not only was friend John unable to fix the dripping taps without new parts but also, after he’d gone, there was no hot water coming out of the hot taps.  Ok, just a forgotten lever on a valve.  Hot water then came out of all except the kitchen taps.  Ok, probably an airbubble then?  No, apparently not.

So this morning he turned up bright and early and I had just enough time to turn out, not very bright but willing.

There was stuff blocking the tap.  All day I’ve been wondering where this stuff came from and whether it would counteract the hygeine aspects of rinsing with extremely hot water.  Then I discovered that the washing machine was saying EO3 and wouldn’t open up to me.  Also that the email I sent to Franke with a photo of our extremely old kitchen tap hadn’t arrived so they hadn’t phoned me to tell me which part I needed to order.

There were phone calls to Franke and Hoover and eventually the tap parts were ordered and the costs of getting a washing machine engineer out (£119 for labour and callout but free parts) were weighed against getting our own local man to fix it (£35 for callout and one hour’s labour plus parts)   It all depends on the parts really.  Fortunately the helpful woman I spoke to, said that EO3 sounded like a blockage so we agreed to leave the engineer hanging and I would investigate the filter.  This involved a lot of newspaper and mopping and wringing until I remembered the little grey tube which can be used to drain the tub into a convenient receptacle and which is carefully and deeply concealed behind the big white stopper which lets all the water run out onto the floor.  It’s a bit like getting the spout out of a wine box.  Whichever way you do it you get liquid – sooner or later, more or less.  I had all of that.   And yes.  There was a five p in the filter.  And now the washing machine is working and the utility room floor is clean which is a sort of bonus.  Meanwhile, I missed getting to the Post Office depot to collect Barney’s parcel before they closed.

I’m still not sure if Mr and Mrs Middle and Little Middle are coming to stay tonight – nether are they.

I’ve run out of wrapping paper.  The dinner for tonight needs to simmer for 2 hours in advance so I can’t go out till it’s done that.  Some time between the simmering and the phone calls, the cat foolishly left her tail right underneath where I was about to put my foot (which I wasn’t watching at the time) and when she squawked in outrage, I wobbled and the other foot landed on one of hers.  I fell over* and she ran away .   We were deeply displeased with each other for several minutes but I don’t think  either of us was seriously hurt.

Goodness!  I can hardly restrain myself whenever Barney is within earshot.  The surprise is killing me!!!***

Wow!  I just swallowed a last morsel of my glass of wine and experienced a fleeting taste sensation which was most definitely ….. ? …. cherries?  Yes.  I think it was cherries, on a summer’s day.   I got the whole image of the cherry and the bite and the sunshine!  Wow!  That doesn’t happen often.  I really must go and get another glass just in case it does.


Small pause there for a weekend away.


More of that after dinner.

*The inevitable result of trying to lift both feet off the floor at once.**

**This reminds me that Eldest, aged 18 months, used to take great delight in lifting both his feet off the floor and landing with a satisfying thump on his well padded backside.  His face was a picture the first time he did this without a nappy on.

***Two posts ago.  Barney’s birthday.

February 10, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Crossed off

Today I had a medium sized list of things to do which included a number of conversations I needed to have.

Two of them were with the owners of cottages which Barney has recently thatched because he’d like photos on the website.  They took quite a while because the owners were both nice and chatty people – the photos of one took a while too because as I passed one window, I saw the other owner of the cottage, obviously putting on socks (and who knows what else might have followed)  in his dining room and I felt it would be polite to move round to the other side of the cottage till he’d finished – unfortunately it’s a long thin cottage so I could still see him through the window on the other side.

Then there was next door, about the cat when we go away on the steam train.  Naturally the conversation covered leeks and road works and BT and phone scams (I’ll be going into those in much more detail soon) and birds and mice and squirrels and the cat came in as an aside as I was about to leave.

Then I had three phone conversations which were not on my list;  I really ought to add that every day – deal with scammers.  That only took 3 x not very long.

Later I phoned Youngest about Youngest Youngest’s birthday present.  Nothing at all to do with the colour of a tiger’s nose or the number of people you might see at the Taj Mahal aor how the Himalayas could be made into a story mountain. I texted photos of the above to her and eventually learnt what Youngest Youngest would like for his birthday.

And all I crossed out on my list was

Photos roofs

Cat/next door

Phone Youngest

Took most of the afternoon.  That wasn’t very satisfactory, though I enjoyed the conversations.  And there was a small detour on the way home from the cottages.






The road works have settled down a bit.  A few weeks ago, we were told that they were going to run a pipe from the reservoir at Calcot to our little one at Cold Ash – something to do with conserving water in the River Kennet, which is probably good, though I worry about the water users in Reading.  If we in Newbury have depleted the Kennet, a fair sized river,  what will happen to them (who I assume also drink from the Kennet as it runs through Reading) when we start on their water reserves?*  Sorry Tim.

Anyway, they’re going to close various smallish roads which are in between us and the rest of civilisation while they run pipes up and down them.  At the same time, obviously, the Electricity board are going to install big new cables along the sort of mainish road that links Hermitage to Newbury.  So last week, one night, I arrived at the tail end of a ten minute traffic jam waiting for a set of four-way lights in the middle of Hermitage and thought I’ll just nip thorough the back way, past the end of the pipe-line works and lo and behold, there was a pick-up truck parked across the nippy bit with its hazard lights flashing.  Which left either a three mile detour along tiny roads with deep muddy ruts in all the passing places or back to the traffic lights in the village plus a queue to get into it.  Impossible to work out which would be more time and fuel consuming.  I was a bit cross.

Anyway, the four way bit has now moved along and is just a regular single track delay (I can’t see how they’re going to make it last six weeks).  The problem is that all this interference with normal travelling is blocking all the sensible routes which I would like to use to get to Oxford when I’m baby minding and I really do have to get there on time otherwise the nursery will call the social services!**  (So I’m told).  So I will have to leave ever so early just to be sure I can get there in time wherever they’ve moved the closures.  I feel as if we’re under siege.

And tomorrow, we have to get to Swindon quite early, so in case they’ve moved the lights again and are now causing a three-way hold-up, we have to leave very, very early.  Really, I can’t see how things can go on like this.  Eventually, all the roads to everywhere will be blocked with temporary lights and then the sea will rise and flood all the traffic jams and we’ll all be sorry we didn’t switch off our TVs.

Oh well.  Just in case the world ends tomorrow or all the traffic lights and pipes fall into a big hole and we’re cut off forever, I’ve had a haircut and bought some new shoes.  Very snazzy white trainers with pink trimmings and laces.  Actually, I think the trimmings are cerise!  Sounds good anyway.   And tomorrow our friend is going to come and fix the dripping taps so as well as being unwontedly smart I shall no longer be driven batty by drippings and dribblings.  However, he’s coming very early in the morning so I’d better go to bed.

*Well not literally – that would be very unpleasant what with all the boats going through it and the drainage and run-offs and stuff.

**I collect the Gorgeous Babe from her nursery at 1.oo and it seems if the person collecting the child is more than five minutes late, they have to call social services.  Of course I could phone Mrs Middle and she could collect GB but that wouldn’t endear her to the newspaper she reports for.  It’s bound to happen eventually because the A34  is infamous for its snarl-ups and accidents – as I know much too well  and within a few minutes of a hold-up there’s a several mile tail-back.

February 7, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Grandparents in charge

Or something like that.

Gorgeous Babe is staying the night again – this is the night for which last time was a dry run and this time Mum and Dad are not returning till tomorrow lunchtime.  The little VIP has consumed a whole tin of baked beans, a whole packet of grapes, half a nectarine and a chocolate biscuit and has been pink and delicious in the bath and cuddly and warm afterwards and has gone to sleep without any protests at all.  Barney is cooking risotto and was amused, earlier, to see me with a bottle of vermouth in one hand and a pink plastic cup of milk in the other.  Such are the indicators of a house with a child in it.

And next morning she woke up with Granddad and chose an egg for breakfast and was generally delightful all morning until Mum and Dad appeared which seemed to please her quite a lot but not so much that GM and GD felt unwanted.  And when it was nearly time to go home, she was asked what was best about staying with us and she said “I like lemons”.  Which would have been very satisfactory if she’d had any lemons while she was staying but as it was, proved a complete non-sequiteur.  Now they’ve gone, we’ve both collapsed in heaps with books and cups of tea.  I feel as if I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards and look a bit like it too as I’ve had my hair done several times and now have an assortment of hair clips and bands and other stuff arranged in informal style all over my head.  We also had egg and spoon races round the dining room (rubber eggs for juggling, not real ones – though now I come to think of it there are two hard-boiled eggs in the fridge.)  It is quite amazing how the floor and table and chairs and sofa and bathroom all look quite empty now, when a few hours ago they all looked as though an army had moved in (a small pink army with lots of paper, pens and shoes).  Sorry, I was much too busy to take photos, what with the hair and the eggs and stories and trying to get CBeebies to work in hope of getting a ten minute break from the whole experience.   I simply can’t remember how I did it before when there were three of them.

Oh, I’d better put the keyboard away.   That used up all of ten minutes and we had a great time pressing all the buttons – she just liked pressing them and I was trying to remember what they did.  We had a great time boogieing to the preset rhythms.

Sunset from last month.  Leftover floods below and advance warning of snow above.


So that’s one weekend that has been well used.  And soon there will be another one.  I’ve daringly arranged a surprise for Barney’s birthday and I’m quite excited about it.  Several months ago I happened to be looking at  the Somerset Levels Steam Railway (I’ve no idea why) and noticed that one of the events they run, will be on his birthday.  A cautiously phrased inquiry revealed that he’s never been on this railway!  And the trip includes a visit to ‘Snowdrop Valley’ (ours are just coming out so they ought to be ready by the birthday).  Could have been designed just for us!  Of course it might rain which will make the snowdrops unapproachable but the Steam will be fun anyway.  All he knows is he can’t arrange anything else that weekend.  Don’t tell him anything!  Oh and I’ve just remembered there’s a canal down there somewhere too – I need to google it and see if we can at least cross it!

Oh and I’d better look for somewhere to eat!  We’ll be hungry by the time we get there!

February 4, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments