Well I don’t know. I can’t remember how March came in but it’s going to have to get a wobble on if it’s going to go out like a lamb, or even a sheep. I wouldn’t be complaining so much if I didn’t have to stay in and do stuff all morning and then go out and do stuff which will leave very little time for the camera. Oh well.
Anyway, my internet is ‘dropping off’ more than it should – every time I get halfway through a comment or a post, it’s gone. So please excuse my extremely patchy virtual presence – I sort of hope it’s something to do with the road works or the weather, otherwise it might be something to do with the new (ish) router which would be a real pain!
Yes, as predicted by Rog, the heating oil arrived long before the end of the ten or even five day periods* mentioned last post, thus saving us £240 and a worst scenario of up to 14 days frozen in the Berkshire Wilderness. The morning of its arrival the Berkshire Wilderness was covered in wet snow as well so when the oil tanker pulled up outside our gate (causing many car drivers to squeeze and creep their way nervously round it, cursing a lot) I was really quite excited. Unfortunately, the reset button on our boiler isn’t at all easily accessible (whatever Barney says) so I just had to go out and leave all that oil sitting, unused in the tank. To be fair, if it hadn’t been a bit urgent, the going out, I would have crawled about on the kitchen floor willingly and prized the cover off the boiler even though it is obscured by the dishwasher which is too heavy for me to move and causes Barney much stress and trouble when he does it.
Whatever. We are now, gradually, warming up. Which makes me realise how much heat must be stored in the walls and roof of a thick old building like this. It takes a good day and a half for all that heat to seep away if the heating is all off and then another day and a half, when it’s turned back on, to soak back in and settle. The difference between having the chill kept at bay and being cosy is also quite remarkable. A couple of generations ago, people were very lucky indeed if they could rely on being cosy-warm at home. In winter, they wore night caps and bed socks because at night all the heat went away. During the day they wore something warm and thick because all the fires and stoves did was to heat parts of their houses. I vividly recall sitting in a cold room close to the gas fire and holding my chilled clothes up to warm before putting them on (it must be remembered that I was a total wimp even aged five but even so – most children today would expect their clothes to be just a trifle cooler than body heat when they get ready for school first thing in the morning). Mum and Dad were well off by most standards – we certainly never had ice on the inside of the windows as Mr Youngest did as a child – but our house wasn’t warm in the morning. How times have changed – for most of us in the Western World anyway.
Ah well, It’s darker at night than outside as my Grandmother used to say. I have never known if this was a slightly creative translation from an ancient dutch proverb or whether there really is such a saying in Holland (one could believe anything of the Dutch). I ran it through google translate and it came back unaltered. Never mind, I read it as “there are things in my philosophy, Horatio for which yours just just doesn’t have the budget**. ”
Meanwhile, the sun came out. (It’s not that I can’t take photos without sunshine, honest. It’s just that when there is light to play with, they come out better.)
So I went looking for a pond and found flooded fields. Good enough. In fact after days and days of cold and wet, a bit of sunset and water was very nice indeed.
*After three days, in fact.
** Central heating for instance.
Well, as I prophesied, within a fortnight of ditching the weed I have a cold. Pfffftht.
And after a promising few days of weather so mild that I was fishing out cotton tops and linen trousers, followed by a couple of days so cold that ice seemed to be blowing through the house every time the cat flap opened, it’s settled back to wet, chilly and not very nice. In fact right now a wet, gloopy sort of snow is falling.
And just to enhance the experience of living in an oldish, draughty house in winter, I let the central heating oil run out. Oh ok, not for any reason. Just foolishness! The gauge on the tank was always odd – not obviously related to the contents at all and recently it seems to have stopped registering any changes at all so we checked the level of oil by putting a stick through the top of the tank. And as the tank is cylindrical when it’s gets below half, the level drops faster than when it’s above half. And of course we’ve been using a bit more in the last few months. So although it looked quite healthy when I last checked it, it’s been emptying faster and faster since then and suddenly it was all gone. Idiot!
Never mind, as this is an old house, it is designed to help its occupants withstand cold and winter and all that, so we have two wood fires and fortunately an electric immersion heater for the water as well as the oil fired boiler. Though as John, our helpful friend pointed out, it’s only when the boiler stops working that you realise the immersion heater has too. Just a couple of unwashed days until he was able to fix that little problem for us. And then in the attic rooms, there are electric wall heaters and in Barney’s stamp room there’s an electric fan heater as well because of the peculiar properties of the insulation up there.*
Anyway. More oil has been ordered. However, there’s a surcharge if we ask for it to be delivered within five days instead of ten. Almost, we decided to pay it and then we thought actually, £240 is too much. After all, people lived without central heating for centuries. In fact, when we moved into this house we did! We can do it for ten days. Oh and look! The snow has stopped and the sun has come out.
The day after the two very very cold days, I went off on an expedition – since it was only very cold.** Some time ago I noticed a rocky outcrop opposite Silbury Hill across the A4 (that’s Silbury Hill – the rocky outcrop is behind me somewhere)
and when I looked it up I discovered that it is the West Kennet Long Barrow. I’m not sure why I thought a freezing day with a howling gale would be good for trudging up an exposed hillside but I did it anyway. The barrow was strongly reminiscent of Waylands Smithy
and definitely worth visiting, though by the time I’d got to the top of the hill I was too cold to bend double and wrestle my way inside – if that was even possible. Another day maybe? There was a tree at the bottom of the hill which I liked so much I almost decided not to bother with the barrow at all.
Well apart from the weather, the hills and the heating, we’ve turned 39. Our wedding anniversary was the day before Mothers’ Day so we got visits from the girls – and I even got an early Mothers’ day wish from Eldest as I had to contact him about something totally unrelated.
Now I have to build up the fire so it will stay in overnight. And make plans for tomorrow. I hope you are all keeping warm : )
*There’s a mysterious, carpet level draught that sweeps across the attic rooms. The source of it cannot be identified and no amount of muffling and stuffing of corners or cupboard doors will stop it.
**And one of the advantages of driving is that you can get really quite hot in the car – especially if you don’t have to keep the window open to let smoke out!
Isn’t it funny how those that don’t do a thing can always think of ways that it could be done better. I imagine this was behind the practice of making apprentices sweep floors before they were allowed to learn how to make cups of tea. And then, even if they never became a woodcarver or a blacksmith, at least they’d know what improvements could, or more relevantly could not, be made to brooms and floor sweeping techniques.
Last night, I spent a happy hour or so
playing paying Barney’s corporation tax online. It was only after I’d spent half an hour trying to find the link through which to pay that he showed me the form which listed the ways in which you could pay and directly through the .gov site wasn’t one of them.
Why don’t they make it easier to pay by doing this or that? he asked.
Oh, why don’t you learn to do it yourself? I didn’t ask.
Well earlier he did say, you ought to tell me how to do this in case you couldn’t one day and then I’d have to and I have no idea how. So I told him his password for starters and he said why on earth did you choose that word????
Because it’s obscure and people can’t easily guess it, I offered.
But I couldn’t guess it!
No you have to learn it. Oh well, look, it’s hidden in this corner under a stone marked very secret and important. (Well, no it isn’t of course).
We ploughed on through the bank site and paid the bill.
It’s a bit of a performance isn’t it? he said disapprovingly. (ditto, the first paragraph re criticism)
Yes well, that’s so that just anyone who might be a fraud or a thief can’t do all this. Yes I know even just us who are legitimate is having a little trouble but that’s better than anyone else being able to do it.
The dinosaur yawned and went off to make dinner. I do worry sometimes about the security and integrity of all our online business stuff being in my hands but I make it as obscure and unintuitive as I can. Then I struggle to remember where and how, exactly, I disguised or concealed the vital information that we need this time.
It’s curious that the decidedly right brained one of us does all this IT♦ while the left brained one looks on in horror and bemusement and can only remember a single password. You wouldn’t think a tendency towards seeing pictures in everything and following ideas along random trails would better fit a person to follow the supposedly organised results of programmers’ work than being good at numbers and being able to remember huge numbers of facts in precise detail would you? Especially if you tried to follow that sentence. Sorry, I’m a trifle distracted at the moment.
I’m definitely one of those people who does it all by repetition, recognition and practice (I’m quite confident about the tax bill now we’ve done it half a dozen times). I’m completely thrown if, as happened this morning, clicking on a much used link (blog dashboard) produces an unexpected result (some stuff about wordpress hot blogs and latest news). Outraged in fact. On the other hand, when I got an irritating cold call just now and discovered, afterwards, that there appears to be no facility on the iPhone to block specific numbers, I creatively found a way round it. I now have a contact called UNWANTED with a ringtone that sounds like the thumbs down for Juke Box Jury. (Remember that?) If I get more cold callers I can just add their number to that contact. Probably no one unwanted will ever ring me on the iPhone again.
Meanwhile, I’m having a lot of trouble fitting four antibiotic tablets into the day. The problem is that I have to have them a minimum of one hour before eating and/or two hours after eating. (Or is it the other way round?) I get confused about which numbers of hours I’ve done and this evening, confused the non-eating hour with the after eating two and had a packet of crisps. Really not good at numbers or time, me, I wish I could just take them all at once. Oh well it’s not rocket science is it. By the time I’ve finished the course I’ll have it all organised.
And anyway, being a picture person, not a numbers person, I’ll just throw some in.
As I said the other day, there is a castle there
Later I could even see it through the trees
And later still, in all it’s glory
It’s a very nicely placed castle. And although most of this post is at least a week old and has been changed in places to protect – er, well it’s been changed anyway, the castle remains just as it has been for the last century or two. Now I really must stop trying to think and listen to the radio – sorry.
♦And it occurs to me that I’m doing it all in a rather right brained way. I expect a proper computer person would use one of those random password generator programmes. My methods are a bit like the person who keeps all their cash under the mattress.♦♦
♦♦Actually, I often feel like doing just that.
So Mr Hypno came, late, went to the wrong house and after I trotted up the road and brought him back, brought in his carrier bags of equipment. I made him a cup of tea. We sat down and he began to explain how the hypnosis was going to be done and what I needed to do. Then we put on our earphones and started off on the real business. It was probably unfortunate that he didn’t speak very distinctly. Also, I found it exasperating that my eyes weren’t in the least bit heavy and it required a lot of concentration to keep them shut. And when he asked me to count backwards from 500 while ignoring what he was saying to me I got quite confused. And I did think, several times, as I’d been warned would happen both by Mr Hypno and the Youngests, this hypnosis isn’t happening at all. It’s a waste of – he called it time but I was thinking money! And commitment.
Ok so when he did the final “now I’m going to count to three and snap my fingers (and I really do think he might have had the decency to learn how to do this instead of saying “snap” since he did it lots of times.) and then you’ll come out and it’ll all be good” (no he didn’t say that last bit, I was feeling irritated about the pretend snapping and I didn’t pay attention) I was already thinking ooh I could do with a fag. Since I’d been promised no cravings it was disappointing to feel almost exactly the amount of craving I’d expect after two hours of abstinence and hard concentration. He took away my leftover tobacco while I wondered if the completely unaltered readiness/desire for a fag would go away or dissipate or something. He also sat around talking for half an hour at least while I remembered wistfully that a cig is a wonderful way to escape from a bore. (It’s also a pain when you want one and you’re with someone really interesting but life’s like that).
After he’d gone I had to rush a bit to get some shopping. I have to say I was feeling a bit ratty, since I was still feeling quite keen to have a cig. And I know lots of people get over it with will power but I’d just paid quite a lot of money to avoid having to get over it at all. Absolutely no cravings was what the Youngests said. Not even the slightest interest in having a cigarette. Anyway, I’ve told everyone I’m not smoking any more and I can’t just say it didn’t work properly, I’d look a complete fool wouldn’t I. So I didn’t do any sneaky tobacco shopping and I didn’t follow Barney around to sniff any stray smoke he might leave in the air and I got on with dinner.
Well it’s bed time now and perhaps, as long as I don’t think about it too much, if at all, it’s ok. I dimly recall water being mentioned as an alternative for cravings. I’m keeping a glass handy.
I’m not thinking about it Ok? Because if I give in and have one, I can get a free re-run and I really don’t want to spend another tedious and mentally exhausting two hours trying to keep my eyes shut and not to argue inside my head. Good word craving isn’t it. If you’ve had them (for whatever reason) you immediately understand completely what we mean. If you haven’t then you can gaze upon us who have, in blissful ignorance and polite misunderstanding. Just, if you ever accidentally get addicted or pregnant, you’ll suddenly get the picture. Be warned. Having said that, I don’t remember feeling any desperate cravings when I was pregnant, though I did realise I must be pregnant with the second one when I noticed that I had just eaten six oranges in fifteen minutes without noticing that I was doing it. The thing about cravings, I suppose , is that you only notice that you’ve got them if you aren’t able to satisfy them.
However, I did wake up and get up extremely early this morning and was rewarded by sunshine and mist. I can only assume that the early sunrise and the non-existent cravings combined to wake me and stir me into movement. Probably I’m imagining these non-existent cravings anyway.
I happen to know there’s a real castle up there somewhere
A folly to be going on with
Folly. There’s a word to conjure with.
I’m off. Got to catch up on this morning’s earliness. Thank you for all your kind thoughts, just wish I could produce a more positive result. Grrrrumble. Muttter. And so on.
Mr Hypno rang me last week to say he’s got roadworks outside his consulting room so could he come over here instead as the hammering and drilling would be unhelpful to hypnosis. This morning I had to ring him to say we’ve got roadworks too, blocking the road to our house! They are down the road a bit though so he’ll just need to do a detour to get here.
We went to the Youngests’ for lunch yesterday and had a lovely time. I asked Youngest if she thought I’d be safe with him coming here and she said “Oh yes, he’s extremely weird but he’s perfectly alright”. Um! And then we wondered what he’d use to replace the bit of masking tape he has on his consulting room ceiling for you to stare at while he’s hypnotising. If he wants to stick one on our ceiling he’ll have to climb on a chair unless he’s very tall.
Well, I’m on my third cig of the day and I think I’ll have another coffee as well. There’s been a sort of fatalistic thing going on during the last few days – I might as well smoke as much as I like since in a few days I won’t be doing it anymore – but annoyingly, I don’t seem to be wanting to smoke much more than I usually do. I only managed to squeeze an extra four in yesterday and the day before it was two less than usual. For some years now I’ve been smoking approximately thirteen a day, I know this because I roll my own and I use record cards to make a filter-cum-roach to stop the end collapsing. One record card produces exactly and neatly, thirteen cigarette ends. The trouble I’ve had stopping Barney from tearing it up the wrong way so that it doesn’t come out right, when he borrows mine or rolls one for me! I will enjoy losing several of these little fusses that come with smoking though I will miss the peaceful rolling ritual. On the other hand I will gain ten minutes whenever I’m going on a long journey, usually spent rolling three or four cigs for the road and that’s not usually peaceful as I’m always on the verge of being late.
I shall give Barney all my gubbins except the tobacco pouch which I love because it’s so neat and soft and nice to use. I’ll have to put something else in it – some of the little bits of stuff in my bag? Or camera cards? And I might keep one cigarette lighter because you never know when you’re going to need a flame! (lighting the stove on the boat? Gas igniter broken, that sort of thing). Oh and the cigarette case! I’ll have to use that for something, it’s so neat and pretty and shiny!
Anyway, I’d better hoover and tidy! And have a shower and prepare myself for my new life (and the house for Mr Hypno – his office may be ramshackle, according to Youngest and Mr Youngest but I don’t want to be worrying about the mess when he’s trying to get me to think? not think? about more important things).
Oh and some pictures. An unusually unfriendly and unhelpful boatyard reflects well. There’s no justice.
Children at play – no, the ones around the bridge not the grown-up ones on the boat.
Ok, this is just weird. Long ago, there was a telegraph line which followed the canal – intimately. After transport and communications were rearranged, this was left behind.
Now I have to um, whatever. Pace up and down a bit.
See you soon.
I’ve no idea why we used to say this a lot about Nutmeg when he was our dog. He was a very good dog.
When Eldest was young, he used that deodorant which it seems most young men use. Lynx. It’s strong stuff and sometimes on the way to school I preferred to freeze with all the windows open rather than be confined with the Lynx in the car. Once a week I give a lift to a young man who also uses Lynx or something like it, and sometimes I have to open the windows and smoke as well. He doesn’t seem to mind. I suppose the good thing about Lynx is that it doesn’t subtly change according to the skin of the user. It always and unmistakably smells of itself.
Anyway, a while ago I noticed that whenever I went into our local charity shops (all nine of them) there was a reminder in the air of teenage boy, freshly sprayed and ready to go out. Distracting when trying to imagine going out myself in some elegant little number which clearly once belonged to a rich (female) person. Eventually I saw one of the staff, spraying the clothes with Febreeze, ready to hang out in the shop. So charity shops use something that smells of freshly dressed teenage boys (notice, I don’t say freshly washed) to er, overpower their goods for the public. I’m sure this isn’t a good sales tactic. I mean you always wash the stuff before wearing it anyway (unless it smells of Chanel No 5*) and then again to remove lingering traces of Febreeze (like Lynx it has great staying power). When we came home from a holiday and found that the cat had managed to conceal something unmentionable in a place that couldn’t be reached (without moving out first) I briefly considered using a can of Febreeze (which I believe Eldest had left behind in his bedroom). I decided that curry and cigarettes were a preferable cover up.
Moving right along from such npleasantness, I was well entertained at the dentist’s surgery the other day. In the first place, it didn’t hurt. Even after twenty odd years of high speed drills and miraculously instant painkillers I still can’t quite believe it’s all over so quickly, almost before I’d noticed he was doing it. Meanwhile, his assistant was exclaiming delightedly over some photos he’d downloaded and printed for her, from the internet, of her two sons at a gambling event. Some big poker club. Really. I don’t know – if I’d been given photos of any of my children at a gambling event I’d be climbing the walls, firstly about them going to big gambling clubs at all and then about the pictures being posted on the internet without their permission or knowledge! I suppose I’m just old-fashioned. Anyway she was burbling happily about giving copies to her Mum and her Sister and didn’t they look nice? Um yes. Not particularly rich-looking though. Not particularly happy either. Oh well. Not my problem thank heavens.
Since writing this, I have remembered three more charity shops in Newbury. Twelve! The population of Newbury was 153,822 in 2011. I’m sure that doesn’t make it an enormous town but it must be a very thrifty one. All that gambling I suppose. There’s a second hand clothes warehouse on the outskirts too. Very popular.
Ducks with umbrellas
Chickens at the bar
Separate the sheep from the boats
over a traffic jam on the A5
Very hot stove
Yes, the views were lovely but the stove is the thing that makes winter cruising acceptable. That and watching the world hanging about on motorways (and the A5) while we drifted overhead or below.
Good heavens! I’d better get up. Weekend blogging happens at unusual hours here – daylight hours. I hope you’re enjoying your weekend.
*That’s not true really, I can’t carry off Ch5 myself. More a 4711 person.