Saturday, November 7, 2015

Skeletons in and out of the cupboard

Friday 6 November 2015

24 degrees.  Glorious!

I have been reading, with interest, a book OH bought me for our anniversary.  Based on the diaries of 'ordinary' people and starting in 1945 when peace was about to be announced. 

The introduction of the book starts as follows;

'In 1936 the anthropologist Tom Harrisson arrived back in England from the South Pacific, where he had been studying cannibals.  Within weeks of his return he had arrived at a startling conclusion: remote tribes were all very interesting, but they were not more interesting than the inhabitants of Bolton, where Harrisson lived.'

If I hadn't read this book, I would never have realised that cheese could be used to start fires, that people have always had trouble with knowing what to do with Spam and how shockingly anti-Semitic was the average British diarist.  Or that Boots the chemist had over 500 lending libraries.  Or that small children used Victory loaves (at 2 lbs too big to eat in one day) as footballs.

From this insight and in collaboration with others, the Mass Observation project was born. By 1936 people were requested to write in free form monthly diaries.  Millions of words were written and collated and archived in the University of Sussex and the first project was drawn to a close in 1967.  The project opened again in 1981 and I read an extract from a Politics student who wrote about watching the news and eating Weetabix.  It was all very Adrian Mole....  Some of the letters are available online

One of the longest lasting diarists was Nella Last of Barrow in Furness who wrote so much about her everyday life and whose diary stretched to 12 million words.  This led me to thinking about Gogglebox.  What made it so interesting was the fact that the contributors were 'normal' people - until they started acting up for the camera.  I particularly liked the Indian family with their doilies and cups of tea.  And also the family with the German father, tattooed Goth mother and the boy friend who never said a word.  There was once an episode with 'celebrities' and they were really boring - especially Noel Gallagher who was with Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.  He kept grunting 'Oh yeah.  I did that'.  The girls ignored him and Naomi filed her nails and Kate was playing house.

I must have written thousands of words over this year but I really don't feel that I have put down anything for posterity.  All I seem to write about is OH, the dog and how my clients periodically (and in some cases, systematically) torture me.   If it puts some people off wanting to be estate agents then it will have served some purpose.  Other agents keep writing about how they love the job and how much fun it is.  I wonder who they are trying to convince?  Wrote to Sussex University and asked if they would like my two pennyworth on life, on a regular basis.

OH came back from picking up some insoles for his lamentably flat feet and said he had bumped into the same publican as last week and he had kept him talking for ages.  I said that was the hazard of going into his bar.  He had told him about a man whom we both know who spends a lot of time in the States.  The publican said he had killed someone whilst driving drunk and had subsequently committed suicide.  I was so shocked.  Firstly at the tragedy for everyone involved and secondly at how the publican was spreading this news about - and probably selling lots of drinks off the back of it.  At 4 euros a pint too.  What a horrible man he is.  His widow is back in a week to sort out their affairs in France. She will be just thrilled to hear about the gossip.  Poor woman.

After yesterday's fiasco with the soda crystals and the acer leaves which refused to skeletonise, I went out into the garden and found that nature had been beavering away on my behalf and had produced some wonderful little partially skeletonised leaves on the hydrangea.  Put them in bleach and they whitened into wonderful ghostly forms.  I am thinking earrings...

Went out and battled with the brambles in the main border.  Sky iridescent blue and tiny golden leaves high up on the tall trees.  Pampas grass plumes sparkled.  It may be that I no longer love gardening.  My self talk becomes very negative.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Thoughts on seasons, a bolt in the neck and a little breakdown....

Thursday 5 November 2015

Bonfire night UK - it rained a LOT over here
Lovely day again - how long can this continue?

I am part of a group where they are running a Secret Santa gifting for Christmas and one of the questions posed was 'which is your favourite season'.  I replied Winter and I think there was only one other Winter lover amongst all of the other contributors.  Most said Summer or Spring.  They cannot have the mammoth garden that I do.  Spring means having to get it in order and Summer means having to try to keep it in order.  And getting my head boiled in the process.  I really don't feel up to it any more.  I want to be doing other things.  I love Winter for the purity of the landscape; the bare branches of trees, small animals rustling in the sticks of the cut maize, birds imprinted on the dizzy high clear skies, wood smoke in the air, wrapping up in woollies, big roaring fires, burning leaves, the sense that everything is hibernating, snuggling down under my duvets.  

Down town early this morning to open up the little rental unit for a visit by a local agent.  She was young and very well turned out and was wearing fawn coloured hot pants with black tights and mini boots and black jumper.  I would have looked like a bag lady but she carried it off very well.  She looked keen and enthusiastic.  I wondered how long she has been doing the job.  I unpacked my smile and charm, jaded as they are, polished them up, and helped her to do the visit.  I got a call an hour later, telling me that the woman had really loved the apartment, despite the many and varied criticisms of her mother.  However her budget is only 60k including notary fees.  Our selling price is 66800 plus notaries.  I don't see how she is going to magic the extra money.  She looked worn down and had a tatt of a bolt on her neck.  It was not a good look.  Her mother hated the place and couldn't wait to get out.  

OH said we are not in a rush to sell.  We don't want to risk being classified as professional revendeurs and having to pay 20% VAT out of the sales price, in addition to the capital gains.

Home for lunch and then pick up a couple who bought recently and take them to sort out their telephone, internet, mobiles and health insurance.  They still have very little furniture in the house but they do have a phenomenal amount of S's clothing.  She is never not fabulously turned out.  From Africa.  A huge personality with dreadlocks and bright red lipstick and very bling jewelry.  Grey dress with ravishing lace overdress and pale blue suede boots.  I felt dowdy.

It took many hours and then we went for a quick coffee and they talked about various Spanish towns where they had stayed last year.  They are, like us, lovers of that country.  P, the husband, mentioned one town and S, beaming said 'oh yes, that was where I broke me neck'.  S is wont to come out with surprise statements that make me want to pass out laughing.  Its the way she tells them.  She was sitting there, beaming and looking the picture of health.  When I had recovered, and fortunately S never takes offense at my periodic breakdowns, she explained that the door to the loo and the door to the stairs were next to one another and she had taken a midnight tumble and enjoyed Spanish hospital facilities for a week.

Back home in the fading light and spend an hour trying to get the sodding fire going as there are no firelighters.  OH went fishing.

I am laughing all the way to the bank (hopefully)

Wednesday 4 November 2015

Glorious and sunny 24 degrees

This was a day I refused to let be spoiled by the atrocious behaviour of former clients.

On opening my hotmail, I discovered that my password had been hacked and over 1000 people had been sent a link to a diet product.  Quickly posted apologies on FB and the main sales mailer address at work.  The phone rang non stop.  Nothing was getting done. Amongst the 'postmaster delivery impossible' responses was one from a couple I had not thought about in years.

They had rented in our town and their children had gone to the local school.  The lady was large and shy.  The children were passable.  The man had something about him that made people wary.  He said he was a currency trader but the name on his business cards didn't exist anywhere on the Internet.  He was pushing me for a business link to my buyers.  I said I worked exclusively with another company.  When he made the offer and I was getting the paperwork together, he said his passport was being renewed and therefore couldn't provide evidence of identity.  Neither could his wife.

They were looking for a renovation property and I found them one that they liked.  On top of a hill with wonderful views and surrounded by agricultural land.  Now the problem with agricultural land is that you cant build on or over or, indeed, under it.  The property needed a new septic tank and the only way to achieve this was by building an expensive micro station which goes down rather than out in order to get rid of household water and waste.  We agreed a price and then I arranged a meeting with the two farmer brothers who were selling and the 'buyers'.  The man arrived with a sheaf of plans and then started striding out into the field adjoining the property.  He announced that he would need to buy this extra land in order to put on the drainage pipes for the new septic tank.  The farmers were stupefied.  I was concerned.  The farmers said they had not agreed to sell any more land and I said they couldn't building under it anyway (again as we had already been through this extensively). The man and his wife then strode off, slammed their car doors shut and left in a flurry of mud.  I was left, horribly embarrassed, in the field with the farmers. 

This couple subsequently offered and withdrew on a number of local properties and their name, like the field, became mud.  They then disappeared.  Until today.  They had replied to the spam email


I was really shocked and promptly blocked them.  How is it that people feel they can be so rude online when they would not have the balls to be so rude to my face?

Speaking of the rudeness of man, there is an update on the goat people - if you want the summary, it is on here

How low will they go blog post

the business manager emailed me to say that the fees had now been agreed and although they were low, he hoped that I felt that it was better than nothing and would compensate me for the appalling way I had been treated.  I replied that I would not have ever again to do the 250 km round trip, take calls from the vendor at all hours of day and night when she was having the vapours, deal with their rude and charmless notary or with the buyers who were disingenuous personified.  I assured him that, like Liberace, I was ready to laugh all the way to the bank.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

True love

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Warm and sunny
22 degrees

RJ's birthday (26 years old)

I will be the first to admit it.  I didn't want children.  It was not that I had thought it through and considered the many years of responsibility and cost and restrictions that may put many people off.  I was scared stiff of giving birth and had not, in my tortured imaginings, been able to get past that step.  It didn't help that my mother periodically would recount how she had been in labour for three days when having me and how much agony it had been.  She never then went on to say how thrilled she was to hold me for the first time.  That really would have helped.  What if I had, like her, a lazy baby who refused to leave the warm salty cocoon and face an uncertain new world?  

If I had stayed with my former long term partner SJB, I would have remained childless as he was also unenthusiastic.  When, years later, I found him on Facebook and discovered that he was married with one child, you could have knocked me over with a feather.  The power of love.  The subject of this blog post.

So, after finishing with SJB I was back home again and met, through Ms Noddi, the man who has now been my OH for 29 years.  We were introduced on a blind date and married 14 months later, to the day.  He was keen, from the outset, on having children.  In fact he wanted five (at the start).  It took him three years to persuade me and then, in the midst of doing my Chartered Accountancy training - a job for which I was fundamentally unsuited and which I loathed with some intensity - I finally cracked and agreed to stop taking the pill.  I blame the Royal Institute of Chartered Accountancy for turning me into a mother.  I still hadn't passed my finals and thought, at the back of my mind, I am over 30 and it is bound to take a long time to get pregnant.  With a bit of luck, it wont happen at all.  Six weeks later I was on the end of a telephone line and in shock and horror.  If I hadn't been in a phone box, I think I would have fallen over - my legs were that weak.  How on earth could it have happened so quickly.

Everyone else was thrilled for me.  I wasn't thrilled for me.  I was about to be taken over by an alien parasite.  I was dead pleased at the idea of giving up accountancy.  The months passed.  1989 was a very hot Summer.  I was frequently out on audit.  For a refreshing change, because I was pregnant, the clients didn't put me in a shoe cupboard and not give me any coffee.  They had me in the main office and gave me a fan, all to myself.  I began to enjoy being special and cossetted.  My belly grew.  At six months, having failed my finals again, I gave in my notice and stayed at home and sewed and decorated and did the garden and it was absolute bliss.  I stayed relatively small until the last month or so.  I got used to being poked and prodded and having armfuls of blood and flagons of urine taken away. Pregnancy is not for the prudish or timid.

I arrived at full term and the baby was not showing any inclination to come out.  It ran around in my belly and I could see the reverse imprints of its head and feet and hands as it punched its confining walls of skin.  One week passed and then two and the Pediatrician told me that the baby was the wrong way round and because I was an elderly Primigravida (charming) that he recommended a Caesarian section.  This avoided the nightmare scenario that I had been playing in my mind for my whole adult life so I readily agreed.  I also wanted to find out what variety of baby we had produced.  It was going to be like the best early Christmas present ever.  I had come around to the idea of being a mother by this point.

So to Furness General Hospital and I was admitted to a ward and the C Section was programmed for three pm the next day.  OH left and I was there with a room full of other very scared and very pregnant ladies.  We tossed and turned all night and periodically one of them would shriek and be taken away.  It was like being on a lunatic ward.  Hours passed.  Just when I (and my lively parasite) had nodded off, I was woken at midnight by a nurse carrying tea and toast.  She told me that would be the last food and drink I would be allowed before the operation.  Six hours later, they inserted a catheter and washed me down.  Some of the ladies looked far less pregnant and were lying, pale and exhausted and twitching on their beds.  Wails issued from the nursery down the hall.  Everyone else got breakfast and I was sneaked some tea when the nurse wasn't looking.

OH reappeared at mid day and stayed with me until I went down to theatre.  Drip in arm. Catheter stinging down below.  Nurses wearing floral hats.  Lights passing overhead and the rattle of the trolley.  Surgeon.  Gas mask.  Oblivion.

Some time later I woke up and was in post op.  The nurse in the flowery hat was bustling about.  I could hear and see but my mouth didn't work and nothing else either.  I finally managed to get out the words 'is my baby alright?'.  The nurse smiled 'yes - you have a boy'.  'Where is he!!!' "Don't worry, he is fine.  We will just take you back to your room and bring him to you".  My insides felt like they had been boiled in oil.  I was convinced that they had forgotten to give me any morphia.  More rattle of the trolley.  Back to a small private room and OH and he was smiling.  The door opened again and the nurse wheeled in my baby.  My RJ.  In  little fish tank on wheels.  He had pure gold hair and huge blue eyes and his tiny pink head poked out of a white hospital blanket.  And the nurse lifted him out and I held him for the first time and I loved him totally and completely and .... fiercely.  We wept together.  Joy and wonder and relief.

And that is what they don't tell you about children.  How they change you for ever.  How they are always with you - whether you are actively thinking about them or whether they are just on the edge of your thoughts.  Like a beautiful bubble, they are with you on your wand for such a short time and then they float away on their own trajectory.  True love.  Love for ever and beyond.

And now my baby is 26 and has yet to find someone to love him in even a fraction of the way I do.  He says he doesn't want children....  I very much hope he finds someone to change his mind.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How hard it is to be a mum (à distance)

Monday 2 November 2015

Warm with rain later
16 degrees

Woke up early again and felt absolutely wiped out so rang the doctor.  It was a replacement one who suggested I came at 4.45 pm.  Went back to bed and drank tea and looked at FB. Was surprised to see that RJ (eldest) had sent me a picture of his hairy chest. Thought he had pressed the wrong send button until he said he was in hospital.  Was absolutely horrified.  He said I couldn't ring because phone calls weren't allowed on the ward.  He had been in Winchester since the following afternoon.  He had gone out with the Head Chef and they had had three pints and then they had both thrown up for hours until RJ had started throwing up blood and had torn his stomach lining and one of the chefs took him to hospital.

He posted some pictures of himself looking ghastly and wan.  He is 26 tomorrow.  How quickly the time has gone.  No matter how old he will be, I will always want to be there for him and to hold him and comfort him and look after him.  He said he felt a bit broken.  That is the sort of thing that breaks my heart.  He went back to the hotel at the end of the day and had to pay a taxi as no one would come and get him and the ambulance wouldn't either.  At least he will be home after the 28 December when he is coming back with us for a break.

OH rang WF (youngest) who said he still doesn't know which days he will get off at Christmas and that he couldn't get another driving test until February.  OH got into a real tizzy at this news and said he would never get his driving passed until he was doing regular lessons and regular tests.  I left them to it.  He does my head in sometimes with his shouting.

Doctor's surgery was deserted.  Just goes to show how many people are actually sick.  The surgery is normally heaving.  She gave me a Ventolin inhaler and some Prednisilone steroids.  Ventolin makes me shake but at least I will have some breath to shake.  Steroids are wonderful things and really give you a boost.

Back home and OH had thrown out the brown rice risotto from yesterday and started afresh and it was lovely.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Autumn glory

Sunday 1 November 2015

Hot and sunny 24 degrees

Woke early and wrote whilst it was still dark.  Feeling rather fed up.  Still no closer to selling main house and giving up the estate agency.  Itching to move but don't know where or when or in what direction.  The good ship Leaving Normal has no wind to fill her sales and is, at the moment, rudderless.

Still, have realised am living through one of the most wonderful Autumns of my life.  How good is it to realise that whilst in the midst of it and not just in hindsight?  With the warm weather, no winds and rain, the leaves are changing colour and staying right on the trees. The skies are the brightest of blues and the myriad hues of copper, red, yellow, orange and still bright green are displayed to their best advantage.  The countryside is truly gorgeous. Who needs to go to New England?

OH had extensive lie in so I took the opportunity to do some jewelry making, in peace.  Or in pieces, the bangles as I had feared were absolutely dreadful to demold.  The technique of hitting the mould on a hard surface cracked the first bangle and, in any event, it was not a good idea putting in the semi precious stones as it made it very heavy.  Sanded it up and decided it could be a light catcher decoration for the window.  The seed and grass bangle I was less violent in demolding and it still cracked a little bit but I can sand that out and re varnish.  Will try the freezer or hair dryer heating options next time.

I turned then to the problem of the deep lozenge pendants and how to fix on bails.  I managed, with some effort, to drill them out and then discovered that the long pins I had bought were too thick, so substituted some ordinary pins with bobble heads and then bent them around to form loops.  Looks effective.  There are some other pieces which came out wonky so I shall have to wait for inspiration to strike.

OH then woke up and we had tea and breakfast and I saw that I had been allocated my Secret Santa partner and, oh bugger, it is someone about whom I know nothing.  Looked on her FB page.  Russian American and likes spinning and weaving.  Wonder if she has a Pinterest page.

Left OH, in mega bad mood, to sort out my mileage log.  I had had a system of having a little book in the car and recording things as they happened.  Apparently that was a rubbish system and OH could do it much better.  Consequently 2000 kms have been travelled and nothing has been itemised and now he has a heck of a lot of catching up to do.  Dog zipped along and I enjoyed the sunshine.  The bars were heaving in town and the cafés full of people eating delicious looking food.  Dog was desperate to go and cadge and I had to heave him off.

Back home and made another lemon meringue and prepared contents of seafood ragout and listened to Radio 4 Play it Again.  Forgot about the meringue and it came out rather dark but still edible.  OH took over and found we had no rissotto rice so substituted brown rice.  It took forever to cook and was not a success.  Particularly as he added the spare pineapple he found in the fridge.  It did not go well with the chilli.

Watched Strictly.  Unbelievable that weather girl Carol made the cut.  She is beyond dire.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dover Beach and looking to the horizon

August, September and October roundup

The good ship Leaving Normal has sailed in quieter waters this year and the Summer and Autumn has passed with good weather and gentle winds.  There have been a few squalls on the horizon but their shrieks and wails have been mercifully distant.  They have not made it past the breakwater.  A few hawkers came around and promised much but their goods were made of rice paper and one dose of sea mist caused them to melt and vanish.

The Captain looks to the horizon and wonders when it is ever going to be time to chase the setting sun.

Written by Matthew Arnold |  

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.

The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.