Saturday, December 30, 2006

A narrow escape

I’m a member of two on-line forums, one for IBS sufferers and the other for sewing.

I’ve only just joined the IBS forum and was having a little trouble putting a photo on my profile*, so asked one of moderators for help. Within the hour it was there and she couldn’t have been more helpful.

The sewing forum has recently revamped it’s website and as a result the date of birth on my profile has somehow changed. As there was a note saying that the administrator is the only person who can make this change, I emailed them yesterday and asked if they would be so kind as to correct it.

When I checked my mail this evening there were two mails from the said administrator. The first one was a rather blunt and snotty reply saying it was my responsibly to make that change, and was I incapable of doing it myself.

The second mail, which arrived two hours later and again in a blunt manner, said that they had checked the information on the members profiles and as I was unable to make the change myself, they had done it for me.

The administrator had a narrow escape for had it been any night other than a Friday**, I would have been at my computer when their first email arrived and they would have felt the wroth of the Customer from Hell ! ! !

As we’re going to Jenny’s New Years Eve party (yippee….) this will be the last blog for 2006. From John and myself, we wish you a very happy and peaceful New Year.


* They want the forum to be as friendly as possible, hence the photograph.

** Friday night is Chinese and bottle of wine night.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

100 questions

Seeing as I had a bit of spare time I thought I’d answer the 100 questions which were on Gottles blog a couple of days ago.

So here goes…

1. Ever been given an engagement ring? Yes

2. Longest friendship? 36 years to my friend Janice

3. Last gift you received? The last Christmas present I opened was a pair of jimjams from my mam

4. How many times have you dropped your cell? No idea

5. When’s the last time you worked out? You must be joking ! ! !

6. Thing you spend a lot of money on? Silversea cruises

7. Last food you ate? Homemade curry and nan bread

8. First thing you notice about the opposite sex? Their face

9. One favourite song? Theme from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel

10. Where do you live? Sunderland

11. Cell phone service provider? T-Mobile

12. Favourite mall store? Does Amazon count….

13. Longest job ever had? Nearly ten years as a Civil Servant (isn’t that sad)

14. Do you own a pair of dice? Not sure

15. Do you prank call people? Nope

16. Last wedding attended? Chris and Jenny’s

17. First friend you’d call if you won the lottery? I initially wouldn’t tell anyone other than John

18. Last time you attended church? Chris and Jenny’s wedding

19. How old are you? Old enough to drink alcohol…

20. Biggest lie you have heard? Anything coming from the current government

21. What do you want to drive? An original Mini Cooper S

22. Where’s your favourite place to eat with friends? A Chinese restaurant

23. Can you cook? Yes

24. What car do you drive? A Nissan Almera

25. Best kisser? John

26. Last time you cried? Can’t remember but no doubt it must have been for some furry little animal

27. Most disliked food? Trifle

28. Thing you like most about yourself? My eyes

29. Thing you dislike most about yourself? My flabby stomach

30. Longest shift you have worked at a job? 20 hours working on the Jim Clarke Rally

31. Favourite movie? High Society

32. Can you sing? Yes

33. Last concert? Do you mean me singing or attending. If singing when I was at school and if attending, Runring in 1995

34. Last kiss? A minute ago

35. What colour are your eyes? Dark green

36. Who knows your darkest secret? Me

37. Last movie rented? Haven’t the faintest idea

38. Thing you never leave home without? My clothes

39. Favourite vacation spot? Stratford upon Avon and any Silversea cruise liners

40. Do you like Chinese food? Oh yes ! ! ! !

42. Is your room clean? I’m afraid it is…

43. Laptop or desktop computer? Technically both but as my laptop died on me, I’ll have to say desktop

44. Favourite comedian? Peter Kay

45. Do you smoke? Never

46. Sleep with or without clothes? That depends ;-)

47. Who sleeps with you every night? John

48. Long distance relationships work? Don’t know never had one

49. How many times have you been pulled over by the police? Once and I was not amused…

50. Pancakes or French toast? Pancakes with loads of Maple Syrup

51. Do you like coffee? Yes but it has to be very, very weak

52. How do you like your eggs? In pancakes….

53. Do you believe in astrology? No

54. Last person you talked to on the phone? My mam

55. Last person on your missed call list? John

56. What was the last text message you received? From Jenny about New Years Eve

57. McDonalds or Burger King? Both

58. Number of pillows? Two but only one in bed

59. What are you wearing right now? Green joggers, grey t-shirt, black jumper and two pairs of socks (because my feet are cold)

60. Pick a lyric, any lyric or song? Have you ever seen a woman coming out of New York City with a frog in her hand

61. What kind of jelly do you like on your PB & J sandwich? Eh ! ! !

62. Can you play pool? No

63. Do you know how to swim? Yep

64. Favourite ice cream? As sold from the little boat in Bancroft Basin in Stratford upon Avon

65. Do you like maps? There’re ok

66. Tell me a random fact about yourself? I’m left handed

67. Do you do drugs? Nothing illegal…

68. Ever attend a theme party? Can’t stand them so no

69. What is your favourite season? Spring

70. Last time you laughed at something stupid? The Saturday before Christmas – see relevant blog entry

71. What time did you wake up this morning? 10.10am

72. Best thing about winter? Christmas ! ! !

73. Last time a cop gave you a ticket? Never had one

74. What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? Taking my driving test

75. Name of your first pet? Chico

76. Do you think pirates are cool or overrated? How should I know. I’ve never met one ! ! !

77. What are you doing this weekend? Going to Chris and Jenny’s for their New Years Eve party

78. Who’s your best friend? John

79. What is the third letter of your name? R

80. How old are your pets? Don’t have any

81. What colour is your backpack? Blue and white

82. Are you sick? Only after too much alcohol

84. Is the bathroom open? Yes

87. Are you smiling? I am now

88. Do you have on eye-liner? Nope

89. Do you miss someone right now? My dad

90. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go? On a Silversea cruise, don’t mind where

91. Do you have a Myspace? No idea what it is…

92. Are you in high school? I’m a bit old for that

93. Do you have a crush? That would be telling ! ! !

94. What is your favourite nickname for yourself? Don’t have one but my niece used to call me SpamElla

95. What colour is your bathing suit? I think it’s black

96. What’s your favourite brand of water? Makro’s own brand as it’s the cheapest

97. Did you go on vacation last month? Went to Leeds to look at a hotel

98. Have you ever been on a cruise? Oh yes ! ! !

99. Do you have a sister? Yes

100. Are you upstairs? I most certainly am


Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Yes, that’s exactly how we both are following our two Christmas lunches.

Christmas day was lovely. We got up reasonably late, then took our time opening the presents left from Father Christmas.

Yesterday we were entertaining my mam and boy was she looking forward to her ‘Christmas lunch’.

She thought I was only joking when I said we were each only going to have one Brussels sprout – we had four each on Christmas day, what more do you want ! ! !

What with the two lunches, Christmas cake, crisps, mince pies, chocolate and wine, I dread to think how much weight we’ll have put on once the holidays are over.

The diet definitely starts in January…


Sunday, December 24, 2006

A horse on four piles of bricks

A while ago (2005 HBA Autumn conference to be precise) Paul was telling us about a particularly rough area he had to visit. I suggested that it might be the sort of place where you could leave a horse unattended and come back to find it on four piles of bricks.

I’m now beginning to think he was referring to our area.

Some of you will already know about the “scavengers” who scour the back lanes for anything that isn’t bolted down. Well yesterday they excelled themselves.

During the afternoon two men emerged from the backyard of a house round the corner from ours and deposited two sofas in the back lane. Fair enough at any other time. It’s what you have to if you want the council to take things away. But a Saturday afternoon, two days before Christmas.

By nine o’clock the local kids had pulled one across the back lane, blocking it to traffic. We looked out before going to bed at eleven, and both had vanished !!!

Nine or ten o’clock on a Saturday night, two days before Christmas and they’ve got nothing better to do than patrol the back lanes looking for something to scavenge.

We’ve seen things vanish before but never at this time. We once arranged for the council to collect an old cooker. I duly put it out, but before the council could come, we heard the sound of it being dragged away. We did the same with the old central heating boiler. This time it went bit by bit. Someone was making repeated visits with a spanner and taking away as much as they could carry.

Really it’s a bit worrying, strangers out there in the dead of night – or even the middle of the day.

OK, rant over. Good news. The new kitchen doors are fitted. Photograph to follow in the next few days. The kitchen is a bit busy at the moment.

And finally, from both of us to all of you, Merry Christmas

John & Marie

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What we’ve always wanted

My mam has finally decided where she will be spending Christmas day. It’s with my sister.

I’m happy with that as my mam came to ours last year and it means that for the very first time we’ll have a Christmas the way we want it.

Because we have always tried to please everyone, we’ve spent Christmas day on the go and at times the day has passed with a blur.

This year is going to be different. We can get up when we want – instead of having to set the alarm in case we oversleep. We don’t have to stick to a rigid timetable - so what if the potatoes take longer to cook, we’re not going anywhere so don’t have to worry about being late.

We can also do something we’ve longed to do – have a glass of fizzy whilst preparing the lunch. In the past one of us has been the taxi driver so couldn’t.

It’ll be my very first Christmas without seeing my mam at sometime during the day. We haven’t received the ‘Royal Invite’ for tea and even if we had I’m sure we’ll be otherwise occupied…

However my mam is coming to ours on Boxing Day and she’s asked if we could do her a ‘Christmas lunch’. My sister and her family will be having their usual Christmas meal – pasta, pasta and more pasta.

So this Christmas we’ll be having two Christmas lunches.

It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it ! ! !


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Virtual dinner party

The other day we were discussing who we’d each have as guests at a virtual dinner party. The only rule was we were not allowed to invite family or friends - past or present - other than each other.

So here are my 10 dinner party guests (and why).

1: Myself

2: John

3: Bing Crosby
The star of my number one and three all time favourite films


5: Mrs Beeton
A legend in cookery and household management

6: Oscar Levant
Concert pianist, composer, actor and friend of the Gershwins

7: John McEnroe
My number second favourite tennis player (sorry Lendl, you’re my favourite but you’d be too boring…)

8: Marguerite Patten
The Home Economist who advised women on cookery in WWII

9: Michael Palin
Great travel writer and broadcaster

10: Captain Bligh
Captain of the ‘Mutiny of the Bounty’

As I’d be cooking the dinner myself this is what I’ve chosen

1st Course: Wild mushroom filo tartlets
2nd Course: Roast duck and vegetables (but not too many)…
3rd Course: Chocolate fondant pudding


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Everything comes to those who wait

Yesterday whilst I was at my mams, she announced that she wanted to get a mobile phone and also to get connected to the internet in the new year.

We wanted to get her a mobile last Christmas but we were told rather bluntly that it would be a waste of money as it would be kept in it’s box, in a drawer. As for the internet we offered to sort it out for her before we went on our cruise so we could keep in touch via email. Again we were told no.

However my mam has a habit of changing her mind so it didn’t come as no surprise.

So I spent the next hour showing her how to send a text message on my mobile. Thanks Jenny for your help. As I put in a text to Jenny, I needed a hammer…

I then spent another hour trying to explain the difference between dial up and broadband and what web pages and downloads were.

I have a feeling the next few months are not going to be easy…


PS for lunch yesterday she made chicken and salad wraps. Guess what she asked me – yes did I want any tomatoes on it…. You’d think after all the years of me telling her I don’t like them, she’d finally remember.

She then wiped the knife after cutting the cucumber.
‘Why did you do that’, I asked.
‘Because John doesn’t like cucumber’.

I was not amused because
a) She can remember that John doesn’t like cucumber but can’t with me and tomatoes.
b) He wasn’t even there ! ! ! ! ! !

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

But I thought I told you

Two years ago my mam suddenly decided that she didn’t want to go shopping for Christmas presents that year, as it was would be the first Christmas without my dad and it was too upsetting for her.

So she asked everyone if we could ‘donate’ some presents from the ones we had already bought so she would at least have something to wrap up.

She didn’t decide this until the middle of December so there was some panic buying from Amazon to replace the ‘donated’ presents.

My mam decided a couple of weeks ago that she had had enough of shopping so asked if we could ‘donate’ presents again.

Whilst I was at my mams today (Christmas food shopping at Sainsburys – she asked a shop assistant where she would find the bread she got before, but could remember which kind it was – I kid you not ! ! ! Thankfully she was a very patient assistant so after twenty questions she found it…) she asked when I come on Friday, could I bring ‘her presents’.

I mentioned this to John tonight and got a stunned silence. I had forgotten to tell him ! ! !

Guess what he’s doing right now…


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

At last…

… we’ve found a joiner who:

Does return calls.

Gives a precise time when he can come out to have a look - and arrives on the dot.

Rings up the very next day with a sensible quote.

And can fit the doors two days before Christmas.

As it’s the Season of Goodwill and all that, I’m going to be kind to B&Q. Instead of asking them for the money before the work is done, I’ve decide to pay the little man then get them to reimburse me.

See, I do have a nice streak in me after all ! ! !


Monday, December 11, 2006

All festive

Yesterday we spent the afternoon putting the Christmas decorations up and it was also a welcome return to Rudy.

He’s been many colours throughout the years – beige; mahogany; red and now ivory.

As John was off work today we have a lovely long lie in, then it was off to the Chinese Restaurant for lunch.

As we’re usually too stuffed to have much for tea, we’ve just finished eating pancakes with lashings of maple syrup. Yum, yum…


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Non stick

After my disaster with making mince pies last year, I had a change of heart and decided that I would still continue making them (instead of just buying them from Sainsburys as I had threatened to do) but only do them small batches.

That was the theory any way. In reality it was a little different as my mam had such a good time two weeks ago when we made the cornbeef pies and the lemon and orange cakes for our Winter party, that she would like to help me make the mince pies.

So yesterday, my car boot was full of the various things I had to take with me to my mams in order to make the mince pies – mincemeat, flour, margarine, tins, cutters etc.

I’m delighted, nay ecstatic, to report that we made seven dozen and not one of them stuck ! ! !

Two weeks time she wants us to bake the lemon and orange cakes again.

I have a feeling that baking on a Friday may be come a regular occurrence…


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The saga of the kitchen continues

We’re trying to find a joiner to come and fit the kitchen doors.

I rang a couple of them and sure enough they came out and give us quotes. However getting hold of them to arrange a date is like pulling teeth.

I left a message on the little man’s answer machine saying I’d very much like him to fit the doors and could he give me a ring back to arrange a date. Having received no reply I tried again. Success I got to speak to him.

He blamed his wife for not getting back (a likely story). As he was on a job, he didn’t have his diary with him but he’d ring me back that evening. That was six days ago. If he can’t be bothered to contact me then he doesn’t deserve my business.

So I tried another couple today. The first one just kept ringing - rant time. What's the point of putting your phone number in yellow pages when there's no one to answer it. Surely they could afford an answer machine – rant over. The other one did have an answer machine. No surprises what they haven’t done. Not amused…

I decided to try the little man who couldn’t afford an answer machine again and actually got to speak to him. I nearly dropped the phone in shock as to how much he wanted to charge for fitting. £20 per door. We have 10 doors and five drawers. That’s a whopping £300 ! ! ! !

Ok, I know B&Q are paying for the fitting but that’s still an extortionate amount of money, especially when B&Q are expecting us to pay the joiner first, then to get them to reimburse us. Think again B&Q ! ! !

We do however have a standby joiner. His quote is a little higher than the first little man but definitely not £300. Plus we’ve got it in writing.

So B&Q will be getting a letter very shortly asking for money…


PS an update on the overlocker. It’s still acting very stroppy (well it is a teenager….) so I’ve abandoned sewing for a couple of days until John can cheer it up.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Anyone got a screwdriver

My overlocker is being temperamental - for those of you who don’t know what one is, it’s a machine which neatens edges of fabric.

I’m busy making a top with the fabric I bought at Leeds market (£1 for a metre. Now there’s a bargain) and whilst I was overlocking the neck edge of the back piece, it decided to throw a wobbler.

It does this occasionally, mainly when there’s just a bit too much fabric for it to stitch. I had thought there wouldn’t be a problem as the neck edge didn’t appear to be that bulky.

I spent the next twenty minutes trying to fix it and another twenty minutes getting the tensions right – the slightest problem and the tensions go haywire. I was really proud of myself for not uttering a single swear word...

It’s still not 100% but at least it should be ok to finish off my top, provided I’m extremely gentle and talk nicely to it.

Once Christmas is out of the way I’ll get John to have a good look at it and maybe even give it a service.

I certainly can’t be without it when I come to make my dress for Northampton ! ! !


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas - Bah Humbug

We went to a garden centre today.

At first I thought we were in the wrong place. First of all the traffic was queuing up to get in. Then when we finally made it through the door, aisle after aisle of Christmas decorations. Now there's nothing wrong with decorations, but when they take over almost all of a perfectly good garden centre ...

The garden bits were cowering in the far corner, forgotten and neglected.

Thankfully we found what we wanted, and joined the queue to get out, finally being served by the worlds most miserable shop assistant.

So that was our Sunday excitement. Saturday was spent getting my hair cut and making a storage unit for Marie’s work room. We live such an exciting life.

Actually ten years ago at this time of year we would be plenty busy. This weekend it was the “Wales Rally GB”. And awful name for an awful event. This used to be the good old RAC rally. We used to run the service area at Kielder, and I once ran an overnight halt at Gateshead stadium.

How times have changed. The event used to last five days and there were something like 650 miles of stages, covering most of the country. North & South Wales, Forest of Dean, Yorkshire, Kielder, Hamsterley, Tweed Valley, Dumfries and the Lake District.

Now all we get is a measly 200 or so miles, all of it in South Wales. And if you want to watch, you have to pay lots of money to enter the forests. The changes are all down to the desire to make the event (and all the other rounds of the World Rally Championship) more attractive to television. I’m pleased to say that audiences are waning and television is losing interest.

Hopefully we may yet get our rally back.