Friday, 30 September 2011

Police again

No, not in the street, for once. The houses that back on to us. The one that backs on to Nice Mr Next Door had the door kicked in.

I didn't find out the full details, as That Landlord started talking to me so I left. And I don't think that there were many details to find. The house is unoccupied, they have been busy knocking walls down so I may have easily slept through any banging, just assuming it was the normal building work.

It must have been quite bad, because just a broken door usually barely manages a visit, but there were a LOT of police there.

I wonder if people knew it was empty and used it briefly for some nefarious purpose. I don't suppose that I shall ever find out. It will nag at me like toothache.

I Hate Handbags

I am missing something somewhere. I have no call to handbags, no interest. When I hear that my husband's niece managed to get a handbag for £300 in the Harvey Nichols sale, first of all I don't recognise the name of the handbag and then I think - HOW much?! A handbag is to put things in.

I want a boring handbag that I just put things in, with a strap. I wouldn't mind a Tardis handbag, one where I can fit absolutely everything I can ever need in a small bag the size of evil cat. These seem a bit rare. I want something that is quite plain so it goes with everything. Most of all, I don't want to pay a fortune. I started hoping to pick something up for @ £10, but my hopes have been dwindling.

I have had to look for one as the current one is disintegrated. Bits of lining and cardboard stiffener (bought cheap last time) are shedding every time I rummage through the current one, though I keep wondering if I just cut the lining and inner out then perhaps it will do just as well.

However I have put a minimal bid in on a bag on my friend ebay. The thing that attracted was the bright red lining. I am not really a fan of red, but I have always had black handbags with black linings and on a dark morning when you are trying to find your keys it is a horror fishing in the gloom past the lumps and bumps. I switched from a basic black purse years ago to help me find it in the shadows of an overstuffed black bag. The one on ebay is still a boring black outside as well, so it is great for me, especially if I get it at the price I bid. Okay, deep down I might go for weird, punk and wonderful, but I am a middle aged SAHM and I have to be realistic.

Even if I don't get it, I am a little bit cheered up, because at least I now know that it is worth looking out for handbags with bright linings.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Spend spend spend (again)

Today was payday so...

MOT tomorrow. Everything crossed that this is not too much. Then Approved Food order though I nearly didn't, but I got some bits in that I can use. Strangely it is light on sugary treats, so I may be reforming. Then on to my friend ebay, for snow grippers for shoes and a snow shovel for the car (guess what weather I think we will get this winter), plus a small halogen heater and a book called 'Maths for Mum and Dad' which I hope will get us through the homework. An Asda order got bunged in as well, for the heavy stuff, and once again the cost of alcohol figured large.

Also, when I went to the newsagents there were two new knitting magazines and I only bought one. This is a step in the right direction. On the same trip there was £15 spent on plants for the garden, booked by darling father. He has planted one of the trays of dianthus and one of the buckets of wallflowers, and he will (he says) do the other tomorrow. I am in awe of him as he has also been painting the outside of the house.

Now I need to sit on my hands and not spend anything else!

Reading Report

Hopefully not many more of these 'firsts' to go, and the first Parents Evening is 20 Oct, so fingers crossed I will be sane by then.

We all trooped in to the blessedly cool hall, and there was a display of what they were using. They are using Jolly Phonics (Thank you, Ian, for buying all that stuff for little bear, as usual thanks to his family he has a head start!). This means that each letter or pair-of-lettter sounds has an action as well as a sound. The Head Teacher encouraged the parents to join in and told off the front row (which included me) for lack of effort. There were some little ones from Year One who were demonstrating. The Head Teacher was very careful to look out for them, and insisted on a clap for them at the end for their effort, but she is quite stern with the parents.

So I have come home with leaflets (including a list of merchandise that can be purchased) and I am now bewildered at having had huge quantities of information about homework and reading books and library books and dots and books with single large letters but no pictures and what will happen when, and I can say I have absolutely no confidence in remembering anything.

Little bear is very hot and bothered, he is sitting down with a lolly ice and looking very tired. I shall take this lull and see what I can make of the leaflets. These also include a reminder about the dratted Christmas cards.

Harvest Festival Report

Just to get it out of my system - little bear was GORGEOUS!

That's better. I sort of enjoyed it. There were the children from several schools and little bear's old nursery which makes the church a very logical place (and full!). Darling father wanted a pot of tea making just as I was going out, so I arrived very red faced and last into the church, standing anxiously at the back.

The children sounded so lovely, the talk by the lady from St Georges Crypt was very good and interesting for the children. Some of the songs were so saccharin that I wanted to go and drink vinegar as an antidote, but I just concentrated on how lovely the children sounded and it was fine.

I made sure that little bear saw me, as I know it meant a lot to him that I was there. He looked so sweet. When he is fourteen, if he reads this, he will be so cross at calling him sweet, but he was. He had to have calpol this morning, he was feeling to bad to eat breakfast, but he was fine in the church. It was also nice to see the people from the nursery.

The Head Teacher was definitely clocking who was there. Despite my best efforts she managed to speak to me, and I said how lovely the children sounded.

I am glad that I went, and I shall be turning up to all the other such occasions. Now I have to get ready and out as I am off to the big meeting for all reception parents to see how they are going to teach the children to read.

School and decisions

I am going to be so glad when I get over myself and get past the 'new first child at school' phase.

Tomorrow is little bear's harvest festival. The note said that it was at 10.30 at a particular church, friends and family are welcome to attend. I bought a bag of pasta and didn't plan to attend.

Then I started thinking, and I really shouldn't. First of all, why are they having a harvest festival in a Church a few hundred yards up the road? It is not a church school, as far as I can see they have a range of faiths, mainly of the CBA (Can't Be Bothered) persuasion. I am sure there are a few pagans around here as well as the more well known non-Christian faiths, and it isn't very welcoming to them. Why don't they have it in the School Hall? Realistically, if it is the whole school then they won't all fit, I think, but I know the Church in question, and the whole school wouldn't fit in there either, let alone friends/family.

And if they are going to have it in a Church, why don't they have it on a Sunday? Not all children could be there, but I am sure enough would turn out to take up samples of gifts collected during the week. Though I don't blame a teacher for not wanting to give up free time, so perhaps not.

Or they could go to St Georges in Leeds, where the charity who is getting the donations (St Georges Crypt, a fantastic charity) as a school trip (I would be grumbling about the cost, I am a hypocrite) and also look at the Church architecture.

And should I really go? I don't want to speak ill of the people at that Church, as the people individually are actually really nice, lovely people and you would want to be hugged by them. They just don't, as a church, do much God. Or they didn't, they might now. I'm not sure. But I am unenthusiastic about the Church itself. And all the fuss surrounding the Harvest Festival, and whether it is inclusive.

But the Head Teacher does note who is there and who isn't, in a scary way. If one of little bear's parents are always there then it does look better for him and they know that he is supported in learning. If I am not there, it will be noted. I feel for all the working parents on this as there is also a meeting tomorrow afternoon which parents are expected to attend to find out how our children are going to be taught to read. I think attendance on that will be much more closely monitored.

Biggest point - will little bear feel let down if I am not there but other mums and dads are? I am not sure. He might. Or he may be distracted. Actually he may not notice.

I'm going to have to go. Darn.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Book Bag

It goes like this. I buy a cheapo nylon bag from School for £3. I have to take little bear's book to school in it every day and bring it home every night.

Little bear gets a new book every Tuesday. Yesterday it was a lovely shiny new one.

However this book gets further and further battered by being taken to and from school, even with the book bag, and more and more dog eared as little bear does his best to memorise it (he insisted on reading it twice last night) even though he really only needs it at school on the Tuesday as he is using that book as a book to read at home. I suppose it means that they can keep track of stuff, and read with him if he needs it at school.

When I was presented with the book last night I asked if it was homework. Miss explained to me that it was so he could have something to read at home. Currently we have managed to keep the books on his bed down to around half a dozen, but there are three BIG boxes of books next to his bed, 'just in case'. I don't think Miss believed me when I explained that he had a lot of books. I think she may think I am one of 'those' mothers, whose little darlings must be always referred to as a genius. I am a doting mother, and thrilled with little bear, but his current genius involves getting into trouble and then fooling his father into believing his tears are not crocodile but tears of trauma and devastation that can only be assuaged by vast quantities of sweets.

Although, to prove the rule, little bear is now carefully going over books and making the sound for every letter instead of reading very nearly almost close to but not quite all of the words themselves. It is now c-a-t instead of cat and I am not sure I am impressed, but Miss says... I refused to go through a child's picture dictionary saying all the sounds in every single word and he acted like I had tried to amputate an ear, not that he just couldn't be bothered but thought it was an important task that needed to be completed.

It's just another routine to get used to, and it could be worse. At least he gets access to new books, and they can't make assumptions about the children that they have. I am sure that many little ones in his class don't have the same access to books, and I suspect that there are one or two who really don't have books at all.

Just to add - I can get an identical book bag that the school sold for £2.50 (ie 5op less) from my friend ebay - including the p&p! It's only 50p, but I can see these things mounting up.

Almost getting it right

Walked all the way to Asda. I have no idea how long it took me, as I left my phone at home and never remember my watch, but I was pink in the face when I got there and it took a little while.

Nearly didn't buy anything extra, but not quite. I promised a treat for little bear as he had been so good this morning, so I got some egg custards to share. I also picked up a packet of semolina which I haven't had for years and quite fancied. I picked up some bananas and was on my way home before I remembered that I had two cooking apples, which darling father had brought in. Not enough for one each baked, but nice stewed and served with the semolina.

Also little bear will have the metallic red sugar sprinkles I was soft enough to buy. However a very light dusting of them seems to replace the honey for him, so that's a help. I'm getting metallic blue next. If it cheers him up at breakfast, in moderation I can live with it.

The shop had been open one day and there were yellow sticker items. I did blink at that, as I just couldn't believe it at first, but it was fresh sandwiches. They were always going to be a bit of a slow seller when there is a Greggs next to the tills. But if I get there in good time of a morning I may get lucky.

So, £10.78, including darling father's harvest festival offering and a nice and healthy lunch for me. I picked up the Asda Christmas savings card, and had a look.

I am not a huge fan of Christmas clubs, because your money is tied up even if you have an emergency and you get no interest. However you don't get much interest these days anyway. It is not registered to a name, so while you don't get spam or junk mail, if you lose the card, the money has gone. And you have to save £144 on the card (maximum allowed) to get the maximum bonus ('some time in November') of £6. Although at today's interest rates I suppose there are worse deals. Also, all your savings have to be spent at Asda (could be worse) and if Asda go bust you lose your money (not sure how likely this is, but worth remembering).

I plan to put on the change for each visit, so if I spent £10.78 on the visit, I would put 22p on the card, and that way I can put a little each time to save for the drinks next Christmas (I doubt there will be £5 by the time this Christmas comes!). I did try to put it on today, but the woman had just had her supervisor and her supervisor's supervisor struggle to sort out a little complication with the customer in front of me so when she looked at me in panic and said that she hadn't been shown how to do this, I decided to leave it for another day.

Off to Asda

Today will be my first challenge of walking to Asda, buying just what I need, and walking back. It's the buying just what I need that is the hard part. The walk will be tiring for me, I am grossly out of condition, but resisting temptation will be far harder.

So, I need fruit to have with custard for dessert (currently thinking bananas but happy to be inspired - trying to get nutrition in little bear), and a few tins for darling father and his Harvest Festival. I already have my contribution to little bear's Harvest Festival - a bag of pasta. It is going to a homeless shelter, where they also support people who need help (St Georges Crypt, Leeds, a fantastic charity that I think is really worth supporting). I don't know what to give these days, once it was raiding the veg rack, now it is stick closely to a list, except we haven't been given a list but examples. Still, I hope little bear doesn't feel let down by my Asda own brand (but not smartprice) fusilli. We are eating quite posh tricolour pasta twists from Approved Food, which are very acceptable but past its best before date. Darling father has suggested a few tins of peas.

It is a whole new brand of etiquette for me - how to get stuff for little bear's 'voluntary' donations that doesn't let him down. I can be comfortable saying 'no' to designer school wear, but I can feel the 'donations to the tombola' question looming. I have absolutely no idea about what sort of level to aim at, I haven't been involved with a school for nearly thirty years. If I bring in Smartprice, would it make little bear suffer? Personally I doubt it, and I am not buying extra fancy. I am sure it will be fine for now, I think I have a few years before the 'Muuuuuuuum, I can't take that, I would just totally embarrassed, it's not fair, my mate's mum is really cool and she would never send that...' hits. If I get it right now it may never happen. I shall keep working on that one!

Now all I need to find out is whether I take in cash or cheque for the (smallish) donation to the charity for the school. And purchase a school book bag.

And I definitely need to find a substitute for the handwash.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Evil cat enjoys the sun

Evil cat has been taking every opportunity to get out into the garden. Usually she heads for any greenery, eats it heartily and then comes inside to be sick on carpet. But today she has been having a sniff around in the sun, despite next door's kitten paying a visit. Evil cat was unimpressed.

The wonderful thing was, after wandering out of the garden (not keen on this - round here there are rats as big as her), she leapt onto our wall! Our wall is only about three foot high, if that, and normally small beer to a cat, but her back legs are getting so wobbly that she nearly didn't make it. But she did! The warmth must be doing her good. Long may this warm spell continue.

Martial Art Kit

Okay, so I first washed it with something I shouldn't have, and the white kit turned grey. I soaked it in the GloWhite colour run remover which was brilliant, but the first time it had a few bits sticking out of the water so I had to do it again to get rid of the blodges.

Then it got soaked in Ariel Stain Remover, followed by GloWhite Whitener (tomato soup). The tomato soup was finally banished by sunny washing line, but it was touch and go.

There is now ice cream on the suit. I was soft enough to get little bear an ice cream on the way home. I am fairly sure that the normal washing powder will get it out, but may do a spray of something on it just in case. Little bear's first grading is coming up and one of the marks is generated by the immaculate nature of the kit (or otherwise).

Does anyone want to take bets on how long before the cotton actually disintegrates.

New Asda

A new Asda has opened up near us. It used to be Nettos, so I can bypass any grumpy 'and what will happen to the local shops and community?', although a proper butchers has moved out. The florist and Greggs are still there.

Another handy hint - never go to the opening of a 'new' supermarket on the first day unless you get a free tv or equivalent. It was full. It was incredibly full. We got there half an hour after the shop opened and there wasn't a spare basket or trolley to be had. Darling father got the basket out of the hands of someone unloading onto the tills.

It is still a small place, not huge like a superstore. I would say slightly larger than the little Tesco shops that have sprung up, but with so much more variety. I was looking round like a child in a sweet shop. There were so many options, fresh meat or all types, fresh veggies - it was heaven!

We had a little browse, but we couldn't really see everything because it was FULL. But there was such a lovely selection of stuff, I was so tempted. Fortunately enough sanity prevailed so that after half an hour of queuing (okay, not quite, maybe twenty five minutes) we only put through the till the stuff we could realistically carry.

This actually could be a bit of a lifeline for me. It is not too far to walk there, but far enough and over a steep enough slope to get a bit of cardio exercise. It carries a good range of stuff, with lots of fruit and veg. Also pudding rice, but I am using up the Arborio first as I am sick of seeing it. I don't want to do risotto. I can trust the meat and frozen stuff much more than I could at Nettos, which always looked a bit slapdash to me. And if I shop in small amounts, just what I need, then I could save money.

Actually, I am more likely to give in to impulse buys when shopping in person, and shopping on line has saved me a fortune! But if I set myself a budget per trip... Or learn self discipline... And I will be getting exercise, so that has to be a good thing.

Housewifery tips

Actually, I am not really in a position to give housewifery tips, as I am not a good housewife at all. However two things I thought I would share.

If you buy a tin of eg beans with one of the ring pull tops, then store it upside down and the contents come out easier. Once upon a time you could open the bottom of the tin, but storing upside down is just as good. Also good for condensed soup, which I use a lot of.

Also, if you are soaking clothes in a bucket, a big bowl that just fits inside the bucket pressed down until it fills with the water will keep the clothes under the soaking liquid (in my case, colour run, found out after finding interesting patches on the clothes that had mainly recovered but had bumps popping out of the liquid).

If any further inspiration strikes I will share. But I have to rack my brains now, I forgot to give little bear a task for his finger yesterday. He could barely stay awake anyway, I shall think of something.

Monday, 26 September 2011


We have an old dettol handwash bottle that has stuff decanted into it to use to wash our hands. For the last month or so we have been working our way down some unsuccessful coconut conditioner. The menfolk enjoyed the coconut smell, I cringed at the artificial scent.

Now we have some Sainsburys Basics shower gel in. I loved the last lot, I loved the smell and everything. This lot, however, has stripped all moisture from my hands on the first wash and smells like toilet cleaner. I'll have to replace it. At least it only cost 10p

Getting used to school

Little bear is having no problem getting used to school, none at all, he loves it, he has friends there, he is having a marvellous time.

Me, on the other hand...

I forgot his dinner money for the second week running. I forgot that he was starting PE this week and that the kit had to be in all week. I remembered it literally ten minutes before we were due to go out (I was looking at the clock, and it may have been exactly nine minutes).

I hadn't ironed the name tapes in all of his trousers, and guess which he was wearing - of course he had no name in his trousers.

Today I spent at least fifteen minutes sorting out little bear's calendar. Can I mention that I used to be a legal secretary organising the diary of an Associate? And while temping I actually ran the diary of a senior civil servant that included meetings with junior ministers (okay, not that often, but I was booking meeting rooms in Whitehall etc). An electronic calendar holds no terrors for me, but it took me ages to work through all the dates to slot in for little bear.

I am going to have to Have A Think about how I structure my time. Because I am not working, time is passing me by and nothing is urgent and is getting forgotten. That has got to change!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Rice pudding fail

Last night I made rice pudding. It was not successful. I have just chipped the last of it out of the slow cooker.

I shouldn't have used Arborio rice instead of pudding rice. I shouldn't have put in sugar when it didn't ask for it, especially not sticky brown sugar. And I did look at the level of the liquid and think it was a bit inadequate.

Tonight is attempt two at rice pudding. I am still on the Arborio rice, as it is all I have in, but I am sure I can work something else out. I am about to go raiding the internet for recipes. Ones that do not need power tools to get the pudding out of the cooking dish.
Thank you for all the comments, it has been a huge hug after I felt like I had been mugged by the school.

The general feeling around other mums is that the Head does actually watch which parents turn up and which don't - I have been looked over a few times and it is unnerving. I am not ever, ever, ever volunteering for the PTA or similar. The Head is really scary (though she seems really lovely with the kids, so I will let her off). I shall do my best, keep my head down and encourage little bear.

Marybelle - it looks like evil cat is reaching the end of the catnip road. She is so stiff in her back legs. She can still manage to jump up and sit on the keyboard, and she can still find patches of sun, and she is still shedding for a hobby, and while she can still enjoy those things then we will keep the cuddles coming for her. Of course, being evil cat she is not giving in an inch to aches and pains. She has not lost the evil cat attitude, she just can't be bothered.

Ian - sports kit, well, by this time next year I hope to be doing one extra out of school footie kit, one martial arts kit and one school PE kit, and it's knowing about the PE kit. They don't do it on set days, so it is a question of ambushing the bag when you think the kit has been used. There is supposed to be a kit kept at school at all time. I'll have to keep on top of it, but I may keep a back up kit in place. No book has arrived yet, I'll mail you, and I have a book here for you (and last year's Christmas present from little bear, but that's another story!)

Hazel - that calendar sounds ideal. Because OH and darling father want to go to eg theatre/ballet/shows at least once a month. And all the stuff darling father wants to do at the Methodists. And the school stuff. And any extra sports eg martial arts (grading coming up soon). And I hope to start little bear on piano lessons. I will be printing out a month per view for us just to keep up with the next few weeks. I used to be really good at keeping up with this sort of stuff, I don't know what happened.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

School Asks

I was told off today by a Teaching Assistant (a job I could never do, and so stand somewhat in awe of them). You see, you have to go in one door and out the other, but little bear wanted to use the toilet which was nearer the in door, so we went out the 'in' door. I got called in, I had missed the Letters From School.

The first was a slip I needed to sign and return about a meeting I was invited to explaining how they were going to teach the children to read. Sigh. Little bear is 'reading' or rather, echoing words a half beat behind me when I read to him, but he already recognises quite a few, I think most of the ones he is supposed to recognise by the end of the year. I shall, of course, go as otherwise I would be classed as A Bad Parent. Heaven help the parents that can't get time off work.

The second was a picture of a hand with fingers to colour in each day next week and I am to write what task little bear does to help in the house. I am living in chaos, I couldn't find a recipe book I could not only reach but had a recipe for rice pudding in. I had to get onto the net. Sigh. I shall find, identify and frame five tasks for five days for little bear - they are going to share these during Circle Time (anyone read Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett?) so I suppose it had better be interesting. The Friday one has to be done before school as that is the day it has to be handed in.

The third was a little news letter. I need to find and put up a calendar because I am getting bewildered by the information.

On top of the requests for donations to the local homeless charity and the local harvest festival (held in the most agnostic church I have ever encountered) I have to find sponsorship for little bear on his fun run, and a donation for the sports clothes day (?), the school photograph is looming but that is independent of the newspaper taking pictures tomorrow and I need to try and work out what to do about PE kit by Monday because it could be on a variable day, the kit is to be kept in school and I have an awful feeling that if it is missed on the day it is used it could ferment.

I am now in a panic, because if I get stuff wrong it will reflect badly on little bear. But I am a bit grumpy about trying to work out what tasks little bear should be doing as it is so chaotic here that I am not sure what I should be doing, and if I put the wrong things down I will be A Bad Parent, and if I let little bear clean the toilet, as he has asked to in the past, I will probably be referred to Social Services!

Also, I feel mugged.

Little bear discovers Pudding

Little bear has school dinners, which I think is wonderful! £9.25 and little bear has a hot and healthy (the school has certificates) meal. Including pudding. Now little bear's puddings seem to have consisted an awful lot of sponge and custard, which I don't have any basic objection to, but he is very happy about this. He loves pudding. He loves pudding after dinner every night as well.

Unfortunately we had home made soup the other night, and to balance out the protein content and use up some bread, we had a tasty and not too sweet bread and butter pudding that little bear 'helped' to make. Now we should, according to little bear, have pudding every night, it's in his Rules that are written invisibly on the wall above the huge cardboard Dalek.

So far it has been bread and butter pudding, fruit and custard and Angel Delight. However I am looking at this as a great way to get little bear some nutrition when he can't be bothered eating dinner or he has pronounced it 'deeeeeegustin'. Tonight I am doing rice pudding with sultanas and plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg.

I am also getting my cook books out and finally starting to look at the dessert recipes. Married 21 years today and my poor husband is finally getting his desserts.

Evil cat had a bad night

Evil cat has not been well. I've been reluctant to blog about her, not because she has been more evil than normal, but because she is not very well at all. We have had days of her being sick, which is difficult to know whether it is a symptom or just her usual hobby (evil cat was once sick over another cat and has a real eye for a target). We have had days of her being creaky, when jumping up anywhere higher than a cushion on the floor was out of bounds. We have had days of both.

The last few days she has been doing really well, but this morning she didn't beg for food and she just wanted to sit on me. Poor old girl. Last night she was almost back to her bad old ways, sitting across my throat at such an angle that I could almost but not quite see the tv and well aware of my reluctance to dump her on the floor.

The vet is not optimistic. I have been being optimistic, but I hate seeing her like this. I think the colder morning and the windy weather has taken a bit of a toll, but she is still game for trouble. She is upstairs at the moment, shedding hair all over OH's bed.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


I am waiting for an Asda grocery delivery.

The total is over £100 (just) and @ 70% of that is alcohol. If the neighbours noticed, I don't know what they would think.

First of all there is a good deal on the whisky that darling father likes, so we are getting three bottles. Despite darling father's efforts to convince me otherwise, I do not believe that whisky 'goes off' and will be putting an extra bottle on the list as we get towards Christmas, to keep us going.

Then there is Sister in Law. Like us, she has issues with 'stuff', and I do not want to give her something else to dust, so she gets something 40% alcohol by volume every birthday and Christmas. It does make buying easier. Also darling father wanted to get something for her, so that added another £13 on alcohol to the bill.

Once again I shall be looking like the neighbourhood wino, when actually I don't manage to drink that much. Though there are times when I consider it.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

School Uniform

Little bear did not go in to school in immaculate uniform today. I will be marked as a Bad Mother. I have managed to have colour run and stain every single one of the six white polo shirts that I got him for school, and the one that was the least bad had a tiny patch of dye still where the Glowhite Colour Run Remover (which is FANTASTIC) had not reached. It was my fault, that piece of fabric was above the liquid line. The second time I did a batch (the shame) I put a large bowl filled with water on top to hold them all down. I am now being extremely rigorous in the sorting of the washing!

But in he trots, white shirt, black trousers, green sweater, just like all the others. He had complained that his green jumpers didn't have the logo of the school on them, but I said that when he didn't grow out of things within a few months, if not weeks, then we could consider logos - which I think is reasonable. Little bear is not the only one with a mother that thinks like me, not all sweaters have logos on, although all have that air of 'new' about them.

However I was sad to see one little boy as the only one with a grey sweater and not a green one. Poor little lad, I really felt for him. I really hope that it will work out as a 'just starting school and having a crisis on the uniform washing front' and not be regular, as it will be really hard for him. And it put a shadow of a grey spot on little bear's top in a bit more perspective. It will probably be masked by the paint stains by lunchtime anyway.

Monday, 19 September 2011

I am a Hypocrite

After all the grumbling about my Sister In Law....

I went and bought little bear a Dr Who Goody Bag.

I shall die suffocated by 'stuff'!


I haven't forgotten about Digging up the Past, and I have drafted quite a bit, though it isn't up to a standard I would accept.

I will have to motor, as I want the sequel to Digging up the Past to come out @ Halloween (or Samhain) and I am feeling quite determined.

However, I would really appreciate the views of anyone who has read my stuff. I am considering publishing the Forgotten Village and a finished version of Digging up the Past as an ebook. It would be free(ish) for me, as far as I can tell, and I was looking to price these at 99p, if I could, and publish further installments on there at the same price.

I would be upfront about the first two being free to view on Fiction Press.

I am still at first ends of this - I am struggling to find out what costs what, but as far as I can tell the costs and fees of publishing are taken out of the sale price, so even though it is vanity publishing it is cheap vanity publishing.

I would be grateful if people could let me know how they feel about this, especially if they would feel let down by further installments being charged for. I don't want to let anyone down, especially after all the support I have had (and been very grateful for) so I would really value opinions.

Also, as far as I can see, if I publish at 99p, then I get royalties of @ 64p, so I am not going to be a millionaire out of it, but it would all help, if I didn't upset people.

Hello to Mumsnet

I am now on Mumsnet Bloggers roll.

This is quite a scary thought - I think I may be a bit twee, but I hope all who read enjoy.

Life is good, even if you have an evil cat. I hope all is well with you!

Odd weather

I saw something on Saturday that I knew must happen, but I had never seen.

I was sitting in the Playhouse during the interval. When I looked over Leeds Market the rain was hammering down in sheets. However when I looked over the car park it was dry. I was sitting on the cusp of the rain and it was scything down on one side, and beautiful and golden sunshine in another.

If it was a film or a book it would mean something significant. As it was, it was both beautiful and odd.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Little bear was Baby Sat

While we were at the matinee of the Ballet this afternoon, little bear was staying with my Sister in Law.

I worry about taking advantage. She is so willing to look after little bear. When I rang her last night, she was quite happy and when I mentioned that we would drop him off between one and two, she was baffled - she thought he would be there for lunch. It would be too easy for me to ask her more often, and she has a life to lead. I intend to be really careful I don't take her great kindness for granted.

Little bear was a bit cagey about all he got up to. He had played with the rabbit and watched some tv, and had had a good time (he was shattered after the first week of school, so he would probably have been easy to entertain).

More evidence was found in the goody bag he brought home - a huge Ark bag, not some measly carrier from Aldi that I use. Its contents included a t-shirt, trousers, woolly hat, woolly gloves, a book, a dvd and enough sweets to stock a shop. Also, a Dr Who advent calendar.

I am really glad that little bear is so loved by his auntie, and I am glad that he loves her. However I worry that he is going to grow up thinking that he can have anything he wants. I just don't know how to start putting some breaks on before it is an x-box and laptop that he is demanding.

Hamlet the Ballet

I went this afternoon to the performance of Hamlet by the Northern Ballet at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. It was fantastic! Really fantastic and atmospheric.

It wasn't very 'Hamlet', for example, Ophelia was raped and murdered, and it was set in Occupied Paris, but it was so tense, so vivid and you could see all the themes that are in the Shakespeare Play.

And I think I may have fallen in love with Ballet. I have seen Dracula the Ballet and it was fantastic, but this has made me want to see more. I am just so admiring of the dancers, how fit and toned they are and just how amazing they were as they danced.

I recommend it!

Not sure about this.

Three cars in the end were clamped. However one has had the clamp removed by nefarious means and has gone.

I know nothing. Actually I do know nothing, but I am certainly not asking to find out.

I await the next stage (if it happens) with interest, as long as it doesn't affect our taxed, MOT'd, legal car parked outside our house, which is technically our property and on our deeds.

So there!

Friday, 16 September 2011


After dropping little bear off at School (Day Four, still happy), I came back to find someone in a hired car and a DVLA sweatshirt taking 'surreptitious' photos of the number plates in the street with their phone.

Someone has complained about nice Mr Next Door, I suppose, and so the DVLA have trotted round and found two cars to clamp. There are at least half a dozen others that apparently were not clampable.

I find it really depressing that someone has gone to the trouble of complaining. Our little street is off the beaten track. Apart from the police occasionally being called to the family a few doors down, there is nothing here. It isn't on the way to somewhere, it isn't even a made road, just a dirt track, so it looks to me (though I don't really know what I am talking about here) that someone has insisted that the DVLA Have A Look.

It isn't always convenient to have up to a dozen cars in various stages of repair being lined up outside the four houses. But we have a man next door who works all the hours sent to provide for his family, doesn't get benefits, is on his back in the street in all weathers working on his cars, is kindness itself, having his way of earning food for his family and the roof over their head being undermined. It just seems so wrong to me.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Looking forward to ironing

Due to logistics I couldn't get to Makro this morning, but I did manage to hurtle into Leeds, into BHS where I bought some socks for little bear. These ones are not the same colour as OH's, not easily confused when sorting, and therefore my stress levels will decrease. Happy sigh. Then into Wilkinsons, bought some much needed soap powder and three separate types of colour run remover and then dashed back.

While I was out my new ironing board came.

I actually don't mind ironing too much but it builds up and there are parts of my ironing mountain that haven't seen the light of day for years. However it is a Shirtmaster ironing board. though I got it at a much reduced price from my friend ebay.

You look at the dimensions, and say things like, that's a good height. Or, that's a good width. I mainly look at height to save my back. However this thing is enormous! I have seen smaller dining tables! I hope to try it out soon, but I am off to get little bear from school any minute. Then there is the 'change into clothes, practice Martial Arts (I need to work on this) and read Dr Who comic because it is Dr Who comic day'. This is rapidly followed by making dinner, bedtime routine, and then fuss OH because he is having a hard time.

But as soon as I can, I will let you know how I get on.


I didnt' realise when I washed little bear's new bright white polo shirt that he wears for school and the bright white trousers for his martial arts kit that I had also scooped up a black tshirt that hadn't been worn before. A single colour catcher was inadequate. I have no idea what I am going to do.

And I can't get out to do what I need to because I have got too late waiting for darling father and have to be at home for the phone call at lunch time from OH.

I could just cry.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

It's starting

I went to pick up little bear. He looked cute, but he was wearing someone else's sweater. It's a warm school, it is warm out of the wind, little bear has always categorically refused to wear a sweater, so I sent him in without one. I was so embarrassed as I returned the sweater little bear was wearing, I am obviously a Bad Mother, leaving my poor defenceless child shivering in the wind. My card has been marked.

On the way out I got a request for money. We provide a piece of little bear's artwork, pay £6.50 and then we get 12 CHRISTMAS cards - It's only September! Who wants to be making CHRISTMAS cards....

I didn't say anything but they may have seen my expression. I think I have been pegged as one of the awkward squad.

Christmas cards...

Evil cat's health

The noises coming from evil cat's stomach are not possible to describe. Perhaps particularly noisome waste disposal on a sewage farm? The noises are audible across a room, and she does seem to have a tender tummy.

I left off her medicine yesterday and had a phone appt with the vet (there is no point in taking evil cat to the vets). The vet remembered evil cat very clearly.

The basic summary - with medicine she has a poorly tummy, uncomfortable and not happy. Without the medicine she has creaky and painful bones, uncomfortable and not happy. She is spending a lot of time very close to me. Also last night she snored like a walrus. We are trying her with half the dose she should have of the medicine.

This morning she jumped off the desk and she was uncomfortable and was a bit 'dot and carry' with one of her back legs. I am hoping it is just the weather affecting her, as I never met a cat that liked windy weather yet.

Waking up

I feel a lot like I am waking up.

I haven't had antidepressants for over a month. I am in favour of them in appropriate usage - you would expect a plaster cast for a broken leg, and tablets for an ulcer. It just makes sense that you take appropriate medicine for a condition. But now I feel like I am waking up.

I have cupboards stuffed with stuff. Today I plan (ha!) to have a sort of shepherd's pie mince mixture with one of the dumpling mixes made up and put in balls over the top, like a scone topping. I'll let you know how it goes, but as I will be making it after school then I don't know how it will go. I'll get as much as I can done before hand. I am determined to use things like the dumpling mix up. I got some in from Approved Food because I know that all the men in the house like them. Now it is time to serve it up - more than time!

I just had a browse of the Approved Food site, as they had some stuff advertised that I would have really used - but it had gone when I started loading up, and in the cold light of day, when I looked at my basket, we didn't NEED anything. Like I said - waking up.

There is a good chance I will get a lot more done this half term than I thought I would. It is an unnerving thought!

And another thing...

One of the adverts when I clicked on this blog was for Christmas Cards. It's September. It's not even the back end of September. It is not time for Christmas cards.

Christmas cards are bought either in November or January. There is no leeway. Unless there is a really good sale in February.

I got a good deal on Christmas Cards from Approved Food and really stocked up earlier this year. I probably won't need to buy any for a few more years, depending on the demands of little bear and darling father's social lives. I felt a bit said as they were charity Christmas cards and the charity would probably have had very little from them.

However it is still too early to be thinking about Christmas cards!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Stove not happening

I can't have a stove. To fit in with building regs they have to cap the top and bottom of the chimney and pump smoke in, to see if it is okay. However this means scaffolding and working next to a bees' nest.

It just isn't possible.

But we will get another gas fire, as the one we have is twenty years old and clunky.

I feel really upset, I was looking forward to one sooooo much. Still, such is life. At least I won't be raking out ashes.

OH gets caught

OH has a wicked sense of humour and, with mischief, said to little bear, 'Ask the teacher when you are going to start learning calculus.'
Little bear looked straight at him. 'Tuesday.' He said firmly.

Round one to little bear

What they teach in school

This is not a little bear post. This is a Grumpy Sybil post.

I popped into the local chippy at lunch time for fish n chips for darling father. There was a youngish girl on the till, and she had rung in the amount and then just put it in again to say paid without putting in the amount the customer before me had given her. So the till didn't say the change. It's a nuisance when you are busy and you are out of the flow of doing things in your head, but stuff happens.

Except she couldn't work it out. The previous customer had given her £15, the total was £7.35 and she couldn't work out the change. It didn't help that she was starting to panic. The 'rabbit in the headlights' took over and she was well and truly flustered.

It is true to say that it took me a minute or two to work out the correct change, and I think if I hadn't made a joke about learning on a till older than Arkwright's and telling her the correct change then I think she would still be there, staring in terror at the terrible till. It is horrible when your brain seizes up, and I am not brilliant with numbers - but surely it wasn't too hard.

Little bear will be getting spot checks on mental arithmetic.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Little bear's first day at school

He was up at the crack of dawn as usual. He permitted me to make him porridge, but sort of scooped the honey off it and left the main bit, but it was at least an effort. And of course all the uniform was laid out ready.

And we got to school early. Watched someone panicking because they didn't realise that they actually had to fill in the actual forms and it wasn't fair (I couldn't be smug, ours were done the night before and how I managed to find little bear's birth certificate was a miracle!)

We had an interview with the headmistress who was lovely to little bear and terrified me. And little bear trotted off into class without a backward glance.

The house seemed just so empty. And all again tomorrow. For the first time in five years I need an alarm clock.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


My sister in law has bought little bear a Doctor Who advent calendar.

It is the beginning of September! What is anyone doing buying advent calendars in September? What is anyone doing selling advent calendars in September? What happened to seasonal?

Also, not entirely convinced about advent calendars, especially as many of them are 31 days now. I mean, if they are going to be 31 days why not call them New Year's Calendars? Mind you, I am sure I will find some somewhere.

Advent, btw, is an old season of the Church, like Lent. In the middle ages it was a time of fasting and, if you wanted to be old-lady-in-hat-style there should be no flowers in Church and you shouldn't eat meat, especially not on Christmas Eve. Now it seems a time of stress and frantically trying to fit everything in, the penance of dashing round crammed shops and hoping you haven't forgotten the turkey (I did forget the meat one year, but we didn't notice until afterwards).

I may try and go back to that idea, the fast before Christmas. I can imagine a time of abstinence would make the feast that followed so much more welcome, and won't hurt any in our household.


I miss medised

I really miss medised. I have been reading what Lesley kindly wrote, and I thought, must stock up with calpol as he is no longer quite the child from hell on that and the baby nurofen is always a bit iffy on his tummy. But medised used to dry up a green nose really lovely, and I miss that. Only fifteen months before he can use it again, should he get the green nose lurgy.

I'll get some of those plug in menthol thingys for kids, that help him breathe a bit better when he is poorly. I don't expect to have much respite for the next few years. Baby Olbas Oil is another good standby.

On the bright side, it shows his immune system is developing and maturing. I wish there was a better way. And he still hasn't had chicken pox.


Little bear starts school tomorrow.

I have a sore throat and temperature. OH has a sore throat and temperature. Darling father has had a few off days. Little bear has a cough you could pave a street with.

What a start!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Things to miss

Today is little bear's last day as nursery.

I cannot praise the nursery enough. They have been amazing, they are friendly, pleasant, great at communicating and little bear has blossomed. He has soared!

I will be missing lots about the nursery, including things like a 5.55pm pick up, but the oddest thing I shall miss is a washing line. On the way to the nursery, down a small alley, I go past a garden, and the washing line there is always a work of art, and it sums up all that I aspire to and that I never reach. The washing line is only ever up when it is in use, I think it is put away inside otherwise, and it is propped up by old fashioned wooden clothes props. The clothes and sheets etc are always sparkly clean and pegged immaculately on the line, nicely spaced, in logical order, in just the right way to catch the wind. Two days ago I went past and the weather was too bad for the washing line, but in the porch was a clothes airer with towels and clothes on. They looked immaculate and were so logically and neatly laid out, including pegs on a mat that really needed to hang. It makes me blush at my slapdash ways.

Also, my abiding memory of this washing line, this spring, was a washing load of over a dozen slightly larger ladies knickers, all dazzling white and all pegged out with two pegs about two inches apart with no other laundry in sight, just knickers. I thought, there is a woman who really understands order and method.

Grumpy Sybil Again

This PMT stuff is relatively new to me, intensifying and exhausting me. I am now, I think, a woman of a certain age...

In other words, I could pick a fight in an empty room.

So I am carefully picking my words here, as I will have to live with whatever I post now. The steps are back to green again, I am going to have another go with toilet cleaner after the bees stop falling on it. While they are still moving I don't feel I can bleach them, and those steps are getting crunchier by the day, it being the middle of autumn and everything. The person supposedly coming out for a survey for the fire is going to get back to me, honest. The confused fruit flies are now hovering around the kettle which has made me incredibly paranoid and the kettle a lot cleaner. They may be confused but I am baffled. Evil cat is looking a bit washed out. I snapped at darling father yesterday and had to apologise (well, I didn't have to but I wanted to). Little bear has got his school shoes, and managed to coax two rides out of me, but I held out against getting him a toy. They are already showing where he was climbing walls.

And I can't post on my other blog because my eyes aren't working enough to read the print properly. Sigh.

Also, I need to toughen up. Little bear has persuaded me out of a new spaceman suit for no good reason and I have been unable to keep to my determination to cut down his sugar intake. I managed to get the almost healthy cereal in him, but he wheedled jellies out of me. I need to plan more.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Little bear prompts

Little bear has been reading the bed time story to me for the last few days, at his insistence. Well, not actually reading reading. He manages quite a few words, guesses quite a few more, and lets me take over when he gets distracted. Today he was doing really well apart from consistently reading 'had' instead of 'has'. It's his teacher's problem on Monday.

I have been being very lavish with praise, because it is something really good. I have encouraged him, as have darling father and OH, but I have not sat him down and forced him to read. The drive has come from him (and when it is late and he wants to 'read' the entire 63 pages of Cat in the Hat I am tempted to actively discourage him, but I don't). But I have been praising him. I think he is doing really well (biased mum view). But I missed one page. He had gone through three sentences and I had moved my finger to the next page without the usual well done. I got a timely reminder. Little bear paused thoughtfully and then there was a quiet but firm, 'well done' from him before he started the next page.

I am keeping up the praise for him. It is easier.

Little bear's wish list

The letterbox catalogue came today. For those who haven't seen it, there are lots of nice toys and games (and some 'nice' prices) but there were things like a jigsaw of England where the lift out pieces were the counties of England - he got that last Christmas and it was rather lost in the shuffle. As I sort through the house in his first half term, I shall be seeing what I can get out and re-introduce when I find.

I enjoy looking at things like the toy wooden castle - even if he didn't have one, we don't have the space, and the figures - HOW much for four? And I almost certainly will pick up one or two bits from it.

Unfortunately little bear has been looking at it. He already is constructing a Christmas list which would have to be delivered in a convoy of lorries. A catalogue doesn't help. He has marked the page with the dressing up costumes (HOW much?! I can't believe they can ask that! I need to learn to sew and stop being scared of my sewing machine(s)). It is going to be a long, long run up to Christmas.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Confused fruit flies

We have confused fruit flies. Confusion is pretty normal here, but the confused fruit flies are new to me. I have no idea where they are coming from. The kitchen would not look out of place on a horror documentary about clutter (too much) and cleaning (not enough) but there doesn't seem to be anything the flies could have come from. They appeared after we returned from the farmers market, so I may have brought them in with me, but we cooked the fish and the kale the same day and the potatoes don't look as if they have flies.

The flies did hover around the sink for a while, but are currently mostly sitting sadly around the rim of an old yogurt pot. They were flying around and looking completely lost, with a small congregation around the (actually pretty clean) neck of a ketchup bottle (memo to self - sterilise before next use) so I took pity on them and put down a small yogurt carton with a mixture of fruit juice and vinegar in the bottom. They seem to find it homely. And it keeps them away from anything else. Plug in fly killer and citronella are in force as we speak, so hopefully it is only a short time before they go to their fruit-juice-and-vinegar grave.

So I don't know where they have come from. They don't seem to know where they have come from. And they don't really seem to want to investigate anything around that may of interest to fruit flies so don't really know where they are going.

I think the PMT is affecting my sanity.

I am not feeling a very nice person

First of all, if this PMT doesn't stop soon I am going to end up in the papers.

I had a Sainsbury delivery this morning. I really miss when I had my deliveries from the White Rose. For years I had a weekly delivery, it was no trouble and I had no problems. In fact, I sometimes used to ring up Sainsburys and say thank you for the good service.

Then we switched to Bradford. I found that out two weeks after the switch when the delivery driver watched me lug forty litres of liquid in various bottles down a steep flight of stone steps with one arm in a sling without even offering to help. And when I placed the order they would not allow me to order Ovaltine - Ovaltine! Every corner shop seems to carry it but not a huge supermarket? I was unimpressed and ended up getting a delivery from Asda as a supplement.

Today they were huffing while standing over me because I wasn't unpacking the crates fast enough. The crates were in the garden, I was lugging the stuff up and down the steps (in normal circumstances I don't mind because I need the exercise) and all I had asked them to do was take the bags out of the crates, which they didn't. So when they said that they would see me again I said that I would be going to Asda next time.

I do feel bad about this, really, and I may ring up to apologise. Just because I am royally hacked off and am buying less and less from Sainsburys because the service is getting worse and worse for me does not mean I should be less than courteous. I have gone below the standard I set myself which is not to be horrible to delivery men, it is generally not their fault. And even if it is, then there is very little I can do about it and if I am reasonable now I might get better service. But today was not a day to stand over me huffing. I am a very grumpy bunny at the moment.

And the world gave me a bit of a nudge to day that I had not been behaving, a slap on the wrist if you like. Because as the van drove off a bottle of cola dropped down the steps, bouncing high on every one and exploded when it hit the kitchen floor. I have been wiping cola off the kitchen ceiling and it serves me right.


Forgive the exclamation marks. It is early to be thinking about Christmas. Actually, the best time to think about Christmas is January when all the sales are on and that is the best time to pick up the wrapping paper and cards.

I have just cancelled the magazine subscription that is OH's Christmas present - at his request, I hasten to add. It was a technical magazine that was starting to repeat itself, and he was rarely opening the plastic covers when they came. But that leaves me with the awful problem of what to get him, the man who is impossible to buy for. Aftershave? He has a beard. Socks? He has a multitude thereof and as a matter of principle I refuse to get him clothes. I am not his mother to buy him clothes, let him sort it out. Books? I got some for his birthday from little bear but he doesn't read much at home (though he is a bibliophile and enjoys reading) and I have no idea of the audio books he has already downloaded to 'read' in the car on his way too and from work. Booze? He isn't a big drinker, and his drinking is taken up by what darling father insists he shares in. Food goodies? He has been fretting about losing weight, and while he would appreciate them, it would be a bit unfair. Smellies? Scraping the bottom of the barrel. He uses things like soap and toothpaste and shampoo and not much else.

In the past I have got mugs and glasses for him from little bear, personalised with a twee message. They are filling cupboards. And I really don't want to add more clutter, which he hates, by buying more ornaments for him. I have, in the past, also bought at least half a dozen pictures - really nice ones - and written fiction to go with them.

I should have started worrying about this months ago. I shall browse my friend, ebay, and see if inspiration strikes.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Cleaning steps

We have a cellar kitchen with stone steps going down from the outside to the kitchen door. They are very steep stone steps and at this time of year are covered in dead bees.

They are also green. Little sunlight gets to them except at the height of summer. The very tall laurels across from us block the sun. In winter the low angle of the sun and the height of the laurels mean that no sunlight hits the pavement outside our garden or the garden itself, the lowest point being about two foot up the wall of our house. This means that the ice never actually melts when it is really icy pavements because the sun doesn't hit it. The steps are also shaded from the left by tall porch steps and on the right by the shadow from a tall fence. So they get green and covered with algae. This is not good if you are trying to take a large delivery of groceries down the steps to the kitchen. I usually won't allow the delivery drivers to take stuff down for me, I am worried about them slipping.

In the past I have scrubbed them with washing soda and water, soap and water and stardrops and water. This has never been hugely effective, but usually cut through the worst of the slime.

Yesterday even I didn't want to go down the steps. The cool summer and lack of sunlight hitting the steps meant that they were coated. So I called in for a cup of gossip at the local newsagent and picked up some toilet bleach. Then I carefully went down the steps, squirting as I went. The bleach frothed. It may have been the limescale remover component, or the lemon scent, but it looked like it was working hard.

Today I looked out and there were the lovely limestone steps, green free apart from a few streaks at the bottom where I ran out of bleach. It probably isn't old style or economic, but one bottle of cheapo loo bleach solved a lot of health and safety problems. I shall repeat this regularly.

Weather is happening

Here it is cold, wet and extremely windy. It isn't cold cold. You would not confuse the weather with January. However today is doing a very good impression of October, or even early November!

The weather forecast has the temperature at 16 degrees, the temperature that, in the old days, was the minimum for working in an office. Of course, that doesn't take into account the howling wind and horizontal rain that is making it feel so much colder.

So I was a little surprised when they turned up to paint the sills of our house. I was also a bit nervous. One young lad was going up ladders, in cold, damp and windy conditions, in just trainers! However it is done, and that's fine (with a few smudges, which is probably the weather). The roofer did hint about getting the drainpipes done, but that can definitely wait!

Then, as PMT was biting hard, I went to get some chocolate from the nice newsagents. And in front of me was a young girl in a sun dress! Seriously, a thin, strappy, t-shirt-material sun dress. At least it was maxi length. The poor girl looked perished! The sun dress was smart and pretty, but the goosebump look is rarely attractive.

I am wearing a sweater!

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Little Old Lady and the Businessman

I can't remember where I read this but I read it somewhere, so I can't claim originality.

I have looked back on today, and while I am pleased that I have achieved something, it is a pittance of stuff. So, with due respect and apologies to the little old ladies that are dynamos and run rings around me, here is the point.

If a businessman wants to send a postcard, it takes him a few minutes. He slots getting the postcard in with other tasks and chooses a card quite quickly, takes a few moments to write it and then posts it.

The little old lady will take all day. First of all she has to buy the postcard. It can take some time choosing the right card, and there is always the potential for a cup of gossip, and what sort of card it should be, and perhaps they have a better selection in a different shop, with a different cup of gossip. Then she has to find the stamp. Should she buy one, while she is out, or does she have one in the drawer. No, she is pretty certain she used the last one on a card to her sister, but if she buys another stamp and she already had one then that is a waste. Then there is the 'Finding Of The Address' and has she written it clearly enough? And what should she put on it?

In essence, the businessman has lots of urgent and important things on the go, and he needs to get this task done. It takes the time relative to its importance - a few minutes. For the little old lady, this is the only task and it expands in time and importance to fill her whole day.

I need to fill my day up more, and take the 'businessman's postcard' approach. Though meter readings, cancelling things, paying things and ordering works took a few hours on the phone today, I could certainly have fitted more in. I have worked in high pressure environments with extremely high volumes of work. I need to get back that ruthless ordering of priorities that used to save my sanity.

Still, no takeaway again tonight - lamb burgers, mashed potato and beans. Little bear ate most of the mash, a forkful of beans and a smidgeon of burger (evil cat stole the rest, she is feeling a lot better) but he had had a baked potato at nursery today at teatime so I was not so stressed.

And still waiting

I am posting this as I am waiting for the nice man from the electric company to ring me back.

I am shattered, really and totally shattered. Little bear had a nightmare that meant that he needed a vast quantity of cuddles, and then I was woken up by reflux, or I think it is called that, where acid rises in your throat. It took me a time to get back to sleep after that.

So this morning I went back to sleep after providing little bear with breakfast etc - and I was reassured that though it felt like a deep sleep I was still up and standing next to him in 0.2 seconds when he was upset that Daddy hadn't noticed him waving. I know it wasn't actually very long, because I got to the window between OH getting in to the car and OH driving off, so I was able to bang on the window so little bear could have another wave. OH is really good about giving little bear his needed cuddles.

So I am crawling along, tired, most of the morning and severely upsetting little bear by refusing to sort his Dr Who cards for him - there must be several hundred of the dratted things, all sorted by strange rules devised by little bear - are the cards boys or girls? Goodies or Baddies? Then I drag him off to nursery.

I feel very tired, full of heartburn and low. This afternoon I have managed to book a survey for the fire, book the nice man to paint the windows, polish the sink (it was cleanish but stained), take in the Asda Delivery, cancel a magazine subscription, research another one, pay a bill or two online and cancel the nursery direct debit (last Monday for little bear today). I have finally managed to read the meters and have hit a 'snag' trying to provide the reading so the nice man is ringing me back. I have found time for a cup of gossip at the local shop, and a lot of browsing. I have also got tea ready to be switched on. It is only (bought) lamb burgers and mash with beans, but it means no takeaway. A takeaway almost never costs less than £10 for all of us. This, with the posh bought burgers, the end of the posh potatoes and a tin of beans comes in at well under half of that.

Not bad for lack of sleep, awful acid coming up, heartburn, raging pmt and no antidepressants for the last month. However Nice Mr Next Door is doing better - he is working through flu!

Also, the new gas meter was fitted in April. I have finally read it. But is it too late to complain? The awful man has fitted it so that it is impossible to read unless you are lying on your tummy. This is not an option for all of us. Hmm. I shall think about that.
Hazel - Thank you for the stove recommendation, I hope it is worth it for us here. I have actually done some research...

We live in a smokeless zone, so we can either burn smokeless fuel or get a DEFRA approved stove that will allow us to burn more or less everything. Within reason, give or take.

And that is another thing - one stove is not likely to need much in the way of maintenance over the next few years. It is replacing a gas fire that is on its way out after twenty years of service. That is going to surely save a bit on the gas etc. And gas and electric need more service than a large box of metal.

Dear heaven, just thought ... off to research chimney sweeps!!!

Edited to add - there is one locally, with a website. For some reason I am irrationally reassured by a website.
I have the adverts on mainly for entertainment value, but where, please, did they get the idea that they should advertise asbestos removal here?

Asbestos removal?

Sunday, 4 September 2011

I am probably Insane

I am borrowing money from darling uncle.

Darling uncle is incredibly generous, very kind hearted and really wants to help people out. It may sound crazy but he is happy to lend me money, don't worry about the interest and you check how much you've paid and let me know when it's paid off. So I feel a bit guilty about it.

I am borrowing for a luxury.

I thought about a few things, then I rang a local show room to ask about how much it would cost to get a stove fitted. And how much a stove would cost from them - I only want a small one to heat my living room and it isn't a big room. And I asked darling uncle if I could borrow the money from him as OH was convinced that he would be sitting in penury surrounded by sacks of coal.

I plan to use the stove in case of power shortages, heating the downstairs in particularly cold day time weather and as a place to dispose of the two newspapers that darling father brings home, plus all the other tonnes of paper rubbish that ends up here. I am not entirely convinced that our local recycling bins are actually recycled, and I think that just using up the scrap pallets around often dumped in our road, the logs from the business a few hundred yards away or the occasional sack of smokeless fuel (we live in a smokeless zone) will be quite satisfactory. I also believe that a stove will help heat the bones of the house, keep the bees warm and add to the feel good factor.

I really hope it lives up to this. I hope I am not being silly.

Farmer's Market

I went to Leeds Farmer's Market today.

There were a lot of good stalls and a lot of nice stuff, but...

There were less stalls than previously. I especially missed one or two stalls, but the stall that does the most phenomenal pork pies was still there.

Also, there weren't many farmers there. There were stalls selling baked goods, and stalls selling crafted goods like home made jewellery. There were stalls with olives and wine. There were some cheese stalls and meat stalls, but I didn't really feel tempted by a lot of them. I bought some sausages. There was an offer of a tray of a pork joint, a pack of bacon and four packs of sausages for £10. I did look. The pork joint would have barely fed our household for one meal and looked very fatty. The bacon wouldn't have furnished all of us with a bacon sandwich and didn't look that nice and the four packs of sausages held, in total, sixteen sausages. And the sausages were a bit on the small side.

In one way this is a bit unfair as I am used to supermarket meat, which can have all the benefits of added colours, extra water to make it look plump, fancy lighting etc. But this just didn't appeal, I think it looked just too fatty and a little bit yellow and curling, though that may have been because it was the display model. And how many joints of pork are described as pot roast? So I may be wrong with my instinctive rejection, but I don't regret it. I think I would have been more tempted by higher quality but more expensive stuff. It's what I have gone for in the past at the farmer's market.

To be honest, I don't think that the people selling there are making a lot after paying for their stalls and all their overheads, and in these belt-tightening days there are not so many people willing to pay premium prices for premium products. Though some of the cheese stalls are excellent. If you ever get a chance to try the liquorice cheese then take the opportunity with both hands!

Little bear was very good, chatted away happily to the lady who sold us some (extremely nice) cakes and the lady who sold us the (amazingly fantastic and tasty) pork pies. And we came away with - pork pies for lunch, potatoes that were really, really fresh (and there weren't that many stalls selling these), black kale (tasted very nice), cheese for darling father, and a very nice piece of naturally smoked Whitby Haddock which did lovely for tea, just in butter and milk. I would have tried the recipe for left over haddock in the Year's Cookery if any had been left over, but there wasn't.

Nearly a week without a takeaway. This is unprecedented!

Doctor Who Strikes Again

Little bear wakes up at 6am, regardless of when he goes to sleep. Yesterday he slept in until 7am. It doesn't matter if he goes to sleep at 6pm (not unknown) or 10pm - still the early call. So we work really hard at getting him an early night, and as long as he is quiet upstairs we don't police him too rigorously.

So last night we wrestled him into bed, negotiating several stories and his determination to read them and the usual games. Then OH and I trudged downstairs and OH watched Dr Who.

First little bear came downstairs dressed up as a knight. Then he came down dressed as a skeleton. Both times he was met by an unyielding 'back to bed and go to sleep!'. Except the second time he didn't go back to bed. He stayed, quiet as a mouse, holding the door to the stairs open just a crack and watching Dr Who through it.

Such classic behaviour! He still got chased upstairs to bed and got to watch it 7am today (OH is incredibly tolerant).

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Fighting the Clutter Monster

Anyone who suffers from hoarding instincts or clutter monsters will recognise this, I am sure.

I have a pair of jeans where the seam has split all the way down one thigh, the material next to the seam has gone and I lack the skills or inclination to repair. But deep inside me there is a huge impulse to Make Something Useful Out Of Them. There is also the 'Do Not Waste' and 'Do Not Contribute To Throwaway Society'.

Now, if I cut the legs off and cut the seam along the length, then folded them ankle to thigh and re-sewed them, I could stuff them and have them as cushions, they'd look great. In fact I could get three cushions from a pair of jeans, two from the legs and one from the seat.

1. I have a zillion projects like this around already, none of them have been done, and I have already committed to ironing on red patches to the knees of little bear's jeans. When exactly am I going to do this?

2. When you see these things on the tv, there are always the cute little transfers or stick ons or pretty buttons that add to the cuteness of the cushion. I don't have a store of these, I don't want to acquire a store of these things, I want less things in my house. And unless I fell lucky in a charity shop or on ebay (my friend), the notions would cost more than a cushion from Matalan.

3. I have a wodge of cushion covers - nice, soft and nearly new cushion covers - waiting to be stuffed with unravelled woollies when I next get a chance. I don't need to add to them, and currently we have more or less enough cushions. I would like more, but I have the cushion covers ready to be stuffed 'when I get round to it'. This brings me back to point 1!

So I will wash the jeans through and give them to Nice Mr Next Door for rags for his mechanicking.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Tea tonight

On my other blog I am looking at all the amazing recipes and ideas and feeling a little overwhelmed. My cookery is the 'what's instant, easy and cheap' type. I am not a good cook, I am not an inventive cook and I have too many takeaways.

However, in the interests of giving an insight into my culinary repertoire, this is what I am having for tea tonight

Beefaroni - Brown 'some' mince (between 250g and 500g is about right) and drain. Add an undiluted tin of condensed tomato soup. Season generously with worcestershire sauce and italian herbs with plenty of basil. Stir in a huge pan full of cooked, drained macaroni, I usually guess around a handful and a half of dried macaroni per person, but it depends on how hungry everyone is.

It is lovely and flexible, because the amounts can go up and down, and I think that one can of tomato soup could perhaps even stretch to a kilo of mince. You can flavour it more or less, depending what you have in the spice cupboard. It has protein, carbohydrate, fats and the veg traces in the tomato soup. If you use lean mince and drain it, you have a relatively low fat meal. Also, it is cheap, tasty and incredibly filling. 500g of mince, with plenty of pasta stirred in, will easily serve six adults. I suppose you can have garlic bread and salad with it, or follow it with a fruit salad and cream. It is also incredibly quick to do.

I got the recipe from an American friend around 20 years ago, and I have thanked her every since.


I have just applied to be on the Mumsnet roll of bloggers. I was in two minds about this, as this blog is a bit twee for Mumsnet, but they did quote one of my posts, so I thought, what the heck.

So, all who want to read this are welcome. I am not sure that I live up to the standards of the high flyers that blog, but perhaps one day I will get there.


The roofer came. £120 to tidy up tiles, clear area and point loose ridge tiles (which I had known about for ages, but had been too scared of the bill to do anything about). £60 to re-cement the chimney pots - he went to show how much they could wobble and loose cement fell everywhere. He also offered to paint some of the stone work for £120. It badly needs doing - really badly. Again I have been scared of the bill. The thing is, we all know what last winter was like, and the winter before, and after a cold summer I am not sure that I expect anything but another bad winter. I can't risk the chimney or ridge tiles coming off any longer.

It all really needs doing but today I have also received the AA membership renewal. We pay in a lump sum, as I believe it was cheaper when it originally set up. This is an absolute necessity, OH doesn't know where the oil goes. Actually he doesn't know how to refill the windscreen wash. I know less.

I feel a bit battered by bills. We can find the money, but I wish we didn't have to.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Good intentions

Last night I did home made soup, which had lots of compliments from OH and darling father. Little bear refused to touch it, I'm having the leftovers for lunch.

I tried to make garlic dough balls from a packet mix that I got from Approved Food a while ago. It was no good, the yeast had died, so that was unsuccessful. So there is an inadvertent clutterbust as all the ones I was planning to use up might as well go out. And the apple crumble to use up the apples didn't happen as little bear made a three act, Oscar winning performance out of walking a few yards home from nursery so I ended up getting in far too stressed to think about finding the butter, peeling apples, etc.

I have no idea what we are having tonight. Something exceedingly instant - little bear is getting severely under my feet. But it will be home made, not a takeaway. Though tomorrow is still fish n chips.

Also, the recipe for cheese soup without the cheese - soften 'some' onions, 'some' carrots and 'some' bacon, all chopped small, in 'some' butter, about a tablespoon full or a little more. Then stir in the same amount of plain flour to butter and cook for around a minute or so, not too short a time or it makes it more likely to go lumpy. Then add 'some' stock, last night I used vegetable stock cubes, with a wallop of worcestershire sauce, marmite if you like it, mixed herbs (I use the teabags) and mustard powder - about half a teaspoon for me. Add the stock slowly, bit by bit, then simmer for around twenty minutes. If you are not cheese intolerant like OH you can add 'some' cheese at this point then take it straight off the heat, but it tastes really good without cheese.

The 'some' is because it is an old fashioned soup which can be adjusted to whatever portions you like. I usually have loads of carrots, onions and bacon in it, and I do not liquidise it. I suppose you could make it thinner or liquidise.


I was putting together another grocery delivery from the supermarket. I had gone to Sainsburys because they do the tuna that evil cat likes. Actually, it is small tins of tuna in water, dolphin friendly. I get the smaller tins so I don't end up with half tins cluttering the fridge and then being rejected by evil cat for not being fresh enough. Also I like their diet cola as it doesn't have aspartame.

Since they moved me from the White Rose store, it just hasn't been the same. In fact, it has gone steadily down hill. Suddenly they were not doing Ovaltine in a delivery. Ovaltine is a staple! corner shops sell it, small newsagents carry it, so why can't a vast, complicated, major leading supermarket have it as available for delivery. It is not that it went on the list and then didn't show up. It just wasn't there to put on the list!

I am going to see if I can get something broadly similar to the tuna from Asda. Any reasons to keep shopping at Sainsburys seem to be evaporating.