Friday, 30 December 2005

christmas survivor special

We're back!

Christmas dinner here was lovely - we swapped christmas tradition stories with Polish Lodger's Girlfriend's Cousin, who was mildly disturbed by the concept of flammable pudding, but impressed by the concept of stuffing.

Apparently, in Poland the Big Night is Christmas Eve, which comes at the end of a forty day period of Advent abstinence, similar to Lent. You eat clear beetroot soup with mushroom dumplings, followed by carp. The carp are bought live and kept in the bath for a couple of days before the event. You all share special bread, similar to communion wafers, with each other and wish each other good things for the coming year.

Our visit to Ma and Pa's for a few days afterwards went relatively well - I only had one minor stress attack which led to me standing in the kitchen, rocking, during teatime, because the teapot, the cups and the christmas cake were all in separate rooms.

It seemed like a big deal at the time :).

I may have chicken photos for later, if they've come out.

Sunday, 25 December 2005

seasonal cheer

I was going to write a wonderfully witty and heart-warming post to leave up over christmas, but events have rather caught up with me :(.

In a belated frenzy of christmas spirit we put some decorations up last night - do you know that Tesco knock everything down to half price on christmas eve? - and B finally took the Dyson apart and removed the enormous wodges of cat hair that were causing to blow rather than suck.


And then we drank sherry and ate mince pies in front of the fire while we wrapped our presents.

This afternoon Vic and Tom come round and Polish Lodger's Girlfriend's Cousin will be joining us for dinner.

Tomorrow we go to Ma and Pa's for a few days, so probably no blogging until the end of the week.

Have a lovely Christmas break!

Thursday, 22 December 2005

extra special present

As an extra special christmas gift to myself, I am reconciling the bank with my accounting software.

I loathe reconciling the bank. I would rather spend an afternoon stabbing forks in to the backs of my hands whilst listening to B's Gran's collection of Mrs Mills Greatest Hits than do it. Particularly since I generally put it off for so long that when I finally DO get round to it, the level of complexity ideally needs to be untangled by someone like Stephen Hawking.

However, I am so scared of our incredibly sarcastic accountant that I have finally pulled my finger out and decided that I need to make a vague effort at appearing competent. So:

  • I went through the enormous pile of filing that has been hanging around since we moved the office downstairs while the builders were here and I have not yet got round to sorting out
  • I found the bank statements
  • I reconciled my software with the bank statements
  • I worked out what we owe people and what people owe us and I plugged the figures in to my other spreadsheet to see whether the graph goes happily upwards or unhappily downwards (it goes up quite steadily for a while, and then it goes over a cliff and crashes somewhere in mid-August, which is okay, because that's six months away and we'll have done a lot more work by then)
  • I printed out the ten pages of VAT figures from last month
  • I printed out sixty three pages of audit trails since the beginning of June
  • I deleted the audit trails I'd printed, to prevent future duplication

And at that point I realised that the printer had run out of ink at about page five in the process.

Oops.

So I reloaded the back-up copy I had luckily made before I began and I started again.

And now I want to do a 'month end'.

Only something has happened.

Instead of giving me an option to do a 'month end' (which in this case would actually be a 'quarter end', because I am so lazy, but that's a minor detail*) there is only an option which says 're-create review copy for accountant'.

Also, the printer is making a worrying clunking noise.

I am going to have to go and drink cooking sherry until it all goes away.


* See! SEE why I am unsuited to accounting tasks of even a minor nature!

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

conversations with my mother #051220

We are in the middle of a management meeting. Okay, there are only three of us, but together, we are almost impossible to manage and it always takes us ages.

I go to make the tea. The phone rings. B answers it and I can hear him chatting away. When I come back in to the room, he mouths "It's your mother!", and passes the handset over.

Me: [cautiously] Hello?
Ma: [bellowing] Hello dear! I can only speak to you for as long as it takes to peel a cabbage!
Me: [thankfully] So not that long then?
Ma: [still bellowing] I've rung up to find out when you're in. I'm going to put your christmas cake on a carrier.
Me: [still back there with peeling cabbage timescale thing] .....
Ma: [continued bellowing] I wanted to know what days you'd be in for it to be delivered. I've managed to ice it, so I'm thinking that tonight after I make the forty holly wreaths that that chap in town wants, I'll wrap it up. It should be hard enough.
Me: [as before] .....
Ma: [now bellowing over background of cabbage peeling noises] And the pudding of course! Denise sent her mother some flowers by Amtrak and they were very good, so I was thinking I'd phone them.
Me: [finally finds voice] Yes? Or you could just take it to the Post Office and send it Parcel Force?
Ma: [slightly quieter, still clearly peeling cabbage] I hadn't thought of that. Yes, perhaps I could. I'll sort it out anyway, so long as you're in.
Me: Yes, I'll be in. And even if I'm not, they'll just put a card through the door and I can get it redelivered.
Ma: [bellowing, redux] Here, speak to your father. He said he was going for a wee and a sit-down, but he's put his big gloves on and his hat and scarf, he's going out I think.
Me: [vainly] We're kind of having a meeting ...
Ma: [now bellowing at Pa] Here! Speak to your daughter!
Pa: [in background, faintly protesting] But I'm going out! On my mobility scooter! Look! I've got my hat on!
Ma: [very loudly indeed] Here you are! Here she is! Say something!
[slight pause]
Pa: [resignedly] Hello.
Me: [resignedly] Hello. Are you going out then?
Pa: Yes. It's sunny. Don't want to miss the sun.
Ma: [bellowing in background] Here! You take the receiver! You hold it!
Pa: [suddenly bellowing back] I can't! I've got my gloves on! I told you! I'm going out!
Ma: [bellowing] Here, take it!
[bellowing suddenly becomes muffled]
[phone clearly drops to floor]
Pa: [comes back on line] I'm going out then. I'll pass you back to your mother. Nice to talk to you anyway.
[pause, as resigned grumbling gently recedes in to distance]
Ma: [slightly less bellowy] There, he's gone out.
Me: [finally finds voice] We're having a meeting, actually.
Ma: Well, I've peeled my cabbage, I've got to go and make those forty holly wreaths now. Speak to you soon!
Me: Yes, bye then.
Ma: [has already hung up]

Monday, 19 December 2005

update

Ah.

Tasks achieved from over-ambitious list of seven:
1 - Camping stuff moved from under the stairs.
2 - Logs stacked under the stairs.
Net result: Hallway full of camping gear. Floor covered in bits of logs and leaves.

Mysterious smells in dining room identified:
1 - Suprise kitten poo discovered under B's Grandma's Gramophone
Net result: Need more carpet cleaner.

Healthy things eaten:
1 - Banana.
2 - Tin tuna.
3 - Lots of water
Net result: Feeling of smug satisfaction.

Unhealthy things eaten:
10 - mince pies. See previous post re: comfort parcel arriving from Ma.
2 - glasses of lovely red wine.
Net result: Indigestion and a creeping feeling of guilt. Or possibly guilt and a creeping feeling of indigestion.

Husbands placated by promising six week trip to Australia in summer:
1 - The flights seem very reasonable.
Net result: Snogging.

Time for bed ... .

just checking in

The Turkey was a success - B cooked it on Friday night, turning it twice in the process to ensure even cooking. By itself the crown still weighed thirteen pounds and he reckons he only won by two falls and a submission. We had a really lovely evening - and guess what? There was enough turkey left for everyone to take some home :).

Dream has written down some of his thoughts about our Annual Christmas Get Together; and both a very nice piece of writing and sentiment it is, too. I feel very lucky to be a part of such a good group of friends. I am a relative newcomer of only five years standing, since most of them have know each other since school. They've made me unreservedly welcome and it's wonderful.

Yesterday we had a really lazy day, recovering. We watched eight episodes of Babylon Five and ate pizza in front of the fire.

A lot of my christmas-stress seems to have evaporated now - we did our christmas shopping on Friday night, via Amazon; and we wrote all our cards and posted them on Saturday morning.

This morning, Ma's long-promised cake and christmas pudding arrived in the post. It smells fantastic, and the only thing that's stopping me eating it on the sly while B is out, is that it reeks of brandy and it somehow seems wrong to start the week drunk on cake.

And of course, I'd also reek of spirits and he'd be able to tell.

My to-do list today includes:

  • moving the camping gear out from under the stairs and up to the eves of the attic.
  • putting the logs in the space under the stairs that that creates, so they don't keep shedding all over the hall carpet and sneakily falling down while we're out and blocking the door so that we can't get back in.
  • seeing if the dyson is really broken or whether I can fix it by vigorous shaking, random poking with a screwdriver and yet another change of filters.
  • if it's broken, I need to phone the dyson repair shop.
  • if it's not broken, I need to use it [sigh]. See comment about logs shedding bits.
  • cleaning the bathrooms.
  • dusting. I HATE dusting. I think it's Quintin Crisp who says that the dust doesn't get any worse after five years. If I could bear it, I'd experiement and see, but I can't, so I won't. If that makes sense.
I will reward myself with another trimphant post later on today when I've done all that. And maybe some cake.

Friday, 16 December 2005

return of the monster

The Turkey has arrived.

It is enormous, as predicted.

However, thankfully, it is in two bits.

A front bit.

And a back bit.

The legs are on the back bit. We have put them in the freezer to have ourselves on Christmas Day. Kate is going to use them to make a kind of Cockatrice - she's going to bone them and stuff them with chicken. She's a clever lady.

She also taught me how to take the breastbone out of the turkey - the farm hadn't done it, which was fine. Although I am in no way good with raw meat, particularly *identifiable* raw meat, she started me off and I finished it myself. I was surprised at how easy, and unsquicky, it was. I am going to stuff it with some red pepper, sage and shallot stuffing that I've found. We'll cook it later today, or maybe overnight, and we will take it round to Nina and Tom's for Saturday evening and have it cold. It will slice nicely, apparently made easier because the wishbone is out.

Kate has also apparently seen some Stinking Bishop locally ... I have passed the information on to the Stinking Bishop Quest team.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

geeky interlude

I have discovered a wonderful new geeky tool for Firefox-enabled blog addicts.

A little while ago, Milt told me about Feedreader, a news aggregator which I immediately installed and started using to read blogs and news articles that it notified me had been updated.

Then I realised that although it did the job well, it slowed my laptop down a bit - probably because I had millions of feeds loaded and I need a memory upgrade, rather than because of any issues with the sofware. I didn't like the way it didn't let you view more than one article on each site at a time. And I also didn't like the fact that it is a stand-alone program.

So I did a bit of rummaging around on the Firefox Add-Ons page. And I found Sage.

I have seen the light.

It's a Firefox extension that opens in a side-bar on your browser like the 'Bookmarks' pane; it searches out feeds for you on the page you're looking at at the click of a button (which was something I found inconvenient about Feedreader - you had to find them yourself and load them in); it lets you see the last few entries on each site immediately; you can click through and view the whole website or an individual post; it is furry and cuddly and user-friendly and I love it.

It is all over for me and Feedreader. We'll never be together again.

[/end of plug]

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

turkey crisis

I've made a cock-up.

A very large cock-up.

It appears that I was so shocked by the fact that our turkey was still alive at the moment of ordering, that I got my pounds and my kilograms confused.

I have therefore ordered a TEN KILO TURKEY for next weekend. Rather than a ten pound one. That is somewhere in region of TWENTY POUNDS. There will be, at most, fourteen of us.

Oh good grief.

What am I going to do?

B phoned the farm first thing on Monday and asked them if the turkey had already gone for the chop and if not, could we please swap it for a smaller model.

However, it was bad news. Our turkey was (to quote the farm shop chap, who turned out to have a sense of humour as well as being relatively helpful) an ex-turkey.

There was no going back.

Farm Shop Chap suggested asking Turkey Producer Chap to crown the turkey for us - ie, to remove the legs and perhaps the breastbone. This should make it a bit smaller.

And therefore it might stand a vague chance of going in the oven.

So we did.

It's arriving on Thursday.

Next year, I am going to volunteer to bring something simple, that isn't so reliant on me actually being a competent human being.

Like wine. Or cheese*.

I fear the turkey.


* Thanks to Dream for reminding me that this sketch existed. He has been looking for some Stinking Bishop, with no success.

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

spreading the infection

Cheryl has tagged me for a 'ten things I haven't told you yet' meme ... as she says, difficult to remember what I've confessed and what I haven't confessed yet, but here goes:

1. We had ponies when we were growing up. We were small and fat and so were they.
2. I have always wanted to keep pigs. I think pig-scratching is one of the best kinds of meditative practice.
3. When I was ten, our school put on 'Charlie and The Chocolate Factory'. I played 'Mrs Gloop'. The best bit was seeing my younger sister in the chorus of Ooompah-Loompah's, complete with a large cellophane-wrapped sweet on her head.
4. I like caviar and smoked salmon but I don't like champagne.
5. I can't wear high-heeled shoes, I fall over. Boots on the other hand ...
6. My mother says that money spent on bras and shoes is never wasted. I agree.
7. I like gardening. See above, 'pigs and meditative practice'.
8. My favourite poet is Thomas Wyatt. Particularly The pillar perished is whereto I leant.
9. I am also a Dorothy Parker fan. My favourite of her poems is 'Of a woman, dead young'.
10. I won't watch horror movies. Too scary.

There you go. Not too boring I hope, I feel like I'm running out of steam :). If you want to play, tag yourself and leave a link in the comments.

Monday, 12 December 2005

new project and a tummy ache

Short post today. I've got a new project on the go.

It involves nuns.

I am fascinated by nuns; I always have been. I think it's because I find the idea of a life of contemplative service genuinely appealing. The thing that makes it unworkable for me as a real personal choice is a reluctance to believe wholeheartedly in one particular faith, eschewing all others.

A couple of conversations I've been involved with recently have touched on the wide variety of different nuns there are around. And a couple of friends came back from the airport the other week awestruck by the height of the head-dresses of a pair of nuns they had encountered.

Hence the new project:

Nun Silhouette Identification.

I intend to log all the different kinds of nun, in silhouette, with a brief description of their order.

Hints, tips, helpful URLs all very welcome indeed.

I think I have some kind of bug - sore stomach, feel sick, aching muscles, general tiredness. I am going back to bed with yet another chamomile tea.

Friday, 9 December 2005

gobble smacked

A group of us have made a tradition of having a pre-christmas meal at Nina and Tom's house for the last few years. We all volunteer to take along a different part of the meal.

This year, like last year, we have been designated Bringers Of The Turkey.

I have just phoned Northern Harvest to see if they have any available ... the last-ditch-ordering-date for christmas meat was November 24th, so I couldn't just do my usual point-and-click ordering on Monday.

The woman on the phone was very helpful, if rather direct:

Me: Would it be possible to order a Turkey, for this week? It's for a meal on Saturday the seventeenth.
Lady: Possibly. I'll have to phone the supplier and ring you back.
Me: No problem - I realise it's rather late on.
Lady: No, no, no problem. It's just that the birds aren't dead yet.
Me: Pardon?!
Lady: Well, they're still on the farm. So if they kill them themselves, I am sure it will be fine. But if they have to send them away to slaughter, it might be an issue.
Me: [on autopilot] Ah. I'll wait for your call then. Thank you. Goodbye.
I don't know *why* it stunned me in to silence, *of course* I know that they keep the birds alive right up until the last minute. But I feel rather peculiar and think I need to go and have a cup of tea and a biscuit to recover.

I faithfully promise that my next post will be about something other than food.

Thursday, 8 December 2005

want some seafood mama ...

Today, let's talk about fish.

Let me say first I am not a great fish fan. They have wierd bulgy eyes and gulpy mouths and are cold and flappy. They are not cute, easy to identify with, cuddly or sexy. They don't purr, play 'fetch' or come when they are called. I don't even much like eating them.

However ... I got my Greenpeace annual report this morning, and apparently, there is a Fish Crisis.

Brief summary of the issue:

90% of fish eaten in the UK is now sold through supermarkets. In some cases, three quarters of the marine life caught in fishing nets is killed and thrown away as too small or not the right kind of fish. Some supermarkets are more ethical in their sourcing policies than others. Apparently ASDA is at the bottom of Greenpeace's league table and is currently not even making a token effort to change it's buying strategy. It has no sustainable seafood policy.

What can we do?

  • Try to eat fish from sustainable resources - the harsh alternative is that if we don't, our children may not have the option. The BBC has a good ethical guide to eating fish.
  • Try to get your fish from a local fishmonger, so you can ask where it's come from. This also has the added advantage of helping a local business rather than a multi-national.
  • Ask your supermarket what their policy is on sustainable seafood and shop accordingly. The full Greenpeace report is available here - but be warned, it is a quite big .pdf file and I haven't managed to download it succesfully.
  • To send ASDA an email asking for them to change their policy, go here.

Less photogenic than the Giant Panda. But possibly more important.

Including this in my Ethical Living Links.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

actually quite dull

Yesterday, R and I finally did B's expenses and fed them in to the VAT return.

Doing B's expenses is a quarterly trial. He doesn't often have time to do them himself and I initially declined to do them, not wanting to take on the roll of nagging secretary as well as wife, co-director and office administrator. So when R joined us, he volunteered. More as a way of keeping the peace than because of a heady delight in collating miscellaneous receipts. And in a blitz spirit kind of way, I started helping him.

Twelve months ago, when he took over the task, the main part of the process was actually locating the receipts. We would turn out B's pockets, go through his various bags, rummage through his wallet, look in old job files, the glove compartment and the ash tray of the car, even in his tool-kit and his work boots.

Now, however, we have introduced some technology to help us.

A receipt spike.

All B needs to do when he comes in is to empty his pockets and his wallet and stick the bits of paper on the spike.

As a tool, it also has the handy additional advantage of being useful to jab sharply in to the back of his hands if he's a bit slow off the mark.

Then once every three months, R and I sit down with the largest teapot in the house (half a gallon) and we start to collate the receipts. The first thing R does is go through them and throw out the ones that aren't actually connected with the accounts in any way.

This time this included three raffle tickets and a small map of a central London hotel car park.

Then, he divides them in to three piles - one for each month in the quarter - and hands them to me. I read out the date, the type of item, the amount and whether it is VATable or not. And R enters it on a spreadsheet.

It sounds simple, doesn't it?

However ... without B to tell us what the receipts are actually for, filling in the ITEM bit is sometimes quite hard. And since some of them are printed on wierd shiny paper in special ink that is designed to fade a bit more each time someone reads it, occasionally reading the date and the amount is also quite difficult.

So, after struggling through the current quarter's pile, we have Implemented A Strategy.

We have created a Receipt Voucher.

B is going to write the details of each receipt on the voucher and then attach it to the receipt, using that miracle device, a stapler.

I am even prepared to let him use my stapler for this - the one that I keep tied to my desk so the thieving magpies who seem to haunt our office can't make off with it to line their nests. That is how serious this situation is.

The only fly in the ointment is that so far, neither R nor I have got up the courage to actually inform B of the new system.

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

dear people who used to own our house

Dear Bob and Carol,

Last night, I spent half an hour trying to change the lampshade in the hall.

All issues of aesthetics aside, had it not occurred to you that for safety reasons, updating the light fitting to one manufactured in the second half of the twentieth century might have been wise the last time you replaced the lampshade yourselves?

I can tell from the shade that you chose that you did so relatively recently and I must therefore thank you for cross-threading the fitting to such an extent that it took me three snapped elastic bands, a sprained wrist and the actual destruction of the old lampshade AND the lightbulb, before I could get the thing apart.

The new lampshade throws out much more light. It therefore illuminates beautifully the badly painted polystyrene cherubs with which you chose to adorn the hallway. Unfortunately however, the placing of the light fitting in no way illuminates the useful storage space under the stairs.

In some ways this is a blessing, as the plastic coated cladding with which you have chosen to line the space is mercifully left in the dark.

I wish I could say the same for the cladding with which you seem to have lined the rest of the house.

Whilst the clashing-shades-of-green colour scheme in the living area is not my personal choice, at least the walls are clean and and the carpets of relatively good quality. I marvel daily at the hardboard with which you have lined both the dining and sitting rooms below the dado rail. It is such a comfort to know that the damp that was discovered in the rest of the house before we moved in is safely confined behind it.

Speaking of damp, the cladding in the bathroom was a stroke of genius. Successfully covering up the leaking roof for such a long time was a wonderful idea. The fact that the old lathe and plaster ceiling actually collapsed, bringing the cladding down before we could ascertain that there was a problem was merely a minor inconvenience.

Bob, the fact that your profession as a Gas Fitter meant that you were able to install your own central heating system must have been a real money-saver to you. I am sure that you take as much care with other people's houses as you did your own. I expect all your customers are thrilled at having enormous gaping holes in the internal walls to let the pipes through. And they probably all enjoy the challenge of daily negotiating the old gas inlet pipe capped six inches above floor level as they get stuff in and out of that space under their stairs.

When we moved in, I was particularly looking forward to designing and creating a courtyard garden. I want to thank you for making some of those designs so simple for us to choose. We have decided that the best way forward is to lay some decking immediately behind the house, in order to make safe the two foot deep trench our builders had to dig at the back to get the damp course to work properly. Anyone could have overlooked the fact that raising the entire yard by two feet and topping it entirely with concrete slabs that slope slightly would mean that any rainwater run-off drained directly through the external wall in to the utility room.

It was particularly cunning of you to use the rubble from the disused wash-house as a hardcore base for the raised patio. A two feet depth of broken stone certainly makes a sturdy foundation. And blocking up the gate from the back lane in to the yard with the (green) cladding with which you have lined all the courtyard walls has made our decision to go for raised beds so much easier. Much as we could do with the exercise, wheel-barrowing four tonnes of hardcore through the house has very little appeal.

So, thank you. And in conclusion, now nearly three years have passed, do you think you could consider getting a mail redirect set up and letting your various creditors have your new telephone number?

Hoping the future brings you all the good things you deserve,

- Ally and B

Monday, 5 December 2005

oh no it isn't!

I've done at least two fun things this weekend:

1. We went to see Aladdin at the local panto group - we got some free tickets because B gave them a Lighting Masterclass when they got some new lights and we felt that it was a friendly thing to do. OH YES WE DID!

Pantomime as a genre scares the willies out of me. I haven't been to one since I was herded up on stage at the Bristol Old Vic at the age of about eight and forced to participate in singing a 'comedy' song in front of a theatre full of people, a young woman dressed as a high-heel-wearing boy, an elderly man dressed as a woman, an evil sorcerer and a beautiful princess. I think it's a British thing - I've been trying to explain it to Polish Lodger's Girlfriend's Cousin, with not a great deal of success.

Despite my long-harboured reservations, it was a pretty good amateur production, with a 'junior chorus' so junior that some of them were less than two feet tall. There was no designated 'child wrangler' in the programme, but I am sure that there was one - we could see the curtains at the edges of the stage moving as they shepherded the little ones on and off - only one burst in to tears, so it went very successfully all told; and some of the older performers had really good voices. Next year I might even go voluntarily.

2. We went to see Harry Potter And The Crucible Of Pilchards. Better than the book, I thought, and nice that the characters have grown up a bit and caught up the real-life actors, so they can now film all of Hermione rather than just from her neck up.

Today, R and I have completed the move in to the redecorated office, put the stuff on the shelves and set up the computers on our lovely new round table. This has meant that we have had a good reason not to sort out B's receipts and do the VAT Return. I realise that this is an ongoing blog theme - every three months I spend a couple of weeks listing all the stuff I am doing instead of jumping to the tax man's whim. However, if I didn't blog about it, I wouldn't be able to use blogging as a reason not to have done it ... it's kind of a circular argument I know, but it's all I have, so bear with me :).

In other news, I have finally found the disc with my phone software on it, buried underneath three boxes of old accounts, Schott's Miscellany, a mug with mold growing in it and three volumes of out of date Yellow Pages; so Triumphal Attic Conversion photos soon.

Thursday, 1 December 2005

rape and sexual assault support - can you help?

This post is intended to a be a support resource for women who have been sexually assaulted or abused and who are looking for information about how other people in the same position responded to what had happened to them. (There are also a few links specifically for male victims at the bottom of the page, but this is not an area I feel able to address in any depth. Amendment - also, see Richard's story.)

I would be very grateful if people felt able to write a small post linking to this one, to raise awareness - male or female, with personal experience or not. The person you work with every day, your friend from college, your sister, your mother, your cousin - they might all have experienced something like this and have never told anyone. Things CAN change, if enough people stand up to be counted. Think of it as a meme. Those 34% of people that Amnesty cite are wrong. I want to convince them.

Being raped or being subject to domestic violence is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to many, many people and there are as many different ways of dealing with it as there are people who experience it.

I hope that by drawing together like this relevant posts and some resources, other people may be helped in their search to work out their own way forward.

I would be grateful for suggestions for other links, whether they are accounts of people's experiences or support resources. Or please contribute your own experiences if you would like to, either by sending me a link to include, or writing about it in the comments section below, openly or anonymously.

I think this is important, as victims can feel very isolated, very ashamed and very much as if they have no-one to turn to who will understand what they are experiencing.

I am going to put a link to this post in the sidebar and any further links or info will be added here - I do not want my blog to become a one-issue place and this is probably the last actual post I will make on the subject. What happened to me is a part of me, but it is does not by any means define who I am and I don't want to dwell on it or become defined by it. As various other people also say, I am no longer a victim.

People and blogs:


Support and information:

Support links for male victims:

rape and sexual assault support - can you help?

This post is intended to a be a support resource for women who have been sexually assaulted or abused and who are looking for information about how other people in the same position responded to what had happened to them. (There are also a few links specifically for male victims at the bottom of the page, but this is not an area I feel able to address in any depth. Amendment - also, see Richard's story.)

There is also an up to date list of support links that started out as a copy of this post, at The Green Meadow.

I would be very grateful if people felt able to write a small post linking to this one, to raise awareness - male or female, with personal experience or not. The person you work with every day, your friend from college, your sister, your mother, your cousin - they might all have experienced something like this and have never told anyone. Things CAN change, if enough people stand up to be counted. Think of it as a meme. Those 34% of people that Amnesty cite are wrong. I want to convince them.

Being raped or being subject to domestic violence is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to many, many people and there are as many different ways of dealing with it as there are people who experience it.

I hope that by drawing together like this relevant posts and some resources, other people may be helped in their search to work out their own way forward.

I would be grateful for suggestions for other links, whether they are accounts of people's experiences or support resources. Or please contribute your own experiences if you would like to, either by sending me a link to include, or writing about it in the comments section below, openly or anonymously.

I think this is important, as victims can feel very isolated, very ashamed and very much as if they have no-one to turn to who will understand what they are experiencing.

I am going to put a link to this post in the sidebar and any further links or info will be added here - I do not want my blog to become a one-issue place and this is probably the last actual post I will make on the subject. What happened to me is a part of me, but it is does not by any means define who I am and I don't want to dwell on it or become defined by it. As various other people also say, I am no longer a victim.

People and blogs:


Support and information:

Support links for male victims:

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

kanchenjunga

Did I mention that I'd had a buying frenzy last week?

We have implemented a 'just in time' procurement policy for our new household acoutrements: carpet, mattress, pillows and chests of drawers for the bedroom; carpet tiles, a round table and those handy on-wheels-under-the-table thingies for stuff that you are going to keep without looking at for six months and then chuck away unopened, for the new office.

The idea was for the bedroom carpet to arrive first and the rest of the stuff to arrive in a vaguely orderly fashion afterwards. We could then put the carpet down, move the new bed out of the office in to the new bedroom, add the mattress, temporarily shift some of the stuff out of the office while Liam The Decorator did his stuff in there ... you get the idea.

However, it has all fallen apart, because I got muddled up about carpet delivery times. In our relatively small hallway (ie, small compared to the rest of the space-time continuum) we therefore have pretty much all the furniture, carpets and bedding in the world.

To get in to the kitchen you need crampons in order to climb over the (king size) mattress, the five foot diameter round table and a huge roll of seagrass matting. With a nifty bit of ropework in the doorway, you can negotiate the pile of tins of paint that Liam has left at the end of the hall and reach over to put the kettle on.

To make it even more exciting, he's lost the lid of the undercoat and I've temporarily sealed it with clingfilm.

Managing the crampons and the ice axe AND the white spirit is almost impossible.

In other news, my entire series of Alexander Kent novels have arrived. An extra rum ration for the men, lieutentant!

Monday, 28 November 2005

moon and tide

I've had a bit of a peculiar weekend - my last post has made me feel more exposed than I thought it would. Which probably goes to prove that one doesn't ever leave these things completely behind. I shall be very pleased when B comes home tomorrow; I need a cuddle.

To all the people who have left me comments or contacted me, thank you. And thank you, Rachel, for linking to me. If what I've written has helped anyone else or triggered thought or discussion in any way at all, then that is a good thing and makes it worth the feeling of vulnerability. It is something that needs talking about, however difficult that is to do; that's one of the issues. I refuse to be ashamed about what happened to me. But talking about it is scary.

This blog is not about anything in particular, unless a person's life can be described as 'anything in particular'. It is just about whatever I feel like writing about at a particular moment - serious or funny, banal or more intense.

Today, I feel the need for a healthy dose of banality to get me back in balance.

So. I have spend the weekend largely eating.

Or should that be eating largely?

It's winter. It's cold. Polish Lodger's Girlfriend's Cousin and I are developing a mutual support group centered around chocolate. What can I say?

Betty Kitten, who will not really stay still long enough for me to get a reasonable photo of her, is also trying to join in the nice-things-to-eat exchange we have going.

So far, her offerings consist of:

  • leaves - many and varied, found all around the house
  • twigs - ditto
  • the cloth I keep clean the toilet, which normally lives on the soil-pipe behind the cistern and which I keep finding in the hall. Or which she presents to me, triumphantly, in bed in the morning. I have tried giving her a clean one of her own, but she prefers the one that smells of faeces
  • bits of carpet - pulled up from the corners of the room where the previous owners have stuck down slivers with gaffer tape to try to disguise their lack of ability with a stanley knife
  • slugs. Or possibly, just A slug. I keep returning it to the yard. If, as I suspect, there is only the one that has survived the frost, it will be getting depressed by now, as it's been in at least half a dozen times
  • And, finally, a medium-sized plant, wet and with the soil-covered roots still attached, which she brought to me in bed yesterday morning once I'd gaffer-taped open the cat-flap for her and gone back to bed with a cup of tea.

And to cap today's healthy banality, I am now going to watch the first three episodes of 'Airwolf', eat pizza and have a glass of wine.

Friday, 25 November 2005

droit de seigneur

Sixteen years ago, when I was nineteen, I was date raped.

I have written about this before, very therapeutically, but I want to mention it again for two reasons; firstly in the context of Naomi Wolf's article in the Guardian about rape and shame and secondly because Rachel's post earlier in the week about forgiveness has made me revisit my feelings about it.

My experience was in no way as traumatic as that which many other women have experienced. When I speak about it I always feel that I need to explain that it was a date rape, as if that is a mitigation. I explain that we'd both had a few drinks. That I was in love with him - the whole story is up there under that first link if you want to read it, mitigations included.

But I was still raped.

After I had withdrawn consent - and I did vocally withdraw consent - he continued to lie on top of me. He continue to push himself inside my body. He continued to fuck me until he decided to stop, completely disregarding me - in this case, until he came. There was nothing I could do about it - partly because of my mental state and partly because he was bigger than me and heavier than me and even if I had tried to stop him, I stood very little chance of doing so.

That is what rape means for victims,whether it is associated with acts of extreme violence or whether it is a 'date' rape. You are powerless to stop them.

I WAS ashamed that I was raped. I DID feel somehow to blame. I DID feel that I 'led him on'.

I didn't. I really didn't. But I was so frightened that people would think that I did that it took me years to come to terms with it. At one level I couldn't believe that it had happened, because my rapist had previously been my friend.

It still affects me today. And this is where the forgiveness comes in. By forgiving him, I can forgive myself, for getting in to that position to begin with. I can stop feeling revolted and disgusted at myself, for being fooled by him, for being taken in and thinking he was a nice person. And I can stop feeling revolted and disgusted by sex itself.

Hundreds, thousands of other women must go through this.

It is not something we choose. It is not something we 'ask for' because we flirt, as 34% of people apparently think. We do not give implicit consent to a man because we go out with him and drink too much whilst in his company. We do not give implicit consent because we like sex and have been to bed with a few people in the past.

The British Crime Survey reckons that about 15% of actual rapes are reported to the police.

Only 5.6% of the nearly 13,000 rapes reported to the police in the UK last year resulted in convictions.

That is 728 convictions out of a possible 86,000 crimes.

I can forgive the man who raped me; for my own sake, more than his. I can, most days, forgive myself.

I cannot forgive a society that discriminates against and stigmatises victims of crime, that puts victims on trial alongside their attackers and makes the process of prosecution so painful that it is more preferable to let your attacker walk away than go through the process of seeing him brought to justice.

And I cannot forgive that 34%.

THEY are the ones responsible for those 86,000 rapes - because they are the ones sending out the message that actually, some women are asking for it.

Enough.


Update: When I wrote this, I didn't realise it would generate quite so much interest, and I am both touched and moved. If you haven't already, please look at the 'support links page' and see if you can contribute at all. With thanks.

Thursday, 24 November 2005

at last

image (c) freefoto.comAfter a satisfactory forty-eight hour trial period, I have decided to add Liam The Decorator to my harem.

He is a sensitive chap, who gave up meat when he went to do a job one day and had to drive through a field of calves, who all came to lick his landrover and blink their beautiful eyelashes at him. The next week he went back and they had all gone to slaughter.

He likes listening to The Archers and The Afternoon Play on Radio Four and has been having a long chat with Polish Lodger's Girlfriend's Cousin about the different customs and habits of different European nations. He seems to be pretty widely travelled, with previous girlfriends from Indonesia and Germany.

I didn't want to get too excited about him to start with, partly because I didn't want to be disloyal to my other husbands, and partly because after the Attic Man Debacle, I didn't want to give my heart too quickly and be hurt again.

However ... we appear to have a painted attic bedroom. He is coming back on Friday to paint the little bathroom. And then next week he is going to come and paper-and-paint the office. After that, at dates to be arranged, he is going to do the big bathroom and the bedroom that we are currently sleeping in, as we can't rent it out to lodgers as it is. The cats have thoroughly enjoyed scratching the blown vinyl wallpaper off in strips and it was so vile that we encouraged them rather than yelling at them to stop.

image (c) freefoto.comThis may prove a problem in the future, I know.

So - yesterday I bought a seagrass carpet for the bedroom and some hairy carpet tiles and a five foot diameter circular table to go in the office once it's done, so that R and I can sit round it and blog in peace, without B looking over our shoulders and making us feel guilty.

Once the bedroom carpet goes down, we can move some of the stuff out of the office (wiping off the black filth still remaining from The Falling Of The Ceiling as we go) and pile the remaining stuff up in the middle of the room - that will give Liam enough space to get his enormously long handled roller in around the edges.

This afternoon, I go to Ikea, to buy some chests of drawers and sheets for the new king-sized bed.

Then I am coming home, to breathlessly await his return.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

stranger than fiction

Liss has tagged me for an interesting meme, although possibly in this case, the factual post is more entertaining than any fiction I could possibly come up with:

Find your twenty-third post. Pluck out your fifth sentence. Then--write a short fictional piece with the sentence as the first one in the piece. And tag five more people in the blogosphere.

...

Every evening as it was getting dark, my grandmother would become anxious about his safety and would mobilise a rescue party.

My grandfather was a lucky man. Night after night during his stint as a showgirl, he would get lost on his way home, sidetracked by the myriad offers of the occupying army. My grandmother's main concern was his costume. Silk stockings in those days were almost priceless, and she knew that if once he began a game of poker, he wouldn't quit until he had either gambled all of his assets, or drunk the other players under the table.

So the search party would gather, with Tilley Lamps and walking sticks, warmly wrapped against the cold. Married and unmarried, mothers and grandmothers, schoolgirls and factory workers, once the alarm had gone up, friends and family would scour the gin joints of the neighbourhood until they found him. Normally he would be sans much of his more substantial clothing, wearing a green eye-shade and gambling furiously with the money he had earned during his early shift.

Shrieking like banshees, they would drive the other players off, herd him in to his work-a-day overcoat and trilby, and march him home. The neighbours never knew about his secondary job and my grandmother was determined that they would never find out. In the morning, he would rise and breakfast as if the evening had never happened and leave for work precisely on time, to catch the 8.27 train.

And in the evening, it would begin again.

....

I'm not going to tag anyone for this, as I found it a really, really scary three-glass-of-wine challenge ... tag yourselves and leave me a comments linky so people can visit. If you enjoy doing it, pop over and see if you feel you can contribute to Indeterminacy's project. Thanks for tagging me Liss, scary-but-fun!

forgiveness

Rachel from North London has an interesting post about forgiveness today and is asking other people to contribute their opinions, and link back to her.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

falling in love again

Have I mentioned that I am falling in love again?

He is wonderful. Strong, decisive, capable, responsible and thoughtful. Also sometimes wracked with guilt and indecision and with a hidden vulnerability that makes him almost irresistable.

But I have a confession. He is not my husband.

[Sigh of unrequited love. Or maybe lust.]

I am on my second reading in a couple of months of the Horatio Hornblower books, by C S Forester. There are eleven of them, covering his career from the age of seventeen as a Midshipman in the 1790s, all the way to Admiral in the mid-1800s. And I am also thoroughly enjoying the TV Series with Ioan couldn't-you-just-bite-his-top-lip Gruffudd and Robert Lindsay (in a big hat), courtesy of LoveFilm.

Sometimes there are definite advantages to having a partner who works away a lot - in this case I can spend every evening with His Majesty King George's Navy without any guilt.

On my ebay watch-list are the Bolitho series by Alexander Kent and twenty Patrick O'Brian novels. We had a delivery of logs this afternoon, I have a box of wine left over from B's birthday party and a loads of food in the house. The snow being predicted in some quarters is not going to bother me at all.

Monday, 21 November 2005

retrospective

aunty kateOn Saturday evening, we went out for a meal with Kate and Vic.

It was Aunty Kate's birthday back in August and a group of friends and family all went to a local Mediterranean restaurant for the evening - but B and I were on holiday, so we missed it.

Before we went went away, we wished her a happy birthday and a good evening out and she said that we would go out to the restaurant again, in September, after Kate and Vic had come back from their own holiday; but of course, she died while they were away, so it never happened.

When Kate and Vic came back to find her gone, true to form, Kate marched round to the respite care home and asked for a refund of a week and a half's worth of fees, as Aunty Kate had only been there for half the time they had paid for. At the time I was appalled - it was only ten days after she'd died - but now I am laughing about it as I type, and I am sure that Aunty Kate would be giggling, as well.

Kate said that she was going to spend some of the money on taking B and I out to the restaurant Aunty Kate had wanted to take us to, as she would have liked that.

So on Saturday night, that's what we did.

Kate gave me this photo, taken in the restaurant on Aunty Kate's birthday, about three weeks before she died.

I still miss her, but I am no longer mourning her, because I the happy memories I have - that we all have - are starting to replace the shock.

She has also given me a great gift.

Last year, when I was really unwell, Kate was very stressed herself and it really affected the relationship B and I had with her and Vic; to the extent that B was prepared to move away from the area so that we weren't obliged to have so much to do with them. I didn't really blog about it at the time, because it was way too close to home. Over the last eighteen-ish months though, the relationship has gradually been repairing itself.

Since all the trauma surrounding Aunty Kate passing on, there has been a really noticable shift in their attitude towards me. It wasn't that they didn't try to make me feel welcome before. It wasn't that they didn't see me as part of the family. I didn't even notice that there WAS a slight strain there occasionally.

But since they came back from holiday to find Aunty Kate dead and the funeral arranged and all the other things that had gone on, all the barriers have come down. They are treating me like a daughter and are obviously really, really grateful that I did what I did during that whole horrible time.

I don't think I did anything very out of the ordinary - someone had to take responsibility and I was the only person physically present to do so. Ipso facto, I did.

To them, it obviously meant a great deal and I am touched that such a happy thing has come out of such a sad time.

Sunday, 20 November 2005

feed a cold

I'm looking for a sympathy vote today:

I've come down with the coldy-coughy thing that's going round; I have terrible PMT and seem to be weeping uncontrollably for no apparent reason; B has just gone away for effectively ten days (also with cough and cold, long suffering but tolerant of the PMT-weeping). I only have one lemsip left and I have run out of chocolate.

It's a crisis.

During the coming week, R and I have to sort out the chaos that is the office, so that it's ready for Liam The Decorator when he arrives, probably on Friday. I think he's a bit more pro-active than Attic Man, who is calling in for the last of his money tomorrow. I gave him a cheque on Friday, despite the fact that we had a fundamental disagreement about what we each believed he had undertaken to do.

He apparently thought that we were paying them two hundred pounds for half a days work putting a trap door in the attic room.

I thought - because that is what we had agreed upon during the fairly in-depth discussion we had about it - that we were paying them two hundred pounds for a days work, fitting a trap door and a safety rail around the opening.

A genuine misunderstanding? Maybe.

But then, when I was writing his cheque, for what from my side was only half the job, but which by that point I was too hacked off to argue any more about, he asked me to put VAT on the two hundred quid. Because he had assumed that we would be paying him in cash.

I have no idea why he would have assumed that, since everything else we have paid by cheque.

I said no, we'd agreed two hundred, wrote him the cheque, thanked him for a job well done and waved him off with a relieved sigh.

Then ten minutes later, he phoned from his van, asking if he could have it cash instead. So he's bringing the cheque back tomorrow and I'll pay him then.

I most emphatically don't like being perceived as an easy touch, easily intimidated or stupid and it certainly seems like he must have got us pegged as at least one of the three. We are never going to employ him again and are certainly never going to recommend him to anyone. It's a shame, because he's a good craftsman.

B made the point that if he treats all his customers like that, he won't be getting much return business at all, so perhaps he has a 'get the most you can out of them' attitude. He also said that I should try not to let it get to me, as it's all finished, he's gone away, we have a lovely attic space that we are very pleased with and that is that.

So, I've moved on. Now B has gone off on tour, I am spending the rest of my weekend on ebay, looking at tiffany wall lights for the new bedroom, fretting about "lilac white" paint and contemplating ordering a solitary pizza for a solitary medicinal supper in order to adequately feed my cold.

Thursday, 17 November 2005

conversations with my mother #051117

Ma: I can't believe how wet it's been over the last few days. But it did stop for the Farmer's Market on Saturday, so I didn't get too drenched.
Me: That's good. Did you wear the new shoes we bought you to keep your feet warm?
Ma: No dear, they don't fit over the place where the ram stepped on me.
Me: Ah. I thought that was better?
Ma: Not really. But it's not purple any longer ... . [pauses] ... Anyway, I had SUCH an interesting conversation with someone at the market ...
Me: Yes?
Ma: Yes. This girl came along, and was interested in my aloe veras.
Me: Yes?
Ma: We had a long talk about what you can do with them and I was telling her about breaking bits off and rubbing them on burns in the kitchen and how I keep one on the window sill.
Me: Yes?
Ma: And she said she couldn't make her mind up and she might come back later on.
Me: Ah.
Ma: And she did, with her husband, well, boyfriend I suppose.
Me: Oh, good.
Ma: Yes. He bargained me down from £1.25 to £1.
Me: [thinks: tight bastard] Oh?
Ma: And then they asked me if there was anywhere around where they might be able to get a cup of coffee.
Me: Yes?
Ma: But The Hamlet doesn't have anywhere - not even a shop. They've nearly got their shop, but not quite yet because of the whole planning permission thing and I think there's been an issue with ... [fades as I temporarily zone out] ... and so the nearest place is probably Taunton, or maybe The Village ...
Me: [jerks awake] Ah?
Ma: So I told them that and it turns out that they stayed in The Lethbridge Arms in The Village last night.
Me: Really!
Ma: Yes. [expectant pause] And they're part of a theatre company. From Liverpool!
Me: [relief at finally getting to what is clearly the point] Oh, right!
Ma: So I wondered if B knew them.
Me: Hmm?
Ma: Only I can't remember their name.
Me: Ah.
Ma: [triumphant] But I told them he was an electrician! Who worked for theatres!
Me: Ah. Well, lighting designer really ...
Ma: Well, it turns out that the chap was the technician for the company.
Me: [reassuring] Oh, well he probably knew what you meant then.
Ma: Yes, I think so. I'll try and remember their name. I know they were going on to Preston ...
Me: Thank you for ringing ... I think I'll go and gnaw my own leg off now.
Ma: Okay dear, I'll speak to you in the week. I need to go and get the big cockerel in from the lane. He's stopping the traffic.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

thinks

Kind of related to No. 3 on my List of Worries, whilst cruising over at troubled diva, I came across this fantastic post by 'Rachel' who is one of the bomb victims of 7/7:

90 days and 90 nights

If you have time, take a moment to go and read it, and some of the subsequent discussion.

jiggety jig

This is where we've been, and we have had a lovely time: comfortable rooms, nice food and beer, friendly people.

Plus good weather and a parakeet.

We did a local walk on Sunday and it was perfect weather - cold and crisp and sunny. The hotel has half a dozen very detailed leaflets with circular walks from their doorstep, which took all the pain out of planning them and meant that it was not necessary to measure out the distances with a piece of string. This is an enthusiastic but poorly executed habit of B's that gives me conniptions as one never knows how accurate the measurement will actually be.

It was very good indeed to get out in the fresh air and meant that we felt completely justified stuffing ourselves with all the mouth-watering things on the menu in the evening.

On Monday the clouds were a bit more threatening, so we went to Plan B and did a bit of touring around in the car. We went to Kirkby Stephen, which is a beautiful little town. Someone there keeps exotic birds and lets them fly free out of their aviary - hence we met a very friendly grey and pink parakeet sat on a packhorse bridge and there were a couple of macaws tumbling around shrieking in the wind all the time we were walking around.

And very importantly, there is a tea shop, which serves toasted cinnamon-and-brown-sugar scones.

We tootled home yesterday and have eased gently back in the week.

It was a brilliant break and we both really enjoyed it. I've filled in their 'keep us informed of special offers' form and we plan to go back - on top of all the other good things about it, it has zero mobile phone signal; I don't think either of us realised quite how much we needed a few days to ourselves without any interruptions.

Friday, 11 November 2005

attic of sauron

Attic Man and Sidekick Gavin have just left, dangerously triumphant and clearly cruising on down for a Friday night out on the town.

They have finished.

Kind of.

Barry The Plasterer has to come back on Monday for half a day to plaster the edges of the hole.

And they need to come back next week and do a hatch for us.

This was not in the original specs, as it was going to be an office and therefore no lockable door was required. However, the view and the feel of the space is so nice that we have decided that we are going to use it as a bedroom. And if we are going to adopt a trio of inquisitive kids with a high probability of having behavioural difficulties, I think that a door of some sort to our bedroom is probably necessary.

Particularly remembering a conversation I had with a friend of mine some years ago, where she claimed that Postman Pat videos were the only thing that had saved her sex life.

Anyway, I digress.

Finished, kind of. In the sense that they haven't ACTUALLY finished.

It's like a Viking Saga. Or possibly the Lord Of The Rings - I feel like I have been tramping round and round Mordor for the last five weeks. All it needs is for a poison spider to leap out from the storage hatches under the eves and wrap me up in a cocoon whilst muttering to itself, and I will know that I don't actually exist, but am trapped in J R R Tolkien's head. He's probably at one of his Oxford cockail parties dressed as an Anglo Saxon and refusing to speak anything other than Old Norse as I type.

B has just phoned to say he is on his way home.

I have arranged kitten care for the weekend. I have bought bagels-and-bacon for a luxury breakfast in bed tomorrow morning. I have washed my pants and found my woolly hiking socks.

I am ready to go away for three days tomorrow and work on not having a care in the world.

Did I mention that the hotel we are staying in has a fabulous menu and a very wide selection of whiskies?

Back Wednesday!

Thursday, 10 November 2005

so long, and thanks ...

I am planning a new chart for the office, once it's been redecorated.

Over the last few months, we have developed a useful short-hand scale to describe the level of eccentricity currently being displayed by our respective mothers, similar to the US DefCon system.

But based on fish.

Inital discussion of the subject centered around the question of WHICH fish, exactly, would it be appropriate to use? If all fish are mad, are some fish madder than others?

Koi Carp, for example, strike me as being relativley soothing, particularly if you have bread crumbs or something similar to feed them - likewise Goldfish. Herring, on the other hand, or perhaps Haddock, often seem to me to be slightly more agitated, whilst Kippers are plainly up there quite high on the fishy madness index.

After careful consideration therefore, we have developed and successfully tested the following FishCon Scale of Maternal Insanity:

Koi (or 'Carp') - Very relaxed, dealing with all cards in possession, introduce any sensible discussion you wish to have NOW before it's too late.
Mackerel - Placid, relatively normal range of functions, able to communicate with outside world, but avoid very sensitive topics (modifier - 'smoked').
Haddock - Approached with caution on every day subjects should be fine. Do not attempt to discuss financial or relationship matters.
Herring - Will probably not make much sense, extreme caution needed. Do not ask questions if at all possible or introduce new topics in to conversation. Use 'yes' and 'really!' a lot (modifier - 'roll mop').
Kipper - No meaningful communication possible, try again later.
I am going to colour-code the chart, pin it to the wall and attach little pointers. Above Haddock, all bets are off.

If either of them ever discover this blog, I am probably dead.

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

lilac wine

We have builders!

They turned up yesterday and were passive-aggressive about bannisters. I don't know why Attic Man bothers to ask me my opinion about what we want doing IN OUR OWN HOUSE if he's then going to overide me and do what he thinks is best, regardless.

They put the stairs in yesterday and today are putting in the skirting boards and generally doing the finishing touches. This morning they turned up on time and were manically cheerful; I find this marginally more worrying than passive-aggressive, but since they are now confining themselves to being manically cheerful at each other in the attic I am going to rack my wine and try not to think about what it might mean.

B is trapped on a job at Alton Towers with no mobile phone coverage. He rang in briefly last night and I was able to tell him that the Adoption Agency have been back in touch.

It is good news.

They have not dismissed us out of hand because of the anti-depressants. The social worker and her boss are going to come out and have a meeting with us at the end of January and see how I am. And they are going to schedule us for Preparation Groups in February. And after that, they will make a decision, based on the facts.

I am very happy with this - I don't think that we can ask anything more than an assessment based on reality. If they think I am not fit enough to be a adopter at the moment, then that is fine. The thing that's been upsetting me so much is the dismissal out of hand simply because of the stigma of anti-depressants.

This is entirely down to Tessa's pep talk about phoning them when we chatted the other weekend and I am almost inexpressably grateful to her.

Wine racking beckons.

Tuesday, 8 November 2005

therapeutic

I had a tail-chasing worry-frenzy last night and B said that it might help to list all the things that I am worrying about, so I could work out a strategy to deal with them. It may have been a mistake:

ItemAction
1. Answering the phoneForward phones on to B's mobile
2. Dealing with the buildersSuck it up - they'll be gone soon
3. Gradual erosion of freedom of speech and move towards repressive legislation in UKJoin Charter 88. Sign petition from Liberty, brought to my attention by my good friend Dream. May not help much but will assuage feelings of guilt when They start coming for people.
4. Nuclear apocalypse, followed by nuclear winterBuy tinned food
5. Forgetting to order butterBuy butter
6. Relationship with parentsLive two hundred miles away from them and see Item 1
7. Global warmingConsider moving to a house on higher ground. Practise ethical consumerism.
8. Chaotic bedroom
Purchase wardrobe. Insert clothes.

All better now!

Monday, 7 November 2005

divorce probably pending

Some Quite Bad Things:

  • The builders didn't turn up this morning; therefore the stairs are still floating in mid air. I am so far past caring about the enormous hole in the ceiling, the dust and the general chaos that I have failed to contact them to ask why his has happened.
  • I have just realised that my spreadsheet has been adding in the VAT we owe, rather than subtracting it from my projections. I thought the figures looked pretty good, but I just assumed it was a result of all the hard work the guys have done this autumn. A big VAT bill means you've done lots of work, but still - oopsy.
  • On waking up this morning I temporarily forgot that today is B's birthday, until R bounced in wafting greetings. I am a Bad Wife and if living in the Middle Ages would probably be beaten regularly, a la 'a dog, a woman and a walnut tree'.
  • We have run out of goat's butter and I forgot to order any with the vegetable box when I put the order in this morning. See above, under 'Bad Wife'.
  • I think the bread-maker is broken. If not broken, it is the only bread maker in the history of the world that comes from Middle Earth - everything I've made over the last week has come out looking like dwarf bread. See also above, under 'Bad Wife' (Unless married to a dwarf. Which I'm not).

Things that make up for the Quite Bad Things. Maybe. I hope:

  • I have productively (ha!) spent the day loading all my favorite songs on to ITunes.
  • Because of this, and a chance conversation based around Desert Island Discs we happened to have last night, I have been able to burn B a CD with his favorite tracks as a token present until my Amazon order arrives. Phew, saved by the bell. If I've remembered them properly.
  • We have booked three nights away next weekend and are NOT GOING TO TAKE THE MOBILES. (Double ha!).
With luck, they will cancel each other out. Otherwise I may be putting an application in to Milt's wonderful-sounding friend Raul.

And that, as someone else sometimes says, is all.

conversations with my mother #051107

Ma: The vicar's rung me about five times today.
Me: Why's that? Does he fancy you?
Ma: Not at the moment dear. He was complaining.
Me: What about?
Ma: He'd ordered some flowers to be delivered to London and the people I placed the order with messed it up. Three times.
Me: Not good.
Ma: No. He wasn't really in 'vicar' mode. More his 'ex-sailor' persona.
Me: Does that come out often?
Ma: Sometimes. He caused quite a stir at the Parish Council Coffee Morning when he told Maggie Watson a blue joke, using navy language.
Me: Doesn't she like that kind of thing?
Ma: Well, quite few people didn't think it was really appropriate. She's ninety three and had only recently lost her husband.
Me: Ah. So did you sort his order out?
Ma: Yes. I don't know who it was going to - a lady with the same name as him, so perhaps it was his mother, although I suppose it could have been a sister, or maybe a cousin, he didn't say ...
Me: [patient and long suffering ...] Yes ... ?
Ma: So, they delivered it on the wrong day.
Me: I can see why he's be cross ...
Ma: Well, yes, me too. And then they forgot the card. And THEN when they agreed that they'd send a box of chocolates and some more flowers as an apology, they forgot that, too.
Me: So did he use navy language with you?
Ma: No. Thankfully. He said he realised it wasn't my fault. Although he was quite cross. I don't know if I dare to show my face at church on Sunday, although to be honest, he doesn't come himself that often. He's more interested in the bigger of his parishes.
Me: Well, I should definitely avoid Coffee Mornings for a while, unless you want to press-ganged in to hard labour on the Church Tower Restoration Fund ...

Friday, 4 November 2005

just put a plasterer on it

Apparently Barry The Plasterer is very annoyed with Attic Man, because he thinks Attic Man has stitched him up with the complexity of the plastering required in the attic. I asked him whether he wanted a cup of tea on Friday afternoon last week and he nearly bit my head off. Then it turns out that not only had he just hit his head a great big crack on one of the beams, but he had also had his bank card cloned and couldn't get at any of his money.

So I suppose that slight grumpyness was understandable.

In the meantime, he's actually finished the plastering. Yay!

And [imagine drum roll, fanfare and feather-clad dancing girls ...] The Stairs have arrived!

Okay, they haven't been attached yet, and are propped up in a dangerously random fashion between the hole in the ceiling and the banister. But they are there. Despite their precariousness we've been up and down them a couple of times, and barring the possibility of falling arse over tip over the banister at the bottom until we raise it, they seem pretty functional.

You go up.

You come down.

One can't ask for anything more from a set of stairs, so they are perfection.

With a concerted effort and the backing of The Ideal Stair Maker, we finally persuaded Attic Man that 'space savers' similar to these where what were required.

Attic Man and Sidekick Gavin are coming back on Monday to fix them and finish off; I think they're getting escape-happy. They even got rid of the twelve foot lengths of skirting board that they've had stored on the existing stairs when I told them we were having a few people around tonight.

I still didn't invite them though.

I am going to hoover frantically and clean up cat poo now.

Thursday, 3 November 2005

now and then

Sunday lunch last weekend with both sets of parents went very well, despite various reservations; everyone involved seemed to have a good time.

Ma and Pa went to visit a fantastic local garden centre while we were cooking - Pa had been wanting to visit one all week but apparently they were very thin on the ground around where they were staying. They returned triumphant, bearing a huge box of vicious-looking cactii and some bulbs.

B's parents arrived shortly before Ma and Pa, radiating Curtain Rail Stress and apologising for not being able to stay all afternoon, because they needed to go home and put their bedroom curtain rails back up again after a particularly over-excited bout of DIY.

I have discovered that one of the things that makes me stressed about my parents is that they really have no idea that the way they do things might not be the way everyone does things. They can therefore become frenzied with indecision when other options that they might not have considered are presented to them. Since everyone in the world does things differently, this clearly makes any kind of travel outside their accustomed sphere difficult for them. And when I am involved, difficult for me, as I feel a need to be a facilitating bridge between them and the outside world.

B's advice, when I was sitting on the sofa on Sunday morning with a large pre-parent whisky, eating my own hair and rocking:

"Ally, getting hammered is NOT the answer to dealing with your mother. There is not enough alcohol in the world for that to be effective."
I love him.

It was really, really nice to have them visit and I feel very wistful now they have gone home.

I also feel sad seeing how disoriented Pa can be outside of his own environment. I am discovering that watching your parents age can be heart-rending. I suppose that with grandparents, one's memories of them being active are a lot further away. With your parents, you can vividly remember what they were like ten, twenty, thirty years ago.

And seeing the person who used to carry you on their shoulders struggling to climb the stairs and weeping with frustration when he has wet himself is a terrible thing.

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

resurgence

I am slowly clawing my way back up the slope. B has forwarded the home phone on to his mobile, the builders are having a few days on another job, a few friends have contacted me in a low-key way to see how I am and I am feeling protected from the world and safe.

Things I have achieved today:

  • getting dressed, including my shoes (a la FlyLady, which I am becoming both obsessed with and terrified by)
  • teeth-cleaning
  • a minimal amount of filing control in the office - paying in cheques, paying out cheques, invoicing
  • fairly regular, fairly healthy eating, if you don't count the Biggest Pie In The World
  • going to the post-office to buy stamps (an enormous effort, although it's only at the top of the road)
  • preparing something for tea. Okay, it's only tomato sauce, to go with pasta, but it's from REAL tomatoes :)

I still feel like shit, terribly exhausted, but at least I no longer feel as if I want to take steps to send myself to sleep and never wake up. B's made me an appointment with the GP on Friday to see if he can offer any other solutions and I guess I need to try to start exercising a bit more and try to start meditating again.

In them meantime, we are having a few people round for a party on Friday night, for B's birthday. I have nothing to organise, other people are doing it all, so I can relax in to it and enjoy it; if I'm not enjoying it, I can go to bed. We considered calling it off, but came to the conclusion that it will give me something to think about and will probably be distracting.

Also, I have a new teapot. It pours beautifully and I am entranced :).