Saturday, 30 December 2006

what makes us human?

I woke up this morning to hear the news of Saddam Hussein's execution on Radio 4. I was going to write about how I felt; and then I read Christine's post, which is pretty much exactly what I wanted to say.

I just feel sad, for us all.

Friday, 29 December 2006

accommodating chickens

Chicken house shaped like a coffinToday, I choose to leave the turbid* angst of the 'Festive' season behind and post about chickens.

Well, Chicken houses, to be precise.

Do you remember that ages ago we bought one of those packing cases off eBay for twenty quid, with a view to turning it in to a chicken house?

This is what it looks like, once we have lugged it up to the top of the garden (in two bits, it's VERY heavy) and I've sawed holes in it, put a drawbridge in and stuck it on legs (posts that sit in metapost spikes that you bang in to the ground). It's so heavy that it just sits on the top of them quite happily, and we have constructed a pen around the underneath, with a lifty-up lid at the end to put feed underneath and keep it dry**; and tacked some plastic sheeting over the top to keep the rain off; although I don't think it really needs it, as it's thick cedar (I think) and has been varnished.

Partridge Pekin henThe Pekin Family (similar to the Partridge Family, but with heavier-weight socks) are living in it very comfortably; there are two cockerels and four hens and there's loads of space for them. We've paved the bottom with flagstones to keep their feet out of the wet and they seem very happy.

Chicken house shaped like a coffinSome days Cruella DeVil Chicken*** goes in with them and one day last week the Ex Cockerel was in there too, although there wasn't a great deal of head-room for him. So I would say that the box is big enough for six or eight bantams or three or four medium sized hens and their cockerel, but doesn't really have the headroom for heavy breeds.

All in all, we are very pleased with it.

The five laying hens and George their husband (named after B's uncle who bought them for us) are living in a converted 5ft by 7ft shed on the other side of the garden. They have a perch and a droppings board underneath it, and lots of space to scratch around inside if the weather isn't great for them to go out.

Yesterday we put a proper chicken-sized door in for them, rather than propping open the main door; and we started to bring up the enormous slabs from the front of the house to pave a small pen for them. And we put in a nest box. Mary and Sandra (named after the adoption social workers), the two Barnvelder hens, are starting to make 'we want to lay an egg' noises. They're eighteen weeks old now, so it shouldn't be long.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is all for today.

Oh, except in other news - we understand that the new neighbours are going to be moving in up the hill next week. We are hoping they're going to be friendly and I want to ask them if they'll sell us some field. But it's a difficult subject to bring up; I don't want to get off with them on the wrong foot.


Exchequer Leghorn hen* Is this a word? If not, it should be.
** Note the use of the Houseladder 'For Sale' board as part of the pen. I think we've decided we're not going to move after all. Although no final final final decision being made until we've spoken with the new neighbours.
*** She's an Exchequer Leghorn - black and white, and is barking mad - we debated calling her Eva after one of B's Great Aunts, who could allegedly cause a fight in an empty house and ended her days in a nursing home telling everyone who would listen that Prince Charles was about to come and take tea; but that seemed rather unfair. However, I am seriously considering seeing if I can swap her for a more placid hen; she runs round madly all the time, doesn't settle to anything and fidgets constantly. She has also got it in for Exploding Chicken's Sister, who is very placid and a bit of a wimp.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

enough

Blast *. That SO didn't work.

I love my parents - I really do. They are, when on form, loving, supportive, wonderful. But when they're not ... sometimes the idea of visiting my Ma gives me the blue yips and I just can't do it.

So instead of driving to Somerset today, I had a panic attack. Blasty blasty blast blast. And then I read all of Neverwhere. And now I am on my third glass of FABULOUS apricot wine.

However, in the interim, I have rung Ma and had a chat with her; and she was very sane - pretty mackerel, really.

This is so hard. (Apart from this being a quite drunken ramble which I may delete when I've thought about it tomorrow). Most of the issues I have about not coping with stress come from Ma. She hates Christmas. So I hate Christmas. It's genetic.

When we were growing up, we lived on the farm, next door to my Grandmother - Ma's mother. She hated Pa, with a vengeance. She used to come in to the house when Ma and Pa were out and go through their correspondence. She used to ask us all about their relationship. How Pa was treating us. I used to hide upstairs when I heard her coming across in front of the house - she used to wear an old-lady net scarf and my grandfather's wellington boots; and they were three sizes too big for her, so they shlusshed-shlussed-shlussed across the gravel.

The telephone was a party line - and when we were speaking on the phone, she would pick it up and listen in. You could hear her breathing, breathy, flem-filled, as you were talking.

At Christmas, she and my Great Uncle would have their dinner plated up, in their own side of the house; and we would have ours in our side, a Chinese Wall between the two.

It was horrible. Horrible.

I hated it.

I hate going back. It's like the nursery (it's a seven acre horticultural nursery/smallholding) is preserved in aspic. All the bad feeling, all the stress, all the emotions; they're still there. Pa is 89 next week. When he officially retired , nearly twenty five years ago, he wanted to sell up and go somewhere smaller. Ma won't leave. She's 71 next year. She's constantly tired, because not only is she Pa's primary carer (with attendance allowance), she's also running a business. She's constantly angry at life, for not dealing her a hand of eternal youth.

And yet I love going back. The way the hills look in the morning. The smell of the fields. The view down the valley as you clean your teeth in front of the open window in the morning. The greenhouses full of chrysanthemums (which was my first word, apparently) and tomatoes and the places where the old greenhouses have been taken down and are now planted with pick your own raspberries.

I am torn. If I go back, they suck me in to their world of irrationality - the hiding from the real world, the not doing anything sensibly, the tying things up with binder-twine - metaphorically, emotionally, physically - rather than dealing with them properly.

I miss Pa. He doesn't speak much on the phone. Ma is too impatient with him most of the time to help him. He's sane. He's normal.

He's old. I am going to lose him soon. And in a way, I've already lost him; because I can't BEAR to go down and see him, for the fear of being sucked back in to the madness that is my mother's and my sister's life.

And today - Ma was so nice. So understanding. So supportive when I said I'd had a panic attack about going away from home. I can't tell her why I can't come down. It would hurt her so badly. And when she's there for me, she's there. She once drove for five hours, at ten minutes notice, to bail me out of an abusive relationship and then stayed with me for three days in my new digs while I cried.

But when she's not there and I am expecting her to be - it's like a blow to the solar plexus. Like the time I told her I'd been date raped and she said "I expect he couldn't help it". I can't rely on her. She has her own things to deal with and she doesn't always have time to help me with my things.

As an adult, I understand that.

As a child, it hurts so much. Are we ever, really, wholly, an adult?

Am I selfish? Or am I just doing what I need to do to retain my own sanity? How much do you have to give before it's enough?


*NOTE: No 'bollocks'! :).

away

Off to see Ma and Pa for a day or two today - which involves getting dressed I suppose. Back Friday.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

white flag now

We've had a nice time.

But I am ready to have my house back now. I like to get up, potter along and not have to engage with anything/anyone seriously until I have drunk my tea and surfaced.

My darling MIL goes straight from a standing start to full-on chatty. She and B are currently in the kitchen next to me, sorting out a fry-up (grill-up, actually) and she is busy mentally designing a concrete retaining wall for us and organising when they are going to come and visit to put it up.

I don't want a concrete retaining wall. I want to do it with wood - sleepers I think. I want to design it myself. I don't want someone else taking over my garden.

Oh dear. I love her dearly. But first thing in the morning it's all a bit too much :).

Apart from that, we've had a really, really nice Christmas. My top present is Caesar 4. Yay! And I have some smashing rubber clogs to garden in. And some fleecy welly liners.

The goose turned out beautifully - along with The Boy's fantastic stuffing - and Ma posted us a pudding, which was fab.

Kate and Vic are leaving later on today - to get home in time to listen to the Liverpool match at 3pm.

I am looking forward to having a quiet evening with B, doing our own thing and chilling out. Tomorrow we are going down to visit Ma and Pa for a couple of days. Apparently the dogs aren't really in season any more, and Aunt Edith will be arriving on the evening of the 28th. I don't think that she will be bringing her accordion, as it's difficult to manage on the coach.

Sunday, 24 December 2006

bikini island

It is Christmas Eve.

Our Central Heating appears to have become lodged in the ON position.

I will probably be blogging over the next few days (wearing nothing but a bikini) because I need to sit in front of the light box for forty five minutes each morning and it is positioned in front of the computer. But if I don't:

Happy Christmas!

Saturday, 23 December 2006

liveblogging cockerel preparation ...

Barnevelder CockerelRight.

I've done it.

Since the young cockerels have started to find their voices and crow in the mornings, I've been lying awake worrying about whether or not I could manage to actually kill one myself *.

And I can.

I got up this morning and caught the surplus Barnvelder as he was coming out of his house. And I brought him down outside the back door and did the broomhandle thing.

I think I did quite well - it took three goes, in the space of about a minute, to make sure that he was dead - to start with I didn't put all of weight on the broom, but once I did that and pulled his legs sharply, there was a definite 'crunch' and the flapping started.

Unfortunately, because I was panicking a bit by this point about not wanting to cause him trauma, I pulled a bit hard and there was some blood - click here for a photo of him on the washing line, dripping in to a bowl. I don't think it's that gruesome a photo, but B reckons that that's because I'm inured to it - so don't click if you think it might upset you.

PluckingB is plucking him in a bin-bag in the kitchen at the moment, as per our 'Ally kills them, B prepares them' agreement.

B was slightly taken aback when he wandered downstairs in nothing but a t-shirt and I presented him with a nearly headless chicken, but he's risen well to the occasion. He did comment that if I die before him he is going to put the words 'Ally - she didn't really think it through' on my gravestone. But he was smiling as he said it.

More pics later as we go along. We are hoping that if he's big enough, we can roast him tonight and then use the stock for gravy on Monday. He weighs in at six pounds dead weight - I think they are supposed to come it at about half the dead weight dressed.

Okay, we're done. I won't post the picture of B not quite taking the insides out correctly - he says he didn't loosen them quite enough before pulling and therefore Bad Things happened. And anyway, the smell wouldn't quite come across in a picture. He used the instructions from John Seymour, which has line-drawn illustrations and says that they were easy to follow.

The Done DeedHere's the finished product. He weighs in at three and three quarter pounds, just over half his original weight. It would have been better if we could have left him another few weeks and fattened him up a bit more; but not bad, for a first go.

Now, I am going out to collect our goose.


* And whether the neighbours would be round with a noise abatement order.

Friday, 22 December 2006

help! Alistair Sim crisis!

Plea for help here - does anyone within driving distance of Powys have a DVD copy of the black and white version of 'Scrooge', starring Alistair Sim that I can borrow?

Apparently Christmas is not Christmas for B's Dad unless he can watch it.

And as they are coming to spend Christmas here and we have no video player, Kate has tried to copy their video copy on to DVD ... and recorded over the original.

Oops.

Please please please can anyone help? It's quite odd - both Kate and Vic are obviously quite disturbed at spending a couple of days over Christmas without a television. They are coming laden with things to watch and they are only going to be here for forty-eight hours.

We have got everything that we need now, apart from the goose, which we are picking up tomorrow, and sprouts. I LIKE sprouts. Down To Earth in Llanfyllin was sold out when we got there, but they are having some more delivered tomorrow. They did have some fantastic chestnuts though, so I am all set for The Boy's stuffing recipe.

I am drinking a nice soothing sloe gin and listening to the WH Smith carol CD and feeling quite mellow. Admittedly I am only achieving this by allowing B to answer the phone to his mother, but that's fine.

Gin anyone? *waves bottle around in a friendly fashion*

let there be light

My light box has arrived!

I've just sat in front of it for 45mins - it is very, VERY bright. And it's got a leaflet in with it with a copy of the Depression Score Questionnaire I did for the Clinical Psychologist when I initially went for CBT. The light box people recommend doing it now, and then weekly for four weeks whilst using the light box, and seeing if there are any significant changes.

I've got a relatively high score at the moment, which is not great - it'll be interesting to see how/if it alters.

Yesterday evening's leaving do in Manchester was really nice - great to see people, although we only stayed for a few hours and came home because I felt that I really needed to be my own bed. I hope that we can stay in touch with them now they've left our client company; it's nice when relationships with work people that you get on with grow in to friendships.

Right. I'm going to get dressed and go out in search of chestnuts. More later maybe - I'm on a roll now, most of the work stuff is done. Yay!

Thursday, 21 December 2006

ready-rolled

Well, that was officially Brief But Dire. A friend of mine sent me some reiki yesterday afternoon and I feel quite a bit better today. I have also drawn a mental line in the sand and have stopped worrying about things other people want me to do. I am thinking of having the word 'Bollocks to it' tattooed on my arse, to reveal at appropriate moments.

I know that after more than two years blogging I should have got over my surprise at quite how NICE most of the internet community is - at least, the bits of it I have anything to do with; thank you all for the wise words, advice, dodgy jokes and various cyber-comestibles. Much appreciated. I know that some people are dealing with some really tough things at the moment and I am really touched that you should take the time to think about me.

So, triumphantly, I have achieved quite a lot of things, including filing. I drew the line at changing the sheets, but I have bought three new laptops on lease and some fantastic software that will make the whole lighting design thing much easier to present to end clients as visualisations. Also, by an amazing co-incidence, the one that I have lined up for myself has a graphics card that will run Second Life. Yay!

Filing! And laptops! What more could a person want?

Oh, and B went out yesterday and bought marzipan and ready-rolled icing. Don't tell my mother about the icing - she's posted me a cake and a pudding ("How do I heat this up, Ma?" ... "Simmer it for a couple of hours in the bottom oven of the Aga dear. Oh. You haven't got one. Well. Not sure then.") and ready-rolled is on a par with instant custard. Which will be accompanying our pudding.

I am making a big effort and we are both going out to tonight's party/leaving do for one of the clients we get on really well with. I think we'll only stay a couple of hours; although we do have the hotel booked if we need it - but I want to be in my own bed. It has been so beautiful here the last couple of mornings - frost and winter sun - that I don't want to miss a single minute of it.

Rambling today.

Tomorrow - adoption rants.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

famous last words

So as Steg said, Famous Last Words.

Damn you, SAD syndrome! Or Christmas Stress. Or whatever you are.

I did have it all planned out in my head - I still do. But I feel really battered and pushed around by other people's expectations of me.

Depression sucks, doesn't it? It creeps up on you and before you know it, there you are, sat in yesterday's knickers, too stymied to even clean your teeth; and panicking about how big a goose's body cavity is and whether you're going to manage to put your socks on in time to go to a Supplier Christmas Shindig in Manchester this evening.

The answer to that would be a resounding 'No', I think.

B has gone to swap a desk out at an installation we have running that seems to be behaving strangely. I was going to go with him and then we were going on to Manchester for this party and to stay the night, in order to go to yet another party tomorrow night. I even booked a hotel online last night, in a fit of enthusiasm.

And then I had a massive, huge out-of-control panic attack based around too many things to do and too many people wanting me to do them.

And now, I have the knickers-socks-goose's-body-cavity problem and we have paid upfront for the hotel and it's too late to cancel it.

Bollocks, if you'll excuse me saying so.

Because of the success of my Bodyclock alarm-clock thingy, that wakes you up naturally by mimicking the sunrise, B has ordered me a 'light box'. The theory being that you sit in front of it for a bit each day and it encourages you to produce seratonin. Lack of seratonin in the brain is a measure (if not a direct cause, but no-one seems to be sure about this) of depression. So that's what the SSRI-type anti-depressants do - they stop seratonin being reabsorbed by the brain.

Anyway. It should be arriving within the next day or so and it should start working within a week or so. So we'll see.

In the meantime, I must go and let the poor chickens out, socks or no socks. And then I might make myself a cup of tea.

Small steps.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

glorious goose

Oh god.

I know that this is a cliche, but my mother in law is mad.

Mad as a fish.

In fact, on the Fishy Scale Of Madness I would say that today, she is actively approaching Herring.

We have just spent twenty minutes on the phone obsessing about carol services on the the radio over Christmas. The particular one she wants to listen to is in the Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool and there was no trace of it on the BBC Radio website.

Crisis on Infinite Earths.

She is also worrying about the weight of our goose. I have no idea how much is it going to weigh. I asked the people at the smallholding to pick me out a relatively small one and I am going to go and collect it on Saturday, along with a few vegetables and go from there. But apparently there is a stuffing-to-goose ratio that needs to be accurately calculated before our Christmas dinner can proceed smoothly forward.

I ordered my presents from Amazon and one or two other websites last night. We have a few decorations we are going to put up at the weekend, including a tree this year - inherited from Kate and Vic.

I have a shopping list that includes things like mincemeat and chestnuts and whisky that we'll pop out and get on Friday and/or Saturday. The sloe gin is ready.

Let the Season of Goodwill commence in all it's clanging glory. I am ready for it.

Monday, 18 December 2006

allegedly working ...

Allegedly, I should be sorting out invoices.

Kate and I did a mammoth job on Friday - we sorted out all of the miscellaneous paperwork for both home and business, confined it all in files and put the small amount that needs actioning in a tray optimistically labelled 'IN'.

B has toddled off to Manchester for some client meetings and I am at home, surrounded by tidyness and cats staring at me resentfully and trying to will me to turn the heating up a bit more.

We had a low-key fun time on Saturday - it was good to catch up with everyone and just chill out without having to worry about getting up and going to work next morning.

However, I have some sad news. Exploding Chicken is dead.

She had some sort of fit - a stroke I think, chickens are apparently prone to high blood pressure - on Friday afternoon and didn't make it. In a way I am relieved, because at least now I am not constantly worrying about whether she's suffering. We had become quite fond of her, in the way that you do when you keep poultry in the kitchen (as I am sure that many people know); but we are taking comfort from the fact that she has gone to The Great Free Range In The Sky. None of the others seem to be sick or sickening for anything; so I think that it was some kind of congenital problem she was suffering from rather than anything infectious.

Tomorrow the man is coming to quote rayburn and multi-fuel heater installation for us, so I will be able to stop swigging sloe gin to keep warm.

And now, I go to put on my filing hat (and fingerless gloves) and get on with the paperwork. It's suddenly gone very cold and foggy. Marginally better than rain, but it would be nice to see the sun for a few hours.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

trudging through Mordor


Well, the show went okay.

I didn't actually attend, it being a more productive use of time for me to stay at Kate and Vic's and send out Christmas cards; but B is happy with it, the financial shennanigins not withstanding.

Tomorrow, he goes to Newcastle for an afternoon show and evening de-rig. I stay at home with Kate and file things, to try to confine some of the business chaos to remote corners of the house so that we can have a chilled Christmas. I have done no filing since we moved in on July 7th and Kate is driving down tomorrow morning, purely to spend the day bailing me out. I love her. She is a fab, if slightly eccentric mother-in-law.

Then Saturday, we are meeting some friends in Wallasey for our Annual Christmas Dinner. We were supposed to be going to the Welsh Downsizer Meet in Aberystwyth first for lunch - but B just isn't going to be able to make it and actually get any sleep, so we have had to scratch.

Last year, as some of you will remember, we were responsible for bringing The Largest Turkey In The World to the Annual Christmas Dinner. This year, we have cravenly volunteered for cheese and crackers.

I have actually been a bit of a sweat about the whole thing - we have both gone through phases of feeling quite isolated since we've moved. All our Wallasey friends have busy lives, as we do; and of course it takes more of an effort to keep in touch if you are an hours drive away from friends.

I am not the sort of person who keeps in touch with people on a 'cards and no communication' basis - I just don't see the point; to me, that's not a friendship, it's a formality. And I have felt, with maxium paranoia, that a few of our friends were happily doing their hobbit-thing in The Shire and we were isolated out in Mordor and they'd written us off.

B has been more sanguine about the whole thing; but he's been upset, which is is unlike his normally pragmatic self.

Today though, we dropped in to see R on the way home; and I feel better about everything. R and Dani haven't really seen anyone either; so I am no longer making up conspiracy theories where everyone is getting together every night and having fantastic fun without us, and I am very much looking forward to catching up with everyone - we are both missing them.

(And I know some of you read this - you'll either have to completely pretend you haven't done, or come out and say so, so I can apologise for being grumpy and paranoid in person rather than via a public forum).

And now, I am going to bed.

Monday, 11 December 2006

exploding chicken rides again and a bad business

Explosive Chicken and B making friends.  Which has the bigger beak?Well, all things considered, being home is good.

Today:

B arrived home from lighting a wedding in Manchester at about 2.30 this morning.

At 7, we got up and staggered in to Liverpool for a crew meeting with Young Keith - because we now have a virtual office we have No Fixed Abode to meet and chat; so every couple of weeks we rendevous at the very wonderful Egg Cafe and eat smashing vegetarian food pretty constantly, whilst catching up with each other. This was today's Most Bestest Thing and was very productive. Young Keith is settling in well and he's fun to work with. Also, he lets me try his cake.

Then B went for a meeting with Tinfoil Hat Man.

We are project managing a gig for Tinfoil Hat Man later this week. At this late stage, he has finally revealed that his budgetary expectations are roughly two thirds of the minimum necessary to achieve even a rough approximation of his needs.

This is a problem.

We are going to make no money on the gig. Zero. Zilch. Zip. And many other words indicating nothing, some of them potentially not even beginning with a 'Z'. Neither is he though; which is a small compensation.

We could tell him to take his poorly organised, badly planned, chaotic, drug induced hallucination of a gig elsewhere.

However, we have decided that we are too professional to do that; partly because we should have been firmer with him to start with and beaten more information out of him earlier in the process. And partly because it's a gig that involves a large number of children - Christmas spirit prevails etc. etc.. And also, if we allow him to fuck us royally over at this point (and he is not doing it deliberately, which again, makes a difference), we'll at least walk away with our moral high ground intact and some good photos that we can use for marketing in the new year.

Oh, and did I mention that he was supposed to be paying us 50% up front, because last year we had to wait eight months (EIGHT MONTHS) for him to pay and he disappeared off the face of the earth and his ex-girlfriend kept phoning me to ask if I knew where he was?

But now that has evolved in to a cheque for 50% handed over on the day. To quote the always eloquent Great Kitchen Witch - "Gah".

Please do not leave me comments including sensible business advice. You will not be telling me anything that I don't know already. Double gah.

And then we came home and had to let the chicken out for a walk in the kitchen, because the cat box is a bit too small for her to stand up in.

Exploding Chicken has now cut her foot - her name may get changed from Exploding Chicken to Unlucky Exploding Chicken. She has a big lumpy bloody wodge on her foot that first appeared about ten days ago and healed up. And then a couple of days ago it started bleeding copiously again and wasn't healing in the wet and the mud and the inch of water that is covering the garden. So I've brought her inside and keep applying the iodine solution we got from the pharmacy in France when B got the tick wedged in his belly button, and it's drying up quite well.

She's asleep on the top of a stepladder in the kitchen at the moment and the cats are rather disturbed. Don't tell the adoption agency, they'll think we'll be giving potential children bird flu.

B's comment: "Oh god. Our clients are all nobbers and we have a chicken in our kitchen".

Obviously if you are one of our clients, he is NOT talking about you.

I have had four large glasses of homebrew that is really too rough to drink and I am not self-editing as I usually do. Bothered? Am I? Face? Bothered? Which reminds me that Kate and Vic gave us a Catherine Tate DVD for Christmas last year and we haven't even unwrapped it, let alone watched it. Gah again.

Ugh. Send cake.

changes changes

Hmmm. No flapjacks, but a new template. Not sure about it.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

grrrr

I have just spent half an hour writing a post about ooooh, lots of things. And Performancing appears to have eaten it.

I am going to go and make flapjacks instead.

In the meantime though, I have come across Anthony's new blog at Voluntary Simplicity. If you are interested in a simple, sustainable lifestyle, go visit; he has things to say.

For today, that is all.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

proposition

THE houseSo. Here's the thing.

We are going on a two week theatre tour at the beginning of February. Driving The Black Maze across Europe to Budapest, looking after it at various locations around the city during the festival and then driving it home. We're both really looking forward to it, the need for thermal underwear in Budapest in February not withstanding.

However. We need a house sitter. Or serial sitters.

So if you (and partner/children) would like a few days (a long weekend, a week, a whole two weeks) holiday in return for looking after three cats and about a dozen chickens, in a very cosy (but not very tidy) four bedroom house in a pretty, friendly Mid-Wales village, drop me an email.

I've had a look at various house-swap/house-sitting websites and they advise that the best thing to do is to exchange emails and speak to interested people on the phone (Skype?) a few times to suss each other out. This seems like a good plan.

If you don't have a car but have a driver's license, it is possible that we could negotiate use of our car, provided the insurance could be sorted out.

Everyone considered, but obviously I'll be more comfortable if I already know a bit about you :).

Is this very odd and stupidly trusting? Or just a demonstration of my faith in people / the world / life in general working out mostly okay?

In other news: Today, I feel better. And we missed the school carol service because we were trapped in Everton Sports Centre doing a reccy for a job next week.

That is all.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

usual brief intermission

Ugh. Cramps. Migraine. Nausea. Dizzyness. Pyjamas and fluffy socks. Paracetemol. Hot water bottle. Very nice husband.

Back tomorrow. Or maybe the day after.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

can't touch the bottom and currently reading

First, the bad news. No photograph of B's bottom I'm afraid. ; The one I had, with the huge label saying 'Best Value' still stuck to his jeans after twenty four hours because he hadn't noticed, isn't good enough resolution; and it seems a shame not to show him (it) at his (it's) best. And then he wouldn't stand still for me to take another one. I wanted to light it moodily and everything, but he refused. Spoilsport.

So, moving on to 'Currently Reading' ... I've had a bit of a nose-in-book fortnight. Particularly since I've joined the local library; which I can't remember whether I've mentioned already and am too lazy to check.

The library comes once a fortnight - at 11AM on a Thursday. It's GREAT. It parks down the road and hoots it's horn and we collect our books up and go and swap them for new ones.

It's like a small coming home for me - the travelling library was a saving feature of my childhood. I read through all the Mills and Boon, all the Western's ('Edge and Steele' anyone?); the historical romances - Jean Plaidy, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles; the smallholding manuals; the science and wierd-science (we were the only family I knew that used to have discussions about the possibility of extra-terrestial life around the tea table, farm-workers included); and eventually the science fiction. The librarian used to get SF in 'specially for me in the end.

So, it's been nice, in a retro kind of of way, to have the library arrive on our doorstep.

This last couple of weeks I've been deeply engaged with five books by Gwyneth Jones, a series that starts with 'Bold as Love'.

I'm not sure, now I've got here, how to describe them, apart from them being unputdownable. They are cyberpunk, I think, with lots of futuristic technology and brain implants. But they are also post-apolcalyptic - only the apocalypse is NOW. And it's a GREEN apocalypse. There's a musical revolution - only it's a peaceful revolution. Oh, and there's magic. But not in-your-face wishy-washy cast-a-charm kind of magic. It's magic crossed with technology. It's dark and it's dangerous and it's powerful.

Er. Has anyone else read them? Because if you'd like to chip in, please do. I am half way through book number five and I will be finishing it tonight because I'm not going to be able to go to sleep until I've found out what happens. Or more truthfully, I know what happens, because I flipped to the end (I always do, in case I die before I finish); but I want to work out how and why what happens happens.

I've also swum through a couple of Lois McMaster Bujold's 'Vorkosigan' series, which I've read before and came across in a second hand book shop; they are cheery space opera romps and nice easy reading. And not science fiction, but I've read Robert Harris' Pompeii, courtesy of the library - I didn't like Fatherland but I really liked Archangel and I think that Pompeii is better, possibly because I like ancient history.

I've run out now - it's a good job that the library is coming back again tomorrow. And any suggestions for more things I'd like based on Bold as Love would be really welcome ....

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

six wierd things

Courtesy of Zilla, here are six things about me that some people might consider weird. Odd one really, as one person's wierdness is another person's normality. Or something. Anyway, here I go:

  1. I will not eat turnips. They are cow-food. It's just not right.
  2. I can talk to dead people, if necessary. Only if they want to too, of course.
  3. When B is away, I often wear a woolly hat in bed.
  4. I like to have the clocks in the house set at different times. Half an hour fast in the bedroom, twenty minutes fast in the bathroom, ten minutes fast in the kitchen. I am still continuously late for everything if I don't concentrate.
  5. One of my boobs is MILES bigger than the other - so much so that the nurse commented on it the first time I went for a breast exam. I was nineteen. I have kept my arms crossed continuously ever since.
  6. Until I was twenty six, I thought that the towers at fire stations were for the firemen to stand on top of to watch for fires.
Now I have to nominate six people - list six weird things about yourself. Strange habits, likes/dislikes, et cetera.. Pick six victims to tag likewise. Leave comments so they’ll know what’s up. Describe how the tagging works.

My victims are: Stegbeetle, Kitchen Witch, Mitey Mite, Ms Mac, Lisa and Imperatrix. No pressure and apologies if you've already done it and I haven't realised. And if anyone else wants to join in, leave a comment so I can come and visit ...

Tomorrow: Pictures of B's bottom and some excellent Science Fiction.

Monday, 4 December 2006

addendum

It has been pointed out to me that I should perhaps clarify that my husband has a nicer bottom than Daniel Craig.

Just so everyone knows. Okay?

James Bond. And tea.

We went to the cinema last night.

On a date.

In Welshpool.

Cinema.

Date.

Welshpool.

See. Our social life is not over, simply because we have moved an hours drive away from any major towns.

The cinema in Welshpool is BRILLIANT. Screen One, where we watched Casino Royal (see Rhys' review, I enjoyed it, too. And can I just say "Daniel Craig! Pwworr!"), has about one hundred and fifty seats. And they sell mugs of tea for you to take in to the performance with you. Also there is an interval (presumably because they needed to change the reel on the projector) which I very much like. And it only cost four pounds. Five if you include the tea.

Did I mention that there was tea?

I am thirty six years old and my ideal date is going to a one hundred and fifty seat cinema in a small market town and drinking tea.

That is all.

Thursday, 30 November 2006

being a grown up

Pretty LightsB is away again this evening. It's the last time for a while that he'll be staying out overnight - it's been one hell of an autumn, probably the busiest we have ever, ever had. Everyone we speak to in the same line of work seems to be saying the same thing.

Our challenge now is to keep the levels of work up - things are going to have to radically change as far as us working away from home goes, at least for a while, when (if) children are placed with us. So we have to continue building up our credibility as a company, continue to build up the credibility of our staff and generally move things on so that B is doing more design work, more marketing work, more of being an actual Managing Director, rather than going out there and doing 5AM calls and being away for a week at a time.

We have ditched the marketing company that we had such high hopes of. Marketing Guru turned out to be a Marketing Bird after all. Years ago, B had some very good results with a marketing company further north - we have tracked them down (they merged with another company in the interim ten years) and they have put a plan together for us and will start doing some work for us in the new year.

They are most definitely NOT Marketing Dollies.

I have spent the last couple of days playing with my cashflows and generally sorting out budgets. We are upgrading the laptops so that we can run the lighting design software 'WYSIWYG' on them properly. At the moment, B's machine will not render 3D designs at all, and Young Keith's is very slow. Think, like, a whole day to render a large design.

I have been looking at laptop machines with dual-core technology, which I currently know very little about. My choices seem to be between AMD Turion 64x2 or the Intel version. If anyone has any experience or could point me to a site with some benchmarking or reviews I would be really, really grateful.

I am going to have a large glass of elderberry wine now and read some nice, soothing science-fiction.

Oooooh! And my peas are coming up. Yay! It's a miracle, isn't it? You shove the seeds in the pots and they GROW. It's amazing.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

crisis

In our office move, we appear to have lost the industrial-sized gigging teapot.

Bugger.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

top then things I would never do

Rachel has (rather apologetically!) tagged me for a meme - the top ten things I would never do.

It was more difficult that I expect - how can you say definitely what you would NEVER do? But here they are, in the order they sprang to mind:

10. Wear lipstick
09. Have fertility treatment
08. Buy a television
07. Hurt a person or animal for fun
06. Have a false boob if I ever had to have a masectomy
05. Have a piercing ANYwhere else other than my ear
04. Let myself be abused by a partner again
03. Let my children be rude to people
02. Turn in to one of those parents who can talk about nothing but their kids
01. Stop thinking

And, I am supposed to nominate ten people - but instead, please nominate yourselves in the comments ... go on!

Friday, 24 November 2006

list of woe

Woe is me -

  • Simpkin has fought off an attack by The Cat With The Wide Head and has a badly bitten leg that probably needs to go to the vet.
  • We are almost out of chicken feed and I should go out and get some.
  • Someone is coming at 5pm to have a look at the standalone PC that I need to FDisk and reload before then.
  • I have five parcels to wrap and post for eBay and Amazon.
  • Ditto B's police checks - still in my bag.

All of this is virtually impossible to deal with because the last fortnight's crescendo migraine seems to be crescendo-ing in a visual impairment / right-side-paralysis kind of way, RIGHT NOW.

Excuse me, I am going to lie down and ride it out.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

snapshots from a family dinner table

Discussing a client's behaviour around the dinner table on Monday night:

Kate: She just wants it up her hairy vent.
Ally: PARDON! Could you repeat that? I thought you said 'She just wants it up her hairy vent'.
B and Vic: [collapse in explosive laughter]
Kate: I SAID, she just wants it to be her own event.
Ally: Ah, thank you for clarifying that. Would you like some more potatoes?
Kate: That would be marvellous. Thank you.
B and Vic: [simultaneously fall off chairs laughing]

Monday, 20 November 2006

mud wrestling for chickens

Picture, if you will, a relatively plump, wellington-boot clad blogger wearing her 'good' trousers because she is about to go to her adoption meeting but still about to fill up her chicken's feed and water and ensure their comfort before her overnight trip.

See her there - radiating enthusiasm, get-up-and-go and organisational abilities!

Look! In her hand is the list of tasks she has to accomplish this morning before her husband comes back from his jaunt to Welshpool to be fingerprinted for said adoption procedure and they can leave for the Bright Lights of The Wirral (tm).

See how organised she is!

Now.

Look at the garden.

See the VERY liquid mixture of mud and chicken shit that appears to be surrounding the greenhouse and both chicken houses due to the torrential rain the night before.

See the cockerel in the wrong house, that needs to be moved to the other house, where he won't get pecked to death while This Caring Blogger is away.

See the happy chickens, eating their lovingly prepared food and drinking their lovingly tended water!

See the escaping cockerel!

See! There he goes! Legging it up the garden like an extra from Jurassic Park, his enormous feet and incredibly powerful legs (that will fatten nicely for the table) powering him away!

See the blogger leap! See her lightening reactions, dropping her feed bucket, her watering can of water and her Organisational List and pelting in hot pursuit!

See the mud! See the slidiness!

Appreciate the comedy value of her legs running underneath her, showering mud and chicken shit everywhere, but not actually moving her forward!

Revel in the inevitable sliding of her feet from under her, the humour in her expression and her creative swearing as she realised what is happening.

See the mixture of mud and chicken shit on her new Next trousers (from eBay!) and her smart jumper and her list and her thermal vest!

I caught him though. And now I feel dreadful as he really needed to go in to Death Row with the other cockerels and he's really upset, because he's in love with one of the hens - hence they sneak away together each night to roost in the bantam house instead of with the main flock.

Got to go, washing up to do, mud to wipe off and overnight bag to pack.

Friday, 17 November 2006

beer, curry and adoption

Adoption meeting went well - we have another one on Monday, because of odd schedule-wiggling on the part of our worker. This is good. We are getting towards the end of the 'Form F' assessment process and are moving towards going to panel. Unlikely that it will happen in January, because of B's CRB checks - so maybe March.

Loads more work has come in.

We've got people coming for the weekend for a belated birthday celebration for B.

I am having a WHOLE WEEKEND with the computer switched off. Honest. Watch this space.

And if you visit regularly and I haven't got you on my blogroll, please email me and let me know and I will add you - I am planning a revamp over the next couple of months and have even, (SHOCK! HORROR!) been experimenting with Wordpress.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all. Until Monday. Or maybe Tuesday. I go now, to cook curry and bottle three gallons of beer.

Have a nice weekend.

behaviour managment, rayburns and thermal underwear

We've got an adoption meeting this morning - today we are covering 'Dealing with our feelings about abuse', 'Behaviour management', and 'Difference'.

Yesterday we spent all morning trying to sort out all the bits of B's International CRB checks that he has to apply for in person. This has involved writing to France, Germany, Canada and the USA, enclosing payment of about a tenner a time. For the latter two, he also has to go to our local police station and get his fingerprints taken. He's going to do that on Monday, along with getting a notarised copy of his passport sorted out to send to Germany.

It's all been rather frustrating.

And I am grumpy because the client who I spent last week busting my ass on behalf of, trying to sort out their crewing issues, has now phoned back and cancelled about half of the crew they'd booked. I had already sorted people out for them for those days and now I've had to un-sort. Obviously changes happen and clients do need to cancel stuff; but it's very frustrating when you know that it's happening because of bad planning on their part rather than thing outside of their control. *grumble grumble grumble*.

However, my thermal underwear (Marks and Spencer) and two polo-neck sweaters (eBay) have arrived, so that's a LARGE tick in the positive box. Do you KNOW how prohibititively expensive Damart thermals are these days? And could someone please explain to me why women's thermal underwear is mostly all lacy and with low-cut necks that expose your chest to the cold, rather than up to your chin and down below your bottom to keep out the drafts? I have actually bought M&S men's vests, as the women's range was so impractical. However, so far, I have drawn the line at combinations.

rayburnOh, and Mitey Mite - a Rayburn is a solid-fuel range cooker that can also heat your water and run your central heating. It's got a hotplate on the top and an oven on the right in this particular model. Apparently if you run it on low and leave the bottom door open, it also makes a good sleeping-place for cats ... .

We are planning on installing it the kitchen and keeping it running for the autumn/winter/spring, to keep that end of the house warm and cosy. At the moment it's quite damp, which we think is because the walls are stone and about eighteen inches thick and there's no damp course.

We are also having issues working out the correct temperature to keep the central heating thermostat - again because of the thick walls I think, although the oil-fired central heating seems very effective in heating the radiators - however it seems to take quite a while to heat up and then a while to cool down again. And because the house is quite long and thin it's not the most efficient shape for heat retention.

So far we've found that the best option seems to be to keep the heating on at about 14 degrees centigrade all the time - the thick walls then retain the heat and after a couple of days the boiler is barely working at all. It's really just a case of working out the best way to handle it. But an always-on heat source in the kitchen should really help.

I will now remove my heating-geek hat and go and take B a cup of tea - he got in at about 4am from a get-out in Liverpool (we stayed at his parents last night) and now we need to be compos-mentis for 11am for the adoption worker.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

the matter of Britain

WAAF Operations RoomToday, I feel like an extra in 'A Matter Of Life And Death'.

Not because David Niven has suddenly appeared in my garden in a state of neither aliveness or deadness*; but because I have been, figuratively speaking, pushing little shapes about on maps all day whilst drinking cocoa. And then getting a phone call or an email and needing to push them back in the other direction.

So. I have arranged for people to go to:

  • Leeds (Twice)
  • Manchester (Twice)
  • Newport (Once, but for three days)
  • Bolton (Lovely at this time of year)
  • Manchester again (Twice)

and have un-arranged people going to:

  • Liverpool (Twice, on two separate days)
  • Edinburgh (Two people, three days each)

And THEN arranged:

  • Two B&B stays in Liverpool
  • Two B&B stays in Bolton

In addition, I have installed my lovely neighbour's new printer; removed a dead mouse with no head from the pile of dirty pants B has left in the bedroom; and arranged three interviews for new staff the week after next.

Oooooh! But at the weekend I planted carrots, peas, garlic and lettuce in the greenhouse and we made three gallons of beer. I will probably have photos at some point.


* Kind of a Shroedinger's David Niven

Friday, 10 November 2006

conservatively speaking ...

Conservatory BitsDid I mention that I'd bought a conservatory?

*ahem*

Well. I was a bit embarassed about it, and after revealing my rayburn / solid fuel stove / forgetting to tell B debacle, I felt that I needed to wait a bit until I shared.

It was delivered yesterday evening and is now standing in chunks outside the front door.

It was a REALLY, REALLY good bargain - fifty quid. (Although it did cost £150 to get it collected and delivered). The Plan is to use the panels to build two porches around both the front door and the back door, which will, hopefully, not only make the house a bit warmer (the kitchen is SO cold) but also give us somewhere to keep dirty boots and wet coats.

Conservatory BitsI am wondering whether there will be enough of it to put a veranda all along the whole of the front of the house - but I am not sure that that will work. We will have to see.

There are no instructions and no photos of it before it was taken down - just an enormous pile of bits. Most of them are in pretty good condition - there are a couple of frames that are a bit shonkey, but they were thrown in for free, not listed on the auction. So really, it's an enormous, conservatory-shaped jigsaw. It's a good job that we had all that practise on the green-house shaped jigsaw earlier in the year, that's all that I can say.

The rayburn is being delivered tomorrow, by the nice chap we (er, I) bought it off. From his email address and his website he appears to also be in the events industry. Small world. Luckily B will be home to help push it up the steps and in to the kitchen. I am currently watching some double-insulated flue like a hawk on eBay.

Talking of which, I have some things listed - office furniture and clothes that have mysteriously become to small for me. Bid if you dare :).

I am now going to do some invoicing and put the clean washing away.

In addition, I have just found three quarters of a mouse (rear end) under the ironing board.

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Worthing and Southlands Hospital

I have recieved an email from a friend of mine who lives in Worthing.

Worthing & Southlands Hospital is being threatened with downgrading. This will result in the closure of the A & E Department and the relocation of Maternity Services to Brighton, which is almost 20 miles away; or more than an hour's drive in rush hour or summer traffic.

There is a campaign to prevent this from happening and there is an online petition that you could sign if you felt so inclined.

I feel very strongly that although the NHS needs to put it's house in order, abolishing local services is not the way forward.

If you felt able to write a post with a link to the petition, that would be fantastic.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go

Today, I have been digging a different kind of hole.

This one is in the greenhouse, rather than in my marriage.

Which makes a nice change.

Do you remember the series 'It's Not Easy Being Green'? One of the things that they did was dig a 'heat sink' in their greenhouse. They insulated the hole and filled it with crushed glass and stuck a piece of wastepipe vertically in it, that ended up near the ridge of the greenhouse. And they put a little fan in the pipe, that ran, I think, off a little solar panel, that took the hot air from the top of the house and ran it through the heat sink.

The idea being that the crushed glass would warm up and then slowly release the stored heat during the night, keeping the frost off. Here's how they did it.

We don't have any crushed glass - but we do have about two tonnes of the pea-gravel (also called scalpings) that the people here before us seemed to be hoarding against some kind of World Scalpings Shortage. Stone holds heat well and the pieces are small enough to let the warm air percolate through; so we'll see how it works.

We have already lined the greenhouse with bubble-wrap - too late for the geraniums I think, as it was a REALLY hard frost the night before we did it; but ready for some peas and some carrots and some lettuce that I am going to put in at the weekend.

I have polystyrene to line the hole with, from the goat's milk delivery boxes.

I think that somewhere, I have an old PC chip fan. And B brought me a small solar panel back from Singapore (did I mention that he is the best husband ever?). If the solar panel isn't big enough, we plan to use a small rechargeable battery to run it.

So, all we need is a length of plastic pipe, which I am just about to go and ask for on Freecycle.

The only trouble is the hole.

It is currently about two feet by about eighteen inches. But only a foot deep. And I have hit a horrible mixture of hard-panned clay and big pebbly things.

Pebbles, in fact, would probably be a good way to describe them.

I am slightly nervous about wielding our rather impressive pick-axe (found in the shed when we moved in) in the greenhouse. 'People who live in greenhouses shouldn't wield pick-axes' is not a cliche for nothing. But I do also have a crowbar, so I thought that tomorrow I might have a go with that.

In other news: Why are cats always on the wrong side of the door?

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

and so the world turns ...

And to add insult to injury I have spoken to B twice this morning on the phone without remembering that today is his birthday.

It is official. I am a shit wife.

Question for the ladies here - is anyone else actually looking forward to the menopause? I *loathe* turning in to a virago who can't find her arse with both hands for one week a month.

Bollocks.

*retreats, to drink tea and attempt to become better person*

Sunday, 5 November 2006

tick this box to suppress

Ladies and gentlemen, here's a tip.

Don't bid seriously on both a solid fuel rayburn AND a multifuel cooker on eBay simultaneously without telling your husband what you are doing, the week after he has arrived home jetlagged from Australia and discovered that he needs to restructure his office, go to Scotland immediately for a week AND collect an old carpet (for composting), a water butt and two marrows from Freecyclers before he goes.

Trust me on this.

Everything's fine though. Honest.

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

contented inertia

I think I have pretty much decided that I don't need to move house.

B definitely doesn't need to move house - in fact, he's quite stressed about the whole idea and it's upsetting him. Which is upsetting me.

Over the last week or so (since Kate and Vic came down while B was away and helped me sort things out), I have found myself planning again - thinking that we could do so-and-so over there in that part of the garden. That we could put up a verandah outside the back door to leave our dirty boots and coats in. That I can plant a damson tree just over there.

Also, we have found out that our neighbours are definitely selling up. So we are going to see whether there is any possibility of buying a bit of the field at the back of the house from the new owner. Probably not pig-possible as it's quite close to other houses. But definitely more trees and veg and things. Possibly a goat. A quiet goat.

So this afternoon I have turfed the chooks out of the greenhouse and mulched with cardboard. I have spent a happy half hour at Adam's Apples choosing various trees and bushes (gooseberries!) and I have drawn a plan of the garden and have started seeing what will fit where. I have put a plea on Freecycle for well rotted muck.

Mrs Chicken is still improving in health, and I feel quite a bit better too - pottering around in the sunny afternoon has definitely made me very serene. I think it's going to be frosty tonight - I have put the geraniums in the greenhouse.

I am happy.

Monday, 30 October 2006

explosive news

One of the chickens and I have both been ill this weekend.

I've had a fainting-migrainey-under-the-weather episode, which although unpleasant didn't compare to the poor chicken's explosive-nose-bleed-haemorrage-stroke thingy.

We discovered it was explosive because there is blood all up the side of the henhouse by the perch; and no other evidence of injury than blood around her beak and nose.

She now has a very weak right leg and wing. Other than that, she seems quite happy though. I haven't experienced anything like this before and neither has Pa, who is my Chicken Guru. So I have put her in a nice comfortable little house to recover in the greenhouse and we'll see what happens. She's moving around okay and eating and drinking - so perhaps she will recover.

As for me - well, hormones, I think. I am busy paying people and asking people to pay us today; and B is making us an omlette for lunch.

Thursday, 26 October 2006

rant

Today, I will mostly be ranting about Madonna in someone else's comments section over at The Guardian.

Boy on Top - I think The Baby Crisis Game happened while you were away on holiday.

In other news:

  • The adoption meeting went very well
  • The chickens survived being left for a night by themselves in their new pens
  • Betty caught a wren while we were away and the entire upstairs looks like an explosion in a mattress factory
  • R is has been offered another job and is leaving the business. We are really happy that he has found something that suits him well, because he was finding the working away from his family really hard. Not to mention his back problem.
  • We are exporing the concept of a Virtual Office. Anyone else use them?
  • B brought some VERY nice wine back from Australia

That, for now, is all.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

house hunting, adoption and accountancy

We've been house-hunting today.

We've been to look at two places, one with seven acres of land, beside a river that would provide all ones electricity-from-a-water-turbine needs and a fantastic variety of sheds and outbuildings; but it has not been looked after for three years - so boggy fields and terrible fences - and in a valley that gets almost no sun.

Verdict: It felt like a really sad place. No sale.

The second one was very much nicer. Two acres of land that have been well looked after, with some very nice poultry and duck houses, a greenhouse and polytunnel and a very well tended vegetable garden. Nice house, a fabulous barn and good road links. But not very satisfactorily tucked away, whilst also being pretty close to the main road.

Verdict: Not quite the right place. No sale.

However - we got chatting to the vendor, and it turns out that they adopted their nine year old eighteen months ago. It was a really, really productive conversation for us, very encouraging. They had all the same complaints about the system that we do; but they have a very happy family and their child seems really nice and well adjusted.

Viewing houses seems a quite complex way of meeting successful adopters. But a very positive outcome for us, despite us not instantly falling in love with their property.

We have had no viewings at all via the estate agent, and the people from Houseladder have not come back to us.

We are thinking hard about what we want, whether we could be happy here for a few years and then try to find an 'ideal' place close by.

Now I need to do my adoption homework - we have a meeting tomorrow and I have to demonstrate all sorts of things - my understanding of Diversity, The Baby Crisis Game and my Parenting Capacity.

And before THAT meeting, we also have a meeting with Sarcastic Accountant.

B is home! Did I mention that? :)

Monday, 23 October 2006

home

Yay! B is back!

We are making chicken pens today, so that we can leave the chucks overnight in safety.

B is very excited that I have planned such a welcome home for him ...

Friday, 20 October 2006

jam is the opiate of the masses

I'm collecting B at 7am on Sunday from Manchester. This 'being independent parts of a whole' relationship lark is all very well, but not-quite-three-weeks is far too long for someone to go off and leave me to be an independent part all by myself. I much prefer it when we are independent parts in roughly the same hemisphere, thank you very much.

I am going to try to have a computer-less few days, as I have gone bog-eyed over the last week, so much have I been staring at the screen. Also, I have Important Chicken Chores to complete. As one does.

So not dead, or sat in the wardrobe eating my own hair. Just resting.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

retreat of the tinfoil hat

Unflattering Tinfoil HatI think I have pulled myself out of it - thank you everyone who sent me lovely emails and left nice comments and offers of chat. I really appreciate it, it did make a difference - I didn't spiral too far down in to the dip.

And a big and public thank you to B and to R, who made the Tin Foil Hat Man go away and were lovely. They are fab.

There is someone coming an hour or so, from Houseladder. They've driven up from Kent. I feel like I'm going on a blind date. Should one shave ones legs before someone comes to view your house? And if so, just to the knees? Or all the way up?

I have switched all the lights on - it's a grim day - and I have put a loaf of bread on to bake. I have shoved the pile of clothes that need to be put away under the duvet in the spare room and I have arranged the chest/coffee table so that it hides the moth holes in the rug. And I have lit the fire.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

one step two step

The trouble with being too sad to talk to people is that you can't talk to people to tell them how sad you are and ask for some help.

Ugh.

I have had all the phones switched off, because I started to physically panic whenever they rang; but I have managed to arrange a phone-call with B this afternoon, which while pretty depressing for him helped me quite a bit.

I hate how little things can STILL suddenly knock me off my perch and how a still small voice at the centre of me can see how irrational I'm being, but not really have any say in how I'm behaving.

Contributing factors this time:

  • B not being accessible for sensible conversation for most of last week (ditdotdat, yes, I know what you mean and what you said did help a bit, thank you)
  • I have undertaken some website work for a chap on behalf of the company. He is a loonbat-eared, tinfoil-hat-wearing maniac who keeps changing what he wants, shortening his deadlines and ringing me out of office hours. Also he doesn't seem to be able to remember my name. Over the course of the last week my freak-out levels where he is concerned have gone through Lost in Space ("Danger! Danger Will Robinson!"); slingshotted round the bit in WarGames where Matthew Broderick realises that the computer is playing for real; and is now at the point in A Night To Remember where Kenneth Moore is swimming around in mid-Atlantic in his polo-knecked sweater. However, during our conversation this afternoon, B said that he and R would deal with him and make him go away.
  • Finalising the end of year accounts with Sarcastic Accountant. Since I am physically unable to even think about this without having actual palpitations, it's just going to have to wait until I'm back on form.
  • Getting the house ready for viewings. My, that's fun. And so relaxing.

I didn't even make banana products. However I did make flapjacks and although I haven't been able to stir myself to make a proper meal for a couple of days I am consoling myself with the thought that oats are Good For You.

So there you are.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

yes we have no chicken houses

It's grey weather outside, so no chicken house photos I'm afraid.

Instead I am going to potter around and possibly make some more banana wine ... or maybe banana cake ... or banana bread ... or banana pudding ... .

See the theme emerging here?

I feel really flat and wierdly isolated; but I also feel like I want to be left alone to get on with things by myself. India-Next-Door has decidedly taken me under her wing; which basically means that she phones me once or twice a day for a chat. And in the week, when I didn't answer the phone, she came up and knocked on the door. I really like her; but I feel a bit overwhelmed.

For the last five days B has only made time to contact me when he's arrived home at 4am after a few beers. So no real communication possible there then. It's easier for me if he doesn't bother. Particularly since when I start to mention anything I've done, he pipes up "Oh yes, I read that on the blog". So I really don't need to mention things in person.

Two friends have had babies this week. Another one has just told me she's fallen pregnant really quickly - after seeing our issues they decided to start trying just after they decided to get married. And she caught immediately. I am really happy for all of them; but sad for us. And also, I bet Madonna didn't get questioned in minute detail by her social worker about her alternative lifestyle and spiritual practices during her adoption preparation.

It's odd how you can appear quite cheerful on the outside but simultaneously feel very sad on the inside.



Saturday, 14 October 2006

foghorn leghorn

day old chicksCan we talk about chickens?

These are the ones that hatched five weeks ago, the day after they'd popped out of the eggs in the incubator. There are three Exchequer Leghorns and six Partridge Pekins.

They are just about ready to come off their heat now - I've been letting them out in the garden during the day for the last week or so and then they go back under the heat lamp at night. They're mixing well with the three weeks older ones, which is great, because before too long we are going to reach a Chicken Redistribution Event Horizon and their accommodation will need reorganising.

Out of the twenty five we have, we will

  • keep one cockerel and six laying hens
  • keep the four lady Pekins and one cockerel
  • eat five full-sized cockerels
  • eat five Pekin cockerels (enough for a large curry - they are about the size of a pigeon)
  • have three laying hens going spare
They are all lovely birds; but of the six Pekins in that picture, FIVE (FIVE!!!) are boys.

That's a lot of boy Pekins.

So we are going to divide them up in to batches - the laying hens and their husband will live in the top garden. The Pekins we are keeping are going to come down and live in the front garden in a little pen which we can open up and thus allow them to roam around when we are in. They will pretty much be pets. Or curry, I suppose. The remaining boys we are going to eat are going to go in to a specially made hut that we have christened 'Death Row', behind the house; out of site of the layers, so that they won't get upset by not being part of a real chicken family.

They should be ready to eat at Christmas. I am therefore not bothering to order a turkey this year. There's always the risk that I will bottle out at the last minute and we will have a vegetarian Christmas, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Someone is coming to view the house on Thursday. I am mostly ready. And I have found one or two places with land to present to B when he gets home, with a view to viewing them ourselves.

Tomorrow: Pictures of chicken houses.

I am still filing. Please send brandy.

Friday, 13 October 2006

recycling, filing, winemaking and a brazilian

I have three bin-bags full of clothes and two enormous boxes of kibble to take to the charity shop.

And I have made a pile of all the clothes I like that are too small for me. If I can't get in to them by Christmas, they go.

This afternoon, I am finishing filing all the paperwork I found in a big box at the weekend. Odd how paperwork becomes irrelevant if you pile it up in an 'URGENT-DEAL WITH IMMEDIATELY' pile and then leave it for six months. And nice how the world doesn't end or anything.

Then I am attending to my wine. I've got a bucket of banana on the go and five gallons of red (from a kit, heresy I know, but country reds take so much longer to mature that we had to get something in to cover the gap) that needs racking.

In other news: I dreamt that my mother had had a Brazilian. Ugh.



Thursday, 12 October 2006

blast from the past

I've been tagged by SheWeevil ...

All these people have found us the theme music from the children's TV show they are most nostalgic about.

There's no need to guess which show mine is from though (it's a *.wav file). It was on on Saturday mornings, just before Zorro.

And I pass the baton to Jamie, if she has time between all of her fair going ...

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

wall lights of the damned

Right. Where was I?

Kate and Vic came to visit on Monday, armed with various cleaning materials, DIY gear and a carpet steamer that they had borrowed off a friend of Kate's that I don't like very much.

It's an interesting philosophical position - does one clench ones ethics and use the carpet cleaner of the person one places somewhere outside Xena's orbit in that venn-diagram thingy that the adoption worker made us draw of our friends and family? Or does one stand by one's moral high ground and continue to put up with one's carpets smelling vaguely of alsation?

I chose option a) and feel slightly ethically besmirched; but the bedroom no longer smells of large damp dog. So I think I can live with myself.

We have cleaned everything. Washed everything - curtains, carpets, windows, floors, ceilings. Vic has filled all the small holes where twenty years worth of people have taken down pictures, thought "Oh, I'll fill that hole in later" and then died (or divorced of course). He's put up shelves, curtain rails and pictures.

This house is actually quite nice you know.

Apart from the wall lights in the dining room. Does anyone reading this have wall-lights that they ACTIVELY LIKE? Rather than wall-lights that they chose because they were the only ones in the shop that didn't make them feel nauseous? Or wall-lights that were in the house when they bought it and they decided that they could live with until they could afford some nicer ones and then never actually got around to it?

Update on the house-moving plan: We are going to look for the 'perfect place' to move to. But it will have to be perfect with a gratuitous modifier, as this place is very nearly perfect - the house IS perfect.

B says that when he comes home, he is prepared to gird his loins and approach our neighbours about the possibility of buying a bit of their land for goat-and-bee-keeping purposes.

Only ten days to go now before he comes home - half way through.

Sunday, 8 October 2006

master and commander

The guys are here today finishing the solar tank installation.

We have decided that the best course of action is for them to finish the job and then when we move we can take the actual panels with us and leave the tank and the pipework; then if someone else wants to reinstall them at a later date, they can do so.

I chatted with B for quite a long time via Skype yesterday. We finally got the video working properly.

It's an odd thing; in 1912 my Great Aunt Lucy went to New Zealand. My mother says that her father (Lucy's younger brother) went with the family to see her off on the boat. And he knew that they would never see her again. It must have been such a tremendous thing.

And now, nearly a hundred years later, B is still that half a world away. But I know what the place he is staying looks like. We can speak instantly. And a fortnight today, he will be back.

Friday, 6 October 2006

bag the sequel, bigger and better than ever

I can't cope with my mother.

Okay, today I can't cope with very much, due to the swirling cloud of hormones and tummy ache I seem to be functioning with.

But today I particularly can't cope with my mother.

So rather than sit and listen to her pour negative comments across my entire life and then hang up the phone and feel that I'd like to break a glass and cut my arms; I called her on it.

I didn't cry, I didn't shout, I didn't swear.

I just pointed out that every single thing she had said in the conversation was negative, and could she please stop.

And she apologised.

I still feel like I want to hack at my arms. But instead I'm going to have a small glass of not-quite-ready sloe gin and then go to bed.

Today was going quite well until that, all things considering.

*replaces bag on head*

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

bag

I think I am just going to sit here with a bag on my head for a day or two, if that's alright with everyone.

I'm perfectly fine - it just suddenly feels as if there is rather a lot going on.

Hmmm. I wonder why that could be?

India-Next-Door turned up on the doorstep with a bucket of damsons (plan - wine with juice, chutney with fruit) for me this morning at the same time as the valuer. Which rather put the boot in to my plan to pop round later this afternoon and break the news about moving to her gently. She wasn't too shocked - she's a very redoubtable person - and when I went round this afternoon she gave me a flapjack and a mini-swiss roll with my coffee; so I think we're still friends. She was very worried when we moved in - what we would be like, etc. and now she has to go through that process again.

The building the new office is in is having an official opening shindig thingy tomorrow evening. Gosh, how I'm looking forward to it.

I had an email from B from Singapore during his layover. Haven't heard whether he's arrived yet - but I'm hoping he can find a broadband connection and skype me tomorrow.

Back in a day or two.

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

karma

Rhys has the Sexual Karma Fairy.

I AM the British Gas Customer Retention Calling Team Karma Fairy.

A very uninterested youth has just phoned and asked me why I was leaving British Gas.

So I told him. At length.

It's a very boring four year old saga involving the botched removal of card meters, undebited debit cards, right hands concealing their doings from left hands, missed appointments (theirs) and finally, the ombudsman.

I would have felt sorry for him really, only he clearly didn't care one way or the other whether I Went Back To British Gas.

Bastards.

In other news:

  • We have put the house up on eBay. Yes, it does have a reserve :).
  • I dropped B at Manchester airport at 7.30 am this morning. He'll be back in just under three weeks. His parting shot was "I love you! Make us rich and buy a house while I'm away!". So no pressure there then.
  • With the help of Kate and Vic, we built yet another chicken house at the weekend to accomodate our flock, who are all starting to resemble Godzilla rather than The Little Red Hen. I do have loads of poultry-related photos to post, but I haven't got round to it yet. Will soon, honest.
That is all.

Except for the fact that I seem to have rather bad PMT :(.

Sunday, 1 October 2006

for sale

Right. Does anyone want to buy a house?

Seriously.



Friday, 29 September 2006

oops

I think it is fair to say that I have, actually, fucked up quite badly.

Luckily one of the nice things about being married to someone who is not a nobber is that that's okay.

Kind of.

Even when you realise just three months after moving house that

  • actually, you were so desperate to get out of the Grime City that is Wallasey
  • that in order to get away from your crazy-like-a-fox next door neighbour
  • and to get settled before hypothetical children are placed with you at the behest of your adoption agency
  • and in a bout of chronic homesick-for-the-countryness

.... you bought the first house that you liked, in a village that you liked, in the countryside.

Instead of making a more thorough plan to actually buy somewhere with a few acres where you could put down some roots, both literally and metaphorically, for the future.

Finding it difficult to admit that I have made a mistake is always a bit of a challenge for me. I suppose that starting big is as good a way to go as any.

Oh dear.

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

haitus, if that is how it is spelt

I am shattered. We've been rewriting the business plan today and it's gone pretty well; but all my writing juices have dried up. (Sorry, that's a deeply unpleasant image, but see, I am too dessicated to change it).

I have loads of interesting things to write about - for example - chickens; chicken houses; derelict farmhouses lacking electricity, water or cess pits; B going to Australia for three weeks; the three-foot high face appearing on the bedroom wall; triumphantly rearranging the feng-shui in the kitchen by moving the wellington boots to a different corner ... but instead I am going to go to bed.

Sorry.

Monday, 25 September 2006

baby crises #1 - #3

The adoption meeting then. Finally.

We've had another crazy-but-nice weekend, catching up with some old friends at a wedding near Silchester. Because of the Chicken Parenting Issues, we had to leave straight away on Sunday morning; but we took half an hour to have a look at the Roman walls, because B had never been. It's an amazing place if you can ever get to visit. The site reeks of age; and also stillness and peace.

It was very, very nice to get away for a while and just chill out together, without having to worry about work, business plans and adoption; although - the meeting in the week went much, much better than previous ones. (See how I segued in smoothly there?!). Although we did spend some of the evening meal swapping Comedy Conception Stories with a friend of a friend who is four months pregnant after trying Clomid for a month. Which I really enjoyed, wierdly. Nice to know that there are other people out there.

I was much less stressed in the adoption meeting this time, and much less defensive. And I think our worker was more relaxed as well. She was very pleased with our homework; and we were able to articulate how frustrated and angry we had become without making her feel as if it was her that we were directing our emotions at. I think that that was part of the problem last session.

So we discussed the things that we had prepared for her; and then we moved on to talk about other things.  For example;  how we make decisions in the relationship; our attitude to education; family traditions; how we'd felt about not being able to conceive naturally.

It felt like we'd covered an enormous amount of ground.

Even more so when we came home and looked at our list of homework for this week again. Before we meet again in a month - after B gets back from Australia - we have to expand on the hobbies and activities our family undertakes as a group; our day to day and weekend activities - when do we fit in cleaning, shopping, gardening? We also have to demonstrate that we understand and value Diversity; and demonstrate our parenting capacity.

Oh, and it goes without saying that another quite big chunk of the session was "The Crisis Management Game!!!! With Bigger and Better and More Impossible to Visualise Crises!!!!"

We seem to play this every session. Possibly because we aren't giving her the answers that she needs to demonstrate that we are aware of what we are getting in to.

With apologies to anyone who does this as a job - it is ridiculous. We make up possible crisies. And then we say how we would deal with them.

I asked for one or two examples to help me with my examples. If you see what I mean. So we thrashed out the following:

Crisis One - "Nose Jamming Choking Babies"
Child One has jammed something up it's nose. Simultaneously, for effect, Child Two has stuck it's fingers down it's throat and it turning blue. I am on my own in the house. What do I do?

Crisis Two - "Chicken Pox Toilet Blocking Vomiting Flu Babies"
Child One has blocked the toilet up with paper. There is water all over the place. Child One has gone flying on the slippery floor and knocked itself out cold. Child Two is very young and has chicken pox and is vomiting and is very contaigous. I feel really ill with flu, B is away at work (it is ALWAYS B who is 'away at work' - 'in hospital with a broken toe' - 'run away to join the circus', never me - equal opportunities?! Fuck 'em! Ahem). What would I do?

Crisis Three - "Arm Cutting Chair Throwing Fire Engine Football Babies"
Child One is eight. It is severely disturbed and is throwing chairs at me, and has broken a glass and is starting to cut itself; and threatening anyone who gets close. Child Two is a bit younger and is choking on a toy fire engine. Child Three has to be at football practise in twenty minutes. Again, B is away. The bastard.

I know that these are serious, potential events. I know things like this happen in a worst-case-scenario type situation. I know that they are trying to get us to think around the subject, plan ahead, explore our feeling etc. etc.. But how the hell can you give an honest assessment about what you would do until you are in the thick of it?

And let us just step back for a moment and look at the TV Sitcom (or even a well researched, heart-strings tugging drama) about each of the above - of course providing that the Adoptive Parents reacted in an appropriate manner and everything turned out fine.

This time, we are responding by laughing about it all as a hoop we have to jump through rather than getting pissed off; at the same time as researching the locations of the local A&E and digging out our First Aid certificates.

Oh, also, we need to borrow some kids to practice on. So if anyone would like to get rid of theirs for a weekend, do please let us know.

Tomorrow: Vote-O-Rama! How mad is a person if approximately ten weeks after moving house she starts thinking that she would like to move house again? To a VERY dilapidated farmhouse with two and a half acres (goats!) and an orchard a couple of miles further up the hill?

Thursday, 21 September 2006

beer and firefox

Firstly, anyone else having problems with the site crashing in Firefox? I'm running Firefox on XP and it seems to be okay - but KW, you are running on a Mac, yes? Any feedback gratefully received - IMHO it's very bad manners to maintain a site that isn't completely cross platform ...

in the demijohnSecondly, here are some pictures of beer.

We wanted to try a basic recipe for an 'every day' kind of beer, and after a little judicious googling, we found this one, via a link from Selfsufficientish. I would recommend it.

When ordering the ingredients, we had a bit of confusion about 'malt' and 'spray malt'. They are essentially the same thing; but malt is sticky and sludgy and comes in a jar; and spray malt is powdered, keeps better and comes in a plastic bag. You also only need to use seventy five percent of the amount, according to the really brilliant chap at Stonehelm, who I honestly cannot recommend highly enough. So we used three quarters of a pound instead of a pound.

It seemed to work. We used 'light' spray malt. The end result was quite dry, not too 'hoppy'. We only used the recommended amount of dried hops, and the beer drinking half of the relationship says that he is going to experiment with a few more hops next time.

Overall result: 'A good session beer'.
Cost: Just under a fiver for eight pints.

bottled beerYou don't need to put it in a demijohn - it was just habit, because that's how I do the wine. Next time, we'll probably shove it in a lidded bucket instead - particularly as we are planning to do a couple of gallons.

I think that the beauty of this recipe is that is it really straightforward - it's a basic recipe that you can tweak to suit yourself and your taste. Spray malt comes in various different kinds - light, medium, dark and wheat; which give different flavours and, presumably, strengths.

This is the first time I have had any dealings with beer creation - I am not a great fan, as you may have gathered (although I am partial to the odd pint of Coniston Bluebird on hot days in the summer). I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to make and how nice it tasted.

We're going to have a go at a Nettle Beer recipe from Selfsufficientish too, at some point.

Tomorrow: A happy adoption meeting story. For a change :).