Wednesday, 31 May 2006


I think it went well ...

I have had three large glasses of wine and a tandoori and I will report back fully in the morning. Thank you for all the good wishes. Going to phone my mother now ... :).

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breaking news ...

Adoption Agency Woman has just phoned. She is back from her sick leave (that if you remember, meant that she had to cancel our first appointment a couple of weeks ago). Can she come round at 3.30 TODAY to kick off our assessment process?

Can she heck?

Wish us luck. And hope that she likes Slovakians, decorators and houses in Wales.

*clears up what appears to be a squashed chocolate malteser cake and and an envelope with a fried egg in it that has for some reason appeared on floor outside office door*.

flat food, slovakians and decorating

Today, I will mostly be redesigning the company website to fit in with the new theme that Marketing Guru and her Marketing Minions have created for us.

They wanted to do it themselves, to which we gently objected on two counts:

a) Money and
b) Flash

I am convinced that Flash is evil. Why can't every web page in the world be in standard HTML that every browser and every 286 with 16 Meg of RAM can read easily?

So. I am doing it myself, which means that

a) It saves us money
b) There is NO FLASH and
c) We can update it whenever we want to without having to go back to them to get them to do it. And therefore have to pay them. (See point A).

The stuff they've produced looks brilliant though. It's a booklet of photos and information that they are going to send out to potential clients who say 'Do you have any further information you can send me?'*.

We also have Liam The Decorator back again. This time he is doing the hall, stairs and landing. It is a horrible, horrible job and the last one that needs doing to get the house looking like we want it. So, in many ways, it is ironic, as I think Doris, pointed out in a comment the other day, that we are now about to move again.

Slovakian Lodger seems rather nice. He's twenty-two and he visited Merseyside last year to work; he is therefore all set up with an employment agency and a National Insurance number. He's very self conscious about his English but is quite happy practicing on us. He also likes Thelonius Monk, which makes him strikingly easy to get along with. In addition, he seems to think that Poles are (pleasantly) crazy.

I go to wrestle with HTML. Wish me luck and send flat food **.

* Which as everyone in marketing knows, actually means 'Please bugger off and leave me alone.'
** Can be easily pushed under the closed office doors of people locked in combat with their PCs. From Douglas Coupland 'Microserf's.

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Monday, 29 May 2006

any ideas?

We are having a very nice weekend.

We went on a date yesterday.

A date!

With each other!

B turned his phone off!

We went for a pizza-lunch (with artichokes) and I had an enormously decadent (or decadently enormous?) glass of white wine (at lunchtime!!) and then we went and saw The Da Vinci Code.

I rather enjoyed it, in a 'oh goodness, it's not any better than the book, is it?!' kind of way. I thought that Ron Howard had done a workman-like job of directing it and the actors had done a workman-like job of their parts; apart from Ian McKellan, who was clearly having the time of his life and was great.

Also, doesn't Tom Hanks have a big face?

Now, I have a hypothetical question about business and co-operative-type profit-sharing.  I need some opinions.  Please feel free to throw what you think in to the pile, I need some ideas:

The background:

There are currently three of us employed full-time by the business - me, B and R.  We are all directors.  We all draw a salary.  B and I own the company and R does not yet have a share in it, because so far there have not been any profits worth sharing - everything over and above our salaries has got ploughed back in.

However, we anticipate that changing in the next twelve months, due to to our own hard work and that of The Marketing Guru.

We are going to take on another member of staff full-time in the autumn.  We've got about half a dozen very reliable students-technicans who we are currently using on a casual basis and we have offered one of them the post.  I don't know if he'll take it yet - it's not an enormous salary;  but we are offerering a training package that will be about fifteen percent on top of his salary and then a bonus of ten percent of his salary if we meet our targets.  It will be his first job, so I guess it's just whether he fancies it or not, really.

We want:

To have some kind of profit-share at the end of each year.  This is pretty easy with the three of us who are directors, because we can just issue each of us with a share of the company that entitles us to a percentage of the profits.  But how do we include any staff in that and make it work however many staff we may have?

Our thoughts so far are:
  • If people are doing their jobs properly then everyone is an equally important part of the company
  • If people aren't doing their jobs properly then two things - we won't keep them around for long and what's more, they don't deserve a share of the profits
  • We don't want to issue shares to non-directorial staff because we don't want to get in to buying them back if people move on; and we'd need to buy them back, because we don't want non-employees profiting from the labours of employees
  • In any company, some employees have more responsibility than others
  • B, R and I have taken up a hell of a lot of slack over the last three years and have taken a lot of risk, both personal and financial, to get things going
  • We should probably have some kind of time-qualifier before people are eligible for this kind of profit-share - ie, they should have been with the company for more than a year (two years?  three years?)

If we allocate a percentage of the profits of the company (say 25%) to be divided up among non-directorial employees, what is the best way divvy it up?  Bearing in mind that this year there will be one employee.  In five years there might be five, or ten or a million.

Remember that profits will go up as we have more people on board.  And that everyone already has a salary that is relative to the amount of responsibility and skill their job entails.  We like the idea of it being a co-operative effort.  It's a very hard industry and a co-operative seems fair.

Arrgh.  It's like the worst kind of maths problem.  I'm not looking for a solution, just some ideas.  And of course, we need to chat to Sarcastic Accountant about it.  He's not really a co-operative-type person though.  More a capitalist-type person.  Which is fine, that's what we pay him for.

And now I am going to go and research solar panels, wind turbines and heat exchangers.

Oh, and we are going to the local Greek/Turkish restaurant tonight as a post-birthday treat for me.  There may be a belly-dancer.

Saturday, 27 May 2006

put it in the bank

We have a new lodger arriving in a couple of hours - a Slovakian guy. And we have another new lodger arriving on Thursday.

Who we think may be Czech.


We are madly cleaning the house and washing sheets.

We were woken up last night at 3.30 by an enormous kick-off at the end of the road outside the house of someone I'm quite friendly with - I came downstairs just in time to see the police arrive.

This morning it turns out that my friend's fifteen year old son had been beaten up in the street outside the house by three seventeen year olds, in front of her and his three year old sister. He's got a broken nose and cracked ribs and the little girl was busy telling me that he was covered in blood. Apparently she was hysterical.

He's due to join the army next year and seems like a nice lad - carries in old ladies shopping, always says 'hello' when you pass him in the street etc.. My friend says that as the three of them were kicking him around while he was lying on the ground, she could hear him saying something like 'okay, beat me up if you like, but don't do it in front of my mum'.

I am really, really sorry that I didn't wake B up when I first heard them shouting, rather than wait a while to see what was going on. We both feel really guilty :/.

I'm going to try to take a break from blogging over the bank holiday, but may not succeed. Have a nice one ... I hope the rain holds off wherever you are.

Friday, 26 May 2006

rage against the dying of the light

Friday lunchtime pub visits with clients who are almost-friends slay me. Two pints of cider and I am making inappropriate jokes and saying 'f*ck' with impunity.

B arrived home this morning at ten after a night out in Manchester, under pain of death not to be late, in order to take Simpkin to the vet for further investigations about his swollen paws. The vet told me off for not taking him last week, just after his antibiotics finished.

His paws aren't really any better - she gave him a long-lasting steroid injection and charged me £24.10. I've got to take him back in a fortnight.

B has had three hours sleep and has just flaked out on the sofa beside me. He has glitter all over his chin, presumably from passing out face-down in someone's car on the way home from the club at four this morning.

Raging against the dying of the light comes less easy in your mid-thirties.

I am going to make a cup of tea and have a snooze.

Thursday, 25 May 2006

today's letter is B

Cheryl tagged me for the 'letter meme' and for some reason has allocated me the letter 'B'. Here are ten things about me beginning with it:

Biscuits - I dislike Digestives. Even chocolate ones. But I like Rich Tea. And I can't have any biscuits at all in the house, otherwise I eat them all at once.

Bathing - Should be on my CV as a hobby. A glass of wine or a cup of tea and a bathing partner (or a good book, should my Chosen Bathing Partner not be available) is my idea of a brilliant evening in.

Blogging - Easy, this one. My name is Ally and I am a blogaholic.

Bed - The safest place in the world. Comfortable, cosy, stress free and an excuse to purchase new duvet covers on a regular basis.

Ball-games - Are tedious to watch. Mind-numbing. But I used to play hockey. There is nothing like the adrenalin rush of lumbering out of goal in your kickers and pads, waving ones hockey stick (keeping the business-end below shoulder-level, of course) towards someone who is trying to get a goal past you, bellowing incoherently and pulling faces at them through your mask.

Birthdays - Don't much like them. They seem a lot of fuss about nothing, same as all anniversaries, really. And I am absolutely terrible at remembering other peoples.

Brewing - Is fascinating. I mostly specialise in 'white country' wines. Sometimes I do a few reds, which tend towards the explosive and / or undrinkable.

Books - I love books. I possess loads. I like their smell, the way they feel, the mystery behind them. They are the product of someone else's time, effort, research and imaginings and that makes them pretty much all fascinating.

Bullsh*t - Don't like it at all. I like people to say what they mean and mean what they say; and I tend to avoid people who don't.

B - Dear reader, I married him. And jolly nice he is, too.

If you would like to play, leave me a comment and I will email you a letter at random ...

So far, Liss and Carol and Rhys and Ganching have played ...

technologically challenged

I've spent half an hour doing Cheryl's 'letter meme' and then I pressed the 'Clear Content' button rather than 'Publish'.  So I'm feeling rather grumpy.

While I start again, what do you think about all these people who allegedly left that chap to die on Everest while they went on to climb the summit?  Given the  available information, did they make the right decision?  What would you have done?

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

divine guidance

As a special birthday treat for myself, I finally decided to phone the Her Majesties Customs and Excise PAYE department.

I think I love the chap who answered.

Difficult to choose between him and Sarcastic Accountant; is it moral to conduct extra-marital affairs with two financial advisors at once?

To start with, he had a lovely reassuring Scots accent.

And secondly he exuded reassuring 'No one is going to come round and break your kneecaps about your return errors, particularly if you quote them this case reference number I am going to give you now' vibes.  Rather like Sean Connery, but with slightly more grasp of accounts procedures.  (Sorry Sean, I'm sure you're lovely and all, but this guy really had it where it counts).

Suddenly I feel a whole lot better - strange how quite small things can blow up out of all proportion, isn't it?

In other news, New Polish Lodger left for the bright lights of London on Monday. In a burst of unusual luck, I have NOT had to burn the sheets upon his departure. We allegedly have a Slovakian chap arriving on Saturday.

Thank you for all the good wishes and age-revealing revelations ... :).

Flapjack calls ... can you hear it's insiduous music?

today's news

Generated by The Newspaper Clipping Generator, with grateful thanks to Doris

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Tuesday, 23 May 2006

just resting


First up, I'm not feeling that great today. Stress makes me react rather oddly at the best of times and in addition I have been bolstering my system with large quantities of Carroty Nectar of an evening. Which although relaxing at the time, has the slight disadvantage of decreasing the effectiveness of the anti-depressant medication. Hence I feel too unwell to go out to my CBT session or post my eBay parcel at the Post Office. Ooops.

First thing, I spent a couple of hours looking at the pay software and rocking, whimpering slightly. B phoned mid-morning to ask how I was and picked up on the whimpering in my voice ... . He manfully phoned the Sarcastic Accountant (Pia, I think you're Dad was right, sarcasm is high up the 'required skills' part of the job description of all accountants) and then phoned me back with a quick-and-dirty solution to calculating the pay manually and getting it BACS'd out.

Sarcastic Accountant is going to come over some time next week and unravel the mess that between us the software and I have made of it all. I think I love him.

THE houseNext, the estate agent we put an offer in to for House Number One came back and asked for contact details for solicitors and financial advisors so that he can check our ability to make good our offer. This is fine ... but we have had no definite response from the vendors. And since we offered the asking price - because the house has only been on the market for a week - we are thinking that they are preparing to muck about and see if they can get a better offer from someone else.

Then to add spice to the whole thing, the estate agent for House Number Two on our list of likes came back to us and asked for feedback. We said the property was lovely but we had gone for another one in the same village that was a bit cheaper. The estate agent said that the vendor of her house would probably be prepared to accept an offer.

So in a fit of recklessness I put an offer in of the same price we put in for House Number One. And it's been accepted.

I feel slightly bemused.

And now, here is a parrot story.

African Grey ParrotOne of the things we have enjoyed about the last couple of weeks house-hunting is all the interesting people we've met.

The inhabitants of House Number Three on our list of likes had a seven year old African Grey (sorry Stegbeetle, not a Norweigan Blue). B was enchanted by her and the enchantment seemed to be mutual. She was flirting with him heavily through the side of her cage and sticking her tounge out at him, which in parrot-language apparently means that you are right in there.

He was stroking her beak where she was poking it through the cage and generally chatting away to her and she was chatting back; not in English, just in Parrot, but clearly very engaged with the conversation.

I went out to the kitchen to ascertain the position of some bread-ovens that were hidden behind the wall cabinets ... and there was a squawk from B and a chatter from the parrot, shortly followed my Mrs Vendor coming in to the kitchen to get some plasters.

It had bitten his finger.

Quite badly.

I am laughing as I type, I know I am a Bad Wife, but it was very funny indeed. The parrot had clearly drawn him in by lulling him in to a false sense of security and then nipped him, just to show him who was boss.

The vendors also told us a story about a parrot that they knew who was allowed to fly free and had flown in to the vicar's garden in their old village; when the vicar ambled out and greeted it, it responded to him with "Get back in your fucking cage, you!".

We would have bought their house on the strength of the parrot connections alone, but it was four miles from a post office.

So that's pretty much where we are today.

I think I might have a lie-down with Lord Peter Wimsey now and see if it clears my head a bit.

That is all.

UPDATE: Sorry Doris, I've put a link in! :). And added illuminating illustrations ...

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bloody *hell*

I will be posting when I have done the pay run.

I will be doing the pay run when I have fixed whatever has caused the office PC to not to be able to find it's hard disk.


Monday, 22 May 2006

still here

I am still here.  Thank you everybody for your comments and emails, it's nice to feel cared about.

We have been house-hunting all weekend and I am knackered and slightly stressed.

We put an offer in this morning and are waiting for them to come back to us.  I am actually not too stressed about that part of it all per se, because we saw a lot of lovely places that would also be nice to live in.  It's the general 'big list of things to do' that is getting to me a bit.

I have two interesting stories, one about parrots and one about arts and crafts houses.

Back tomorrow properly I suspect ...

Thursday, 18 May 2006

carrot whisky recipe

This recipe is taken from C J J Berry's 'First Steps in Winemaking'.  Of course, it isn't really whisky (because that would be illegal), but whatever happened produced *very* strong alcohol indeed, with a whisky taste.  On a reassuring note, it doesn't actually taste of carrots - I was a bit frightened by the whole concept of root-vegetable alchol to start with, but this is fine.

Remember that all measurements are UK weights and measures rather than US.

Carrots 6lb
Wheat 1lb
Sugar 4lb (I think I may have added more than this in increments as it fermented out, but it was four years ago and I can't really remember)
Lemons 2
Oranges 2
White concentrate 4oz
Yeast and nutrient
Water to one gallon

Wash the carrots, but don't peel them.  Chuck them in a big pan and bring to the boil, simmering until tender.  Strain off the liquid and make up to one gallon.  Bung the sugar and sliced citrus fruit in to a bucket and chuck in the hot liquid, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Add the concentrate and the wheat, stir and leave to cool a bit.  When it's only luke-warm, add the yeast and nutrient and then cover the bucket.  Stir twice a day for fifteen days and then skim it (yeuch!), strain out any bits and transfer to a demijohn.  Leave until clear. I think I topped up with two-ounce-per-gallon increments of sugar during this process, until it wouldn't take any more.  It's turned out nice and dry though.

Allegedly drinkable a year after the start of the process - but I would say that's optimistic, it was two before I was able to face it.  When we tried a bottle six months after it had finished fermenting, B's father says that it lowered his inhibitions sufficiently that on the short walk home he stopped and waved at three different security cameras.

We made five gallons at once, because the carrot-picking machine got bogged down in the mud in the field opposite Ma's gate and they had to abandon half the field.  Apparently people were coming from miles away with empty sacks.

Oh, and then we made soup out of the boiled carrots.  It was rather unpleasant.

Let me know how you get on.

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oh good grief

Today I will mostly be drinking tea and pottering.  And if I have a burst of enthusiasm, planting out my strawberries and tomatoes. 

Back tomorrow. 

But in passing, can I just welcome the person who visited yesterday after googling "scroat licking".

Can you hear that noise?  It's my mind, boggling.

That is all.

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

blog block

I think I've got a touch of Blog Block.  There seems to be a bit of it about.

Reaction from all the stress over the last few days hit me yesterday afternoon;  I spent a couple of hours sitting on the sofa starting fixedly at Rightmove and Be My Parent and rocking, gently.

I'm still struggling with the bloody PAYE submission;  I've got all my figures and I've got all my printouts but because I submitted the wrong year in a fit of software-induced stress, I apparently can't resubmit the correct returns without a complete reorganisation of the Inland Revenue department concerned. 

Their helpline is so busy that it cuts you off before you get in to the queue and the automated response I have received from my plaintive email cry for help says that they will try to get back to me in the next couple of days.

The submission deadline to avoid having their boys come round with Patent Inland Revenue Kneecapping Devices is Friday.

Our Sarcastic Accountant says to take all my correspondence and the correct figures and go and see them; the revenue office is only in Birkenhead.  However I have no transport today as B is working and anyway, I need to spend a couple of hours this afternoon rocking and whimpering behind the sofa.


I think am going to make flapjacks.  If I hide a file inside I'll be able to bust myself out when the revenue bang me up.

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

well, that's that

Auction news then.

We didn't get it.

There were two other parties bidding; B waited until one of them had run out of steam and then joined in the fray. However, the people who won wanted the place so badly that you could taste it coming off them. They seemed pretty much prepared to pay anthing.

We had agreed what we could go up to beforehand and worked out a rough strategy. The bidding went up in increments of five thousand and we got to our limit quite quickly. The auctioneer came back to us at that point and we went up another two thousand; which the other people immediately capped with an additional five. If I'd been them, I'd have only gone up another two at that point - I think their quickness to jump kind of indicated their readiness to pay whatever they needed to get it.

So we bowed out.

We are both fine about it, although we have agreed that next weekend we are going to do something much less stressful :).

B was very pleased because the other people in the auction who had dropped out quite early on came up to us afterwards and were really complimentary about the way he had handled it. The chap was a checked-shirt-and-waistcoat elderly farmer type who clearly knew what he was doing and it was lovely of them. They said that it was a very good thing to know your limit and stick to it, and agreed that the other people seemed prepared to pay anything.

I am going to phone the auctioneers today and say that if for any reason the sale falls through, to please consider getting in touch with us.

It was a really interesting experience; there were only five lots in the auction and there were easily a hundred people in the room. It was very much a farming community - agricultural people, lots of well-worn tweed jackets.

I don't think the vendors of 'our' place wanted to sell; they looked really stressed. Although B thinks that they might have wanted more money for it. It went for forty-seven thousand over the guide price (which is apparently about where they start the auction) and it will need about fifty thousand pounds worth of work to sort it out.

Off to phone solicitors and gather more information about some other places we like.

Sunday, 14 May 2006

go hug a newbie

Kate at itisi has come up with a great idea: "Be Nice to a Newbie Week".

It's sprung from a discussion that's been going on on one of her posts regarding some established blogger's dismissive attitudes to people who haven't been blogging very long.

I think it's a great idea.

That is all.

Back Tuesday, after the auction.

Saturday, 13 May 2006

in brief


Format pinched from Peaceable Imperatrix with grateful thanks. STOP :).

Friday, 12 May 2006

sour adrenalin

The adoption worker just phoned.

She has a chest infection and has to go to hospital.

Our meeting has therefore been postponed.


It is twenty to six. In the morning.

This is not a time I have much truck with normally unless work forces me to.

However, I am so nervous about the adoption agency meeting later on today that I have been lying awake since five. I have just got up and made myself a cup of tea and am trying to type quietly - I have come back to bed and B is still asleep beside me. (Yay! for laptops).

The sky is a beautiful mix of pink clouds on a delicate blue out of the velux windows and the Liverpool skyline across the river is wreathed in early-morning mist.

Betty the kitten is balanced on top of the open window, supervising the sunrise.

I feel slightly sick. There's rather too much going on.

The surveyor is coming to value the house for the remortgage at eight-thirty. He could either do then or eleven, which clashed with our adoption meeting. Then this afternoon we have a meeting with Marketing Guru (notice I have stopped calling her 'Marketing Bird'. She seems to deserve a rather more competent nom de guerre). Then this evening we are going out to dinner with an old friend from South Wales that I re-connected with through FreeCycle.

We had a long discussion last night about the Potential Country House. We are both having the blue yips at the idea of of taking on such a large mortgage. There are a couple of other places that we like that we have decided to try to have a look at over the weekend, before the auction. They both have barns attached that could be made in to a holiday-let type cottage with relatively little fuss. Even with only fifty percent occupancy, a scheme like that would mean that the mortgage was virtually paid each month, which is much less scary.

The deadline of the auction has forced us in to a position where we are making decisions about our future rather quicker than is comfortable for either of us, despite the motivators of having children placed with us and getting away from the irrationality of Cat Hating Neighbour.

Now I've emptied my head, I think I might try to go back to sleep for a bit. I *really* need to be awake enough later to wash the kitchen floor before the adoption worker arrives :).

Thursday, 11 May 2006

we all fall down

Simpkin has just returned from the vet.

They passed the Woods lamp (thanks SheWeevil!) over him and haven't found any actual evidence of ringworm - ie, he didn't glow green.  Which is reassuring.  However, they have taken some culture of the stuff around his claws (yack yack yack yack) and are going to try to grow a culture from it.

We have to give him an antibiotic twice a day, which will be fun - the last time we had to give him a course of tablets he spent virtually a week up the chimney. 

And he has also been prescribed some 'Pet Sunscreen Spray' as the vet says that he has sunburned ears.

I can't see it working after the first time, somehow;  however, it's quite shady up the chimney, so perhaps it will become a non-issue.

Oh, and he has to go back in a week for a check-up.

So far today we have spent £160 quid on vetinerary bills, so we're quite pleased we're remortgaging, really.

ring o'ring o'roses

I am still wrestling with the PAYE submissions.  Apparently I have to do a 'manual amendment', which seems to be relatively straightforward.  Provided one has the right information.

Since I have no idea where the information that I need to submit actually is on my stack of printouts, it's taking me rather longer that I suspect it should.

If you know me via work you are probably never going to employ us again :(.

We took the two grown-up cats to the vet this morning for their annual injections.  Three Legs was fine.  Simpkin took one look at me when I called him in and bolted for the top of the shed.

So after we brought Three Legs back, we collected him up, using the treacherous 'feeding time' method and took him separately.

Apparently he has ringworm.  The vet is keeping him in for a couple of hours to investigate by shining an ultraviolet lamp on him.

Suddenly both B and I feel all itchy.

More later when I have emptied the numbers out of my head.

Wednesday, 10 May 2006

strange as it seems ...

There's been a run of crazy dreams ...

Last night I dreamt that I was at the Bath and West show, staying in a small chalet with my demented ex-Mother-in-Law, her son, my ex Crazy Tom, his girlfriend and my four cats (for some reason I had gained a tabby kitten).

It was a very uncomfortable atmosphere indeed, partly because the ex-MIL insisted that the only place the cats could eat their food was sitting in the sink and because she never threw anything away so the house was full of piles of old newspapers. So I walked out in to the garden and there, over the fence, was Lisa- who- I- used- to- go- riding- with- at- weekends and her brother- who- I- used- to- fancy- like- mad- but- was- too- shy- to- say- although- everyone- knew.

They were competing in a three day event and couldn't stop to talk for long.

So I walked along the track around the side of the place where the horse boxes were parked and I met a man with a beard wearing a ballet tutu and a surgical support truss, who turned out to be the new Doctor Who.

He had a chalet of his own, that was covered in rambling roses, and invited me in.

And there were all the other Doctor Who's, as they used the chalet to get to together every so often and have a break from time-travelling. I stayed there years, although my original love, Ballet Tutu Doctor Who couldn't stay on a regular basis because of fighting evil, etc. etc..

Nevertheless, we had a lovely little boy, without actually appearing to do anything together to make that happen *ahem*.

I am not sure what could be interpreted from this, apart from 'don't drink too much carrot whisky before going to bed'.

I have finally submitted the PAYE return to the Inland Revenue; however, I have just realised that I have submitted the wrong year. Oops. If you never hear from me again, it's because they sent the boys round and I am languishing in some kind of gaol for incompetent financial directors.

I think I am going to make some tea.

Tuesday, 9 May 2006


I am starting to fray a little around the edges.

Our solicitor thinks it is worth putting an offer in before Monday and is currently perusing* the masses of documentation that have been forwarded to her from the vendor's solictors.

I have phoned the vendor and asked them what they use the barnyard behind the property for; I spoke to Mrs Vendor, who rather vaguely stipulated 'er, farming, mostly'. I am now wondering if there is a possibility that they could be thinking of selling them for conversion purposes at a later date; which would mean that we had neighbours right on our doorstep.

I suppose at the very least all this is providing me with very effective displacement activity; I am not worrying about our appointment with the adoption agency at all.

Excuse me while I go and like down in a darkened room and drink homemade carrot whisky straight from the demijohn.

PS. The piano is VERY flat. I may try that audio-blogging thing in order to demonstrate, if I can remember how it works.

* One of my favorite words

Monday, 8 May 2006

right said fred

My Freecycled piano has arrived.

The delivery men have their luton van jammed at the bottom of the road.

and so

Morris Traveller!Item. We have a mortgage approval in principle.

Item. We have a loan approved to cover the ten percent deposit we need to put down at the time of purchase.

Item. We have a picture of Buff Orpingtons and a Morris Traveller taped to the side of my laptop to remind me to send out positive vibes.

Item. I have spoken to the auctioneer, who was very discouraging about putting an offer in; apparently there are two or three other people who have asked to be kept informed if an offer is made, so that they can do the same thing.

I didn't want to get in to a bidding war over the phone - I think it's much less messy to do it in an auction situation. We got involved in that kind of thing with this house - we had an offer accepted and then someone else came along and kept offering more in increments and the vendors were unprincipled enough to use it against us and pushed us up by NINE THOUSAND POUNDS. Which was about twenty percent of the original offer we'd had accepted. Bastards.

So I have withdrawn, in a ladylike fashion. The auctioneer sounded like one of the old school; apparently he is also the local auctioneer for livestock, which in my humble opinion makes him less likely to be crooked as an extra-bendy snake.

Item. We are the only people to have had a survey or valuation done, so that's good news. It doesn't rule out cash buyers, but it does rule out people who are looking to buy on a mortgage; unless they are very naive and are leaving it until they see whether or not they are successful at the auction.

I feel ever so slightly sick and am going to be on edge for the next seven days.

In other news, I have done the Payroll End of Year. However, the PAYE software dies screaming with a fatal error when I try to file the figures online and once again, the software people's phonelines are jammed and they are not responding to my emails.

I am going to have a big fat drink and see if there are any other nice farms for sale anywhere in the universe.


Payroll year end.


Sunday, 7 May 2006

hangovers, auctions and plants

The fence and the decking look gorgeous.  No sign of Cat Hating Neighbour except for some minor scraping next door;  I think she is taking her wallpaper off and redecorating.

Good news on the finance front - it looks like we can get a positive decision in principle for the amount that we need. We have therefore decided that we are going to make an offer this week, before the auction.

I am slightly hung over, due to old friends arriving to stay over late last night and bringing a box of wine. 

B is working.  Kate and Vic are coming round in half an hour with some plants.  I suspect they are also bringing a supportive attitude on my behalf re Cat Hating Neighbour and are preparing to defend me to the death should she arrive outside and start kicking off while we are planting.

There may be pictures, if it doesn't rain.

Saturday, 6 May 2006

oh dear

I have just had words with Cat Hating Neighbour over the fence.

Loud words.

She started having a go at Keith because they were starting on our decking rather than the fencing;  due to the fence panels not turning up.  She was really unpleasant.

I have made a command decision.  The fence is now going on our side of the wall.

B's mum has just phoned for a completely unconnected reason and I told her the whole story, still shaking.

Kate:  Well hun, I know I don't swear very often, but I think you should just tell her to Fuck Off.
Me:  Erm.  I just did.

Bollocksy bollocksy bollocks.

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good fences make good neighbours

The guys have come to put in our fence and decking this morning. We are sitting in the kitchen drinking tea and waiting for the panels to arrive.

Keith has a bad back, so we have negotiated with New Polish Lodger to help with the lifting; he is going to lift things and we are going let him have a week's free rent.

B has already had a long discussion with Cat Hating Neighbour re her roses and not knocking them down. She was really agitated yesterday when I told her they were going to come today; I didn't let her know before in case they could make it. She's in quite a state and I am leaving her to B to deal with.


The Potential Country House was valued yesterday. I am not going to tell you how much it's for, but it's about what we expected and within our budget. We've got a meeting with our finanical advisor - person at midday today; and the solicitor has got all the documents and searches from the vendor's solictor to check through.

It looks like things are in place. We just need to work out our budgets for essential works and set a top price after which we walk away at the auction. We thought we might try putting an offer in this week, once the finances are sorted out.

It's a lovely day. I am going to go and print out my spreadsheets :).

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Friday, 5 May 2006

technical interlude

Excuse me while I have a technical interlude.

Because I want to be exactly like Stegbeetle (who I think is about due for another dose of the Indie Virus, while I think about it, more info here), I have taken the cocomment box out of my sidebar. It was taking up too much room and I don't know that it was all that useful and/or interesting to people who are not me.

Instead I've replaced it with this little button in the sidebar, that goes to my cocomment page when you click on it.

If you haven't discovered cocomment already, it's a brilliant idea - it keeps track of the comments you leave on other people's blogs and informs you when other cocomment users comment on the same posts. I am using it with Firefox - it can be integrated completely so that it tracks your comments automatically. I think with IE you have to click on a little button at the time of commenting to get it to track your comment. It works well with Blogger, but it doesn't seem to work with Haloscan comments, which is the main other commenting system that most people I read seem to use. I think it's still a work in progress though.

So instead of the cocomment box, I have followed the example of many people who also deserve the indie virus and got myself a ZoomCloud. It picks up words from the front page of your blog and changes as you post different things. And when you click on the words in it, it takes you to the post that contains them. See over on the right, in the bottom half of the sidebar. Jolly exciting and a great way to avoid doing office administration.

And that is the end of this public information announcement.

Er, apart from Indie virus Indie virus Indie virus Indie virus Indie virus Indie virus.

That is all.

Thursday, 4 May 2006

of pianos and buff orpingtons

I have made a slight tactical error.

Yesterday someone offered a piano on Freecycle.

I am now the owner of a piano. I couldn't help myself. It is being delivered on Monday and is apparently very out of tune.

B was incredulous when he got home last night. Comments along the lines of:

"Tell me you haven't really got a piano?", and "Well, it's certainly going to make moving house more interesting!", and "Please tell me that you haven't really got a piano? You are joking, aren't you?", have led me to believe that he is not one hundred percent on board with the idea.

I am not sure where it is going to go, but I am sure that we'll work something out.

In the meantime, let's talk about the 'Moving To The Country' plan.

Since that last post about having an epiphany about wanting to live in the country again, I have been rather obsessively searching online for suitable properties. Suitable in a 'where would we like to live' kind of way rather than in a 'what can we afford' kind of way, which is much less fun.

And in the middle of last week, I came across two places in North Wales, near Denbigh, that not only looked lovely, but which were also within our price range. So I rang the estate agent for a chat and we arranged a viewing for Saturday afternoon.

They've both got houses with about three acres of land. One of them had land that was pretty much vertical - that's Wales for you - and a really, really dilapidated house that would pretty much need a complete rebuild, along with a new cess pit. But the other one is a three bedroom place that needs modernisation, but seems basically sound. And as a bonus, it already has a functioning cess pit. It has an option to buy three and a half acres of pasture and woodland, running alongside a little river. It's in a valley rather than on a steep hillside and we both fell in love with it, rather cautiously.

The catch (there's always a catch) is that it's coming up for auction on the fifteenth of May.

I have spent some of the last two days arranging appointments with financial people; lighting the blue touchpaper of surveyors and standing well back; and constructing a spreadsheet to give us some idea of what capital we can raise and what mortgage repayments we would actually be able to afford.

The big figures are rather frightening, but I keep telling myself that it's just like eBay but with bigger numbers.

Today, I am definitely going to finish that flipping filing. Although dreams of Buff Orpingtons might get in the way.

Wednesday, 3 May 2006

interested in tarot?

tarot imageAs a brief aside from normal programming, can I give Annie's Tarot Course a blatant plug?

I did a bit of proof-reading of it for her a couple of months ago and it is very, very good. It has in-depth information on each of the cards and their meanings and it also encourages you to develop your own intuition whilst doing readings. There are assignments that you complete and get marked and a chat room where you can go to ask for support and advice.

The course has a very measured approach to teaching online and if you follow it properly you will come out with a very good grounding in the subject.

Annie has been reading and teaching tarot for years, both in person and online. If you're interested, go visit and her!

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

why i vote

We are very lucky.

We can own property. We have financial independence. We can work in pretty much any career that we wish to. We are not forced to give up our children to their fathers when we divorce and be excluded forever from their lives. It is no longer legal to beat us. We can have sex without the fear of getting pregnant. If we become pregnant and do not wish to be, we are legally entitled to terminate the pregnancy; we are no longer forced to choose between abandonment by family and friends or carrying the child to term and then giving it up.

We have a voice. We are allowed to think. We are allowed to speak our thoughts and have them weigh towards the way our country is run.

Women have been imprisoned, been force fed, been denigrated, humiliated and some have even died to make this happen. It only became a possibility for all women in the UK in 1928.

We owe it to them to vote. Please don't let them, or yourself, down.

(I wrote a huge long comment on SheWeevil's post about Emily Davidson, which she wrote in response to Stegbeetle's post about voting (see the thoughtful comments). But then Blogger ate it and it was too long anyway, so reposted here.)


cat pictureSo where to start?

The first thing that happened on Saturday morning was that I woke up.

It was a little unusual, because Betty was not attempting to sit on my head.

I didn't really think anything of it, pottered down to the bathroom, had a conversation with Simpkin about his breakfast (re: the late arrival thereof) on the way, had a wee, washed my hands ... (possibly too much information, but bear with me, I'm scene-setting) ...

And realised that I could hear a cat crying outside.

"Oh dear!" I thought.

They have those little magnet things attached to their collars to make their cat flap open for them and periodically they lose them. So I thought "silly bugger, she's locked herself out" and continued pottering down to the kitchen, tea-ward.

Opened the back door. Called Betty. No cat. Just an increase in wailing.

Went out and looked around the yard. No cat. Lots of wailing.

Then Cat Hating Neighbour appeared and said "It's stuck under my gate".


Looked over the wall and there she was, lodged (which is such a fantastic word when associated with "tunnel of goats" but less so when associated with your kitten) under Cat Hating Neighbour's back gate in to the alley.


She was really, really stuck and had clearly been there a long time - perhaps all night. She's scratched off claws on both of her back feet and has badly bruised her back. I know that someone lets their dog out to run in the entry and I wonder if perhaps she was making a swift exit; a few weeks ago she'd probably have been able to get through, but she's just got too big.

It took the combined efforts of me and Cat Hating Neighbour to try to wedge the gate up a bit - because it drops when you open it - and then push her through the way she was going. There was literally no other way to do it and it was obvious that I was hurting her really badly. It was horrible and I was terrified that I'd broken her pelvis.

Cat Hating Neighbour broke her spade wedging it underneath the door, which I am viewing as poetic justice for her continual Cat Hating; she did help in a very practical fashion though, bless her, and I am very grateful.

I think Betty's okay - she is almost back to her usual self today, jumping in to the sink etc. etc., so no lasting problems. If she was no better today I was going to take her to the vet, but she seems fine.

I have a shed load of filing and invoicing to do that I've been putting off for about a month.

We really do have exciting stuff in the Moving To The Country department but I don't want to blog about it until I've had a word with our financial guy to see if it's practically possible or just a pipe dream.

Filing calls.

Monday, 1 May 2006

quick update

Testing out the 'post from email' thingy on blogger. If you can see this, it works. If you can see this without HTML tags, it works how I want it to work.

Have spent the weekend so far house-hunting, extracting Betty Kitten from where she had become lodged under Cat Hating Neighbour's back gate, doing spreadsheets to work out our finances and rigging / derigging a staff party as a freebie for a client.

Knackered, smelly, worried about the cat and terribly excited, not necessarily in that order.

Details tomorrow when I have caught up with myself.