Friday, 28 December 2007

survival and handmademeat

Just a quick post so that you know we survived. It had grim moments and lovely moments - Leo was a trooper and kept everyone's spirits up; Ma was pretty miserable, as Pa had been shouting (bellowing, really) every ten minutes for forty-eight hours before we arrived and the sleep deprivation was getting to her. Also her mother died on Boxing Day a few years ago, so it's not a happy anniversary.

However, we cooked the goose, we drank a modicum of cider, Leo liked his spirally-jangly-rattley-mirror-toy and B and I got a smashing wooden egg safe and a stripy turtle-mat.

Now, a blatant advert. As you may know, I am of the greeny-downsizery-small-local-producers-type persuasion.

HandMadeMeat is a group of small-scale farmers who sell small quantities of seasonally available, good quality, non-intensively-reared meat, delivered to your door. The mail-order site is just getting going, although the participants as individuals are all experienced producers. I am going to put a permanent link to them in my side-bar when I get round to re-jiggling my template, but for now - if you like lamb, go make a space in your freezer, then visit them.

Now we are going to take some squidgy fruit to a friend's pigs, deliver some cardboard boxes to a freecycler without a car and post some eBay parcels at the Post Office.

Then we are coming back to have lamb chops and put another layer of paint on the kitchen floor. It's RED! And later, there may be photos.

For now, that is all.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

still crazy

We have Cleaned Out The Chickens. We have Rain Proofed The Pekin Pen. We have Sealed The New Kitchen Floor.

We have Drunk The Gin.

We are Ready.

Tomorrow, we go to Somerset for three nights. On Saturday we go to Wallasey for three nights.

I may blog before the New Year.

I may not.

It's been a crazy old year.

Happy [insert midwinter festival of your choice here], everyone.

Friday, 21 December 2007

deepy dippy

We are desperately trying to finish all our paperwork so that we can have ten days of chilling out - the unfinished kitchen and the job on the 30th December not withstanding.

Leo is teething.

Can you say "mummy's turning in to a dipsomaniac", children?

Wednesday, 19 December 2007


I haven't washed my hair for five days, I have flea-bite on my leg and I smell of curdled milk. Kate and Vic have been here for ten days, pretty much, sorting out our Kitchen Crisis. They came last Monday and stayed until Thursday. On Friday, we left Leo with them in Merseyside, went out for a meal, went to the pub with a friend and came home.

On Saturday we arose late, sat in the kitchen in our pants being grateful to Kate and Vic for a bit, and then went to the meet in Aberystwyth. It was a brilliant day out - lots of interesting people, lots of interesting trading. We went with four pounds of honey, four pounds of beeswax and a dozen eggs and came back with two packets of air dried ham, a small bottle of sloe gin, a jar of spicey marinade, a dozen duck eggs, a jar of bullace chutney, a jar of raspberry jam, some hand-made soap and two dead rabbits.

On Sunday, we helped some friends shift a conservatory we have given them (in exchange for three sponge cakes and eighteen hatching eggs) on to their trailer; and the friends and B watched me skin and joint the two rabbits, with some alarming amusement ("Aw, look at his little paws, he looks like he's sleeping!").

Did you know that you can cut through a rabbit's legs with garden secateurs instead of ponying up for poultry shears?

On Monday, we picked up a luton van at 9AM and drove to Frodsham, where we disassembled an eight foot by ten foot shed, mostly in the manner of Harold Lloyd, went through the skip of the chap who was selling it and rescued a gas heater, two gas canisters, three fence panels, various miscellaneous bits of wood, three metal shelving units, a work-bench and a pallet. Then we drove home, where we were met by Kate, Vic and Leo.

We unloaded the van, which did not promote family harmony in any way shape or form. Particularly the 8 x 10 slab of floor.

Yesterday, B went to Cheltenham on a reccy for a job that is happening next year and I stayed at home trying to keep on top of what Vic wanted me to do; look after Leo, who has a cold and was cratchety; and be assertive with Kate, who wouldn't let anyone else near him. Vic was grumpy because he'd forgotten B wouldn't be there, I was upset because Kate wouldn't let me near my own baby and it was NOT a good day. I ended up sitting on a neighbour's sofa at 3pm, driven away once again from the nappy changing table, drinking gin and listening to a pep-talk on assertiveness. I recommend this - I came home, had another large gin and two glasses of wine and broached the 'please let me look after my own child' conversation with Kate. It went down okay. Well, in fact.

Gin. That well known easer of family strife. Go for it. You know it makes sense.

Today, we finished running in the wiring cables and the first fix is finished. B has filled in the gaping hole in the floor and I have cooked cauliflower cheese for tea, with some of the air dried ham we got on Saturday. Leo is slightly less cranky - we took him to the doctor yesterday evening who pronounced it 'something viral' and told us to keep on with the Calpol.

I am going to have a large glass of wine and a bath.

For today, that is all.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


Kate is convinced that Osama Bin Laden has a Facebook account.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

so there

Tired. Dusty. Covered in sick. Full of fish pie and slightly too much apricot wine. Going to bed.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

kitchen shennanigins

rayburnLet's have some aga-saga then, shall we? SheWeevil asked about it and Mitey Mite is conscious that she has been Blogging Remodelling for the last six months - it's time I updated you about our Kitchen Shennanigins.

The Background - we were moving house. And then at the last minute, we were not moving. Remember?

It was all very stressful and upsetting - but since we now have a baby to play with, I am not so keen to have a million pigs and goats and sundry livestock; so we have decided to stay put for a bit - two or three years at the very least - and in the meantime, to do a little re-modelling of our own. To this end, I have been trying to buy a solid fuel stove, that will be the 'heart of the kitchen', that we can cook on and that can be plumbed in to the existing horrendously expensive oil-fired central-heating system and solar/oil domestic hot water system (via a Dunsley Baker Neutraliser) to help us be more carbon-neutral and allow easy jam making on a regular basis*.

We have been slightly hampered in this mission by the whole 'Bones Of Our Arse' issue (as B's dad, Vic, so charmingly puts it). A new solid fuel rayburn would be somewhere in the region of two or three thousand quid. This is oh-so-not-possible. So I have been cruising eBay with a vengeance and we are now the proud possessor of not one, no, but TWO non-functioning solid fuel cookers. One is a Rayburn Royal, which has a crack in the top and needs a replacement - you can't weld it because of [some very boring and technical reason to do with not being killed by carbon monoxide poisoning]. I have been trying to source a second hand top, with little success.

So. I bought a Hunter. This appeared to be in good working order and the seller was really communicative and very nice on the phone. However. When it arrived, despite being a pleasing shade of fire-engine red, it had a broken door catch, rendering it unusable as an actual cooking device.

'Bollocks!' I said, under my breath, as I girded my loins to tell B I had once again bought something expensive and useless on eBay; and also to open a dispute with the vendor; who offered to refund my money and take it away but wasn't prepared to pony up to refund my transport costs**.

19112007(008)So. That is where the aga-saga is at the moment. The main thing that I have neglected to mention is that these renovations involve moving the kitchen from one end of the house to the other. The house is about fifty feet long; and B wants to put in a separate ring main for the new kitchen, so we are pulling cables through today - if they arrive from Screwfix. Also, all the drains are at the wrong end of the building. This has involved drilling out through the twenty inch thick granite wall, running the waste pipe along twelve meters and then drilling back in twenty inches to get to the soil pipe, which the people who originally converted the house thought would be ideally situated in the corner of the kitchen tucked behind a breeze-block wall.

Oh yes, we are having such fun.

Yesterday B and Vic took down a little stone seat-arrangement which had been built in to the partition wall that the people who lived here immediately previously to us had put up, sloppily, to separate the living room in to two parts. The seat turned out to be part of the original walls of the house and be composed largely of dressed stone boulders. It was immensely entertaining. Oh yes.

Today they are channelling in for the ring main - only they can't get stuck in to that with the industrial-strength channeller I have hired them because the only thing done properly in the entire house is embedding the wiring deep in the walls; and the little beebly-beep machine B has to tell him where the wires run can't pick them up. So we are having to hire an industrial strength beebly-beep machine this morning to suss out the existing cable runs in order that we don't cut through them and a) electrocute anyone and b) make all the wall sockets in the entire downstairs unusable.

I am getting to know Huw at HSS very well indeed. He and his wife are expecting a baby in a few weeks and he's very excited about it all.

Our aim is to create a living space at the north end of the house that will be an eleven foot by twenty-five foot kitchen / diner / living room. We will then use the existing kitchen as a utility room - washing machine, dryer, freezers, beer fridge, brewing stuff, space for all the empty jam-jars - and reinstate the downstairs cloak-room that the people here before us took out. This will also give us a nice hallway that will act as an air-lock for the shedding of dirty boots and wet coats. We are planning on confining the cats to this area at night, as the dead-rodent problem and the random wee-ing is getting on even my nerves now. And it will leave us with a little room to use a snug and guest sleeping-space.

Time to get the baby up and pour some tea in to B. He and his dad went to the pub to watch the Liverpool game last night and since they won 4-0 I understand there was some celebration.

Wish us luck.

* Which reminds me, I need to make some marmalade - we have had LOADS of citrus fruit with the veg box for the last three weeks and it's sitting in the fruit basket drying out nicely.
** Some of the nice chaps on have offered to come and fix it though; apparently it shouldn't be too difficult. But it's still the PRINCIPLE of the thing, isn't it?

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

all's well

Baby is no longer constipated, the cat is wee-ing in a litter tray in the bathroom rather than on the clean washing, I have just killed three cockerels and Kate and I have plucked them, Vic and B are drilling holes through the twenty inch thick outside walls to get the new kitchen wastes to where they are needed to be and are about to start channelling in the ring main with the most ENORMOUS channelling machine I have ever seen; and after I have picked off the chicken fluff, I am about to go to the shop to buy some vegetables.

*draws breath*

All is well.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

in brief



Thursday, 6 December 2007


leo1Okay, Mitey Mite asked about Leo - and because I love the idea of Leo having 'blogparents' on the other side of the world (she spontaneously crocheted him the beautiful blanket we took to the hospital to wrap him in), she gets first dibs.

He is smiling and laughing and yesterday he went his door bouncer for the first time. Today he has got so excited at being able to bounce himself up and down that he has just vomited copiously all over the floor. He is talking to his teddy and to the cuddly kangaroo that B's Australian relatives sent him and is starting to play with the little rattling toys on the arch over the pram and on the 'gym' thing that we bought him.

25112007He enjoys the car - which is just as well, as he seems to spend a lot of time in it, either travelling up and down to Merseyside or to Somerset. Yesterday he came to a Production Debrief in Manchester and on Monday he came to a rig in Stratford-Upon-Avon. He and I fell asleep in the corner eventually, whilst B finished his focus. He's had his nappy changed on a flight-case and likes the way his daddy's adjustable spanner rattles on it's belt-ring.

He seems to have quite steady reflux - at least, a lot of what you put in comes back out the same way - but he is also gaining weight steadily - he was 12lb (that's British pounds, I don't know if US ones are different) the last time he was weighed a couple of weeks ago. He has been in three to six month clothes for the last three or so weeks - the cloth nappies give them such big bottoms :).

03112007(001)He is trying to crawl and can 'caterpillar' himself along. You put him down at one end of the Moses basket and in the morning he's right at the top with his head touching the edge. In another couple of weeks, he'll be too big for it and will have to go in to the cot in the nursery. He's already snoozing in there in the day time and has his mobile 'the carnival of mutant animals' set up above it to look at (a red cow, a purple sheep, a bright pink pig and a yellow horse-thing - they all have multicoloured feet and circle round and round to the tune of 'twinkle twinkle little star').

He likes the rocking chair. It has a brown-and-black throw over the back of it, that sister-Natalie brought me back from South Africa. He likes one particular picture of some figures hunting a pig. He stares at it as you have him on your shoulder to wind him and when you stop rocking he chatters at you until you start again.

Last week, B was away for five nights. Leo and I went to collect him and when we walked in to the room, he recognised B immediately and was all smiles and laughs for him. I think B was surprised at how demonstrative he was. He misses B when he goes away. He likes you to talk to him and tell him stories and he loves his bath. Usually, he comes in with one of us and he really can swim - at first I thought he was drowning, thrashing his arms and legs about all over the place. But further gentle research shows that he is actually having a good time and 'swimming'. He doesn't mind getting his face wet or water in his eyes and ears.
He is growing out of the first-size 'Ella's House' hemp nappies. The 'Mother-Ease' one-size ones fit him much better now (they were too big to begin with) and are much more absorbent - but not so pretty! He likes going in the sling and looking out under the straps. He doesn't like wearing a hat and quite often pulls it down over his eyes. When he's very upset he pulls the tops of his ears down, which looks very funny and makes me laugh in an 'oh my goodness what's he upset about now' kind of way.

He is hungry ALL THE TIME. And he is constipated. The doctor has recommended dilute fruit juice to cure the latter, which seems to work. The former - well, he's on 'Hungry Baby' baby food. He seems to eat a lot during the day - every three or four hours - and then he sleeps for seven hours after you first put him down at night. Then he wakes up for another feed and after that sleeps for five hours. So it's all in the timing - but we are both starting to feel a bit better in ourselves.

Today, he has done swimming, some door-bouncing, some time in his gym and some time helping us sort out the chickens in the garden in the rain. He didn't see much of the garden, as he was zipped up inside B's waterproof with only the bobble on his hat showing - but he seemed quite content.

Enough already. I keep saying I don't want this to become a baby-centric blog! Tomorrow - something not baby-centric :).

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

starting slowly

Thank you for all your questions - more very welcome, I am going to try to post every day, or at least every other day, otherwise I am going to run out of steam completely! I shall launch in to them tomorrow.

For today, a list:
  1. Yesterday I made soap for the first time.
  2. One of my new hens has started laying.
  3. This evening we are racking eleven gallons of wine and making beer.
  4. I have just spilled museli all over the kitchen floor, which isn't going to help our Mouse Problem at all.
  5. Three Legs has a water infection again and is back at the vet.
  6. And finally, hang out all the flags ... Leo has had a poo! After forty eight hours and a telephone call to the doctor we gave him some very dilute apple juice, which had the required effect. Luckily I wasn't involved at all - it was B's turn to change his nappy :).
For today, that is all. Tomorrow, I pick a random question.

Monday, 3 December 2007

what's it all about, then?

I am finding posting a bit of struggle - I need questions. Go on. Question me. Please?

Saturday, 1 December 2007


Today, I will mostly be stating (unintentionally) loudly in a cafe in Welshpool that Father Christmas does not exist and I will have no truck with colluding in the great seasonal 'lying to children' debacle. And subsequently creating a tumble-weed moment when everyone else within earshot with children in their party tried to wither me with their gaze.

Apart from that, things are fine.

Things calm down a bit for us after this weekend; B has just left for an overnight job in Birmingham and after that shouldn't be away again until the New Year. We are working on a plan for him to not have to work quite so hard away from home; we are both shattered and we have both discovered that we loathe him being away. Leo hates it too - he is very unsettled at the moment and clearly clingy with B when he is back. So we are hoping to change our lifestyle a bit to something more home-based. News as it develops, if it does.

It is eight o'clock, Leo is sleeping and I am going to bed, after seeing if I can find a hand-driven coffee-grinder on eBay.

Monday, 26 November 2007

comparatively speaking

Looking after a baby is much like working in the Entertainment Industry. You are tired all the time, you are constantly trying to please someone else who doesn't explain adequately what they want and screams when you don't deliver, there are long hours, patchy sleep, randomly spaced meals, people being sick at odd hours of the night and some of the time ear defenders would be helpful. You just don't have anyone grown-up to share any of it with.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

of sisters and rayburns

We were supposed to be going to Somerset this weekend, but we called it off because B was starting to fray at the seams a bit about the amount of work he had on.

This was a Slightly Bad Thing from the point of view of Ma and Sister-Natalie, because they both had really un-get-out-of-able things to do on Saturday morning and B and I had arranged that we would look after Pa whilst they were out. Pa can't be left, you see; he shouts continuously if he's left for even ten minutes and he needs help with even the most simple things. He still can't walk, or even stand independently and two carers are still coming in four times a day to lift him, dress him, toilet him, get him up and put him to bed.

So, we both felt bad about not going. But B was so stressed that we felt it was our only option; he has been getting stomach pain severe enough to prompt him to get a doctor's appointment on Monday morning.

Despite all their own issues, Ma and Natalie really rallied round for us, yet again. Natalie offered to meet me half way yesterday and take Leo for the weekend so that B and I could sort ourselves out. This would entail roughly a five hour round trip for her; and given that she and I haven't had the most comfortable of relationships over the last, well, two decades, was a pretty nice thing to do. Although she did point out that it wasn't me she was keen to see, it was the baby :).

In the end we decided not to take them up on their offer, both on the grounds that they had loads on themselves; and that actually, B finds hanging out with Leo quite relaxing. Instead, we worked until 2.30pm yesterday and then broke and went out for lunch in Welshpool. And then we did the same today and spent a couple of hours up in the garden. B has pretty much got done all he needed to be done; and that really wouldn't have happened if we'd gone away. As Jackylhunter pointed out, time is often B's Flexible Friend - and this was really a case of full head = no ability to think, plan or even make tea.

If you can't make tea, then you are STRESSED.

Natalie and Ma seem to have made out okay without us - they got a friend to come in and look after Pa for a couple of hours this morning. Natalie helped Pa with his toileting before she went out - it's something he gets really anxious about and she was very nervous about having to deal with it. I think you have reached a threshold in maturity when you have to help a parent wipe their own bottom.

On the phone earlier this evening:

Me: I'm just ringing to see how things went and how you all are.
Natalie: Situation normal really. Ma is skinning six rabbits in the kitchen and Pa wants the commode.
Me: [snort]
B: That's going straight on the blog you know ...
Natalie: [resigned and dry] I'm going to start my own blog I think.

I am really pleased that after all this time we are getting on better. It is partly down to B and partly down to Leo. I am not taking anything for granted about how Natalie feels about anything, but I am really enjoying it.

Now I am going to nag B until he climbs in to the space under the stairs and gets out another gallon of Apricot Wine. Then I am going to drink some Apricot Wine. And then I am going to bed.

Tomorrow I am going to plant some garlic, visit some friends and potentially go and meet a chap who restores rayburns in order to convert our two Rayburns Of The Mind* in to an Actual Rayburn.

* I bought another stove, a Rayburn-Analogue and it turns out to have a broken door-catch. I am in negotiations with the seller to pay for repairs. But I am also in negotiations with a chap who lives close to us to part-exchange both Rayburns Of The Mind for a functioning one.

Thursday, 15 November 2007


B: You know when I said that I had two hours work to do this afternoon?
Me: Yes?
B: Well, strike that. Make it six.
Me: Why?
B: I didn't take in to account doing a nappy change, him being sick after having a feed, doing a poo and then having really bad wind.
Me: Would you like some tea?

Thursday, 8 November 2007

in brief

B's been away for two nights - only one more to go. I have no idea how single parents manage this on an ongoing basis - I am exhausted.

Tomorrow, Leo and I rendevouz with B at his parents - we are staying with them for the weekend. I am desperately hoping that Kate will volunteer to look after Leo for a night so that I can get some unbroken sleep. His reflux is not a great deal better and he keeps his feed down much more successfully if I only give him small quantities - say three ounces at a time. This means that he wants feeding every two hours during the day - although at night for some reason (do not question, just give thanks) he seems to be taking more and it's not coming back up so much.

Banana Cake recipe here. Go on, go for it and then tell me what you think. I didn't add the zest.

We still have half a wall in a pile in the middle of the small living room, as part of the process of turning it in to a kitchen. There is grit everywhere. We are hoping to get it done by mid-winter. I have my doubts.

Blogging is severely restricted at the moment, due to Life getting in the way - I'm annoyed with myself - even if I have the time, eg, now, my brain is so cabbaged that I can't construct a coherent post. And if I drop in on other people I can't think of anything sensible to leave in the comments. Please tell me that this phase won't last for ever?

Also, I recommend NOT carrying a gallon and a half of sugar solution, two beehive crown-boards and a smoker up to the top of the garden and then lifting the top off the beehives on your own unless you want to feel as if your womb is falling out. I won't be doing that again.

Now, I'm going to make Christmas cake. All the ingredients are in a big pile on the kitchen worktop and I am determined not to leave them there until January, which was what happened last year.

Friday, 2 November 2007

research opportunity

At what point does banana cake become walnut cake with bananas?

I have to admit to not being a big walnut fan - and that was even before one of the Montgomeryshire Domestic Sluts described them to me yesterday as 'pickled rat brains'. But the recipe said add 2oz of walnuts, so that's what I did. Plus four bananas. That's a LOT of the pesky things - but that's okay, as we HAD a lot, slowly going black and squidgy on the windowsill and acting as winter quarters for all the fruit flies in the world.

And to my uninitiated, naive self, the ratio of bananas to walnuts seems plausible.

But ... no.

The cake tastes kind of bitter. Wierdly bitter. Not at all banana-ery. In fact, a discerning person would describe it as, well, walnutty.

Which begs the question - should it be Banana Cake? Or is the lack of any kind of walnut reference in the title misleading? Today I have eaten the rest of the thing (purely as a research exercise) and I am still unsure. However, I am so obsessed with it (you think about the most peculiar things whilst feeding a baby at 3am, trust me), that I am prepared to put some funding in to a trial to gather consumer opinion.

On Sunday, I will make another cake. If you email me your snail mail address before Monday 4pm, I will post a reasonable-sized piece of cake out to you so that we can have some sort of consensus later in the week.

In other news:
  • This week we have taken forty pounds of honey off of our beehives. That's loads - certainly our own personal annual supply of honey, so long as we don't get Tempted By The Dark Side in to making mead. I've got some photos and will do a 'this is how it went' post later on.
  • Leo is still sicky as Mr Sick The Sick Boy, but he seems quite happy in between throwing up. And you soon get used to smelling vaguely of undigested formula, don't you?
  • Ooooh, and I got two new hens. Of which I haven't taken any photos yet because they haven't come out of the house at a suitably photogenic moment.
  • The Great DIY Plan has hit a slight hiatus - our Rayburn has a crack that may potentially leak Lethal Rayburn Gases in to the room and kill us all in an unsightly and inconvenient manner. Advice I have taken from Rayburn Experts leads me to believe that it will probably work out cheaper to buy a whole other Rayburn on eBay than repair this one. Eeep. In the meantime, our living room now has a pile of bricks at one end and I am watching various eBay auctions for free-standing kitchen units like a hungry hawk.
For now, that is all.

Oh, except, continuing apologies for my blogroll still being knackered - I need to strip the addresses out of Blogrolling and shove them in the template manually, as blogrolling appeared to be slowing everything down to glacial speeds; but that involves having my head together for about an hour and so isn't going to happen until B is at home and Of This World simultaneously.

Friday, 26 October 2007

shiny things!

25102007(001)Just to prove that we are able to leave the house occasionally, despite having a small child, here is a picture of our HORRENDOUSLY expensive new kettle, purchased in Welshpool yesterday. You may remember* some time ago I went through a phase of exterminating kettles right left and centre. We went through four in about as many months, largely due to me overfilling them and fusing them if they were electric; or me not putting the whistle-thingy tightly enough on the spout and it ricocheting off when it started to boil instead of whistling tunefully if they were stove-top ones; or us making the mistake of purchasing one without a whistle.

Anyway. Earlier this week it happened again. This time, it was because we had bought a really cheap kettle, due to a realistic assessment of my ability to care for them properly; and it started to leak, usefully, just above where the plug goes in the back.

So. We plodded on regardless for a couple of days with water dripping down in to the socket; and then we thought we should do something about it. Isn't it beautiful? It's all shiny and lovely. It's also incredibly heavy and therefore suitable for being used on a rayburn**. And it comes with a lifetime guarantee, which is what swung it for us. No whistle. But hell, you can't have everything - it takes six pints. SIX PINTS! That's potentially SIX PINTS OF TEA.

25102007(002)In other news, Leo is settling down to being out in the world - he still keeps regurgitating his feeds but he's putting on weight, so nothing too terrible is going on. He's growing out of his 0-3 months clothes already; cloth nappies = big bottoms :). He does have a distressing tendency to look like Nosferatu when he's got the sicky cloth tucked under his chin, though. Or possibly Charles Laughton as Henry VIII.

This afternoon he slept in the pram for four hours, whilst we planted up the winter window boxes and troughs - pansies, primulas and bulbs. This is a major step forward for us as we are usually doing it around Christmas***. We also got some of the garlic in - saved from last year's crop. It's a bit early, traditionally speaking - you are supposed to plant it on the shortest day and harvest it on the longest ... but better early than not at all - in this case, 'better late than never' is actually not true because if you plant it late you've wasted it. I therefore feel quite smug.

26102007(003)Over the weekend I am going to see if I can get some peas and carrots and lettuce in, in the greenhouse. We also have friends coming to help us start our Great DIY Plan, of which more next week, with photos, if I don't get crushed under a falling wall. And tomorrow we are collecting a shower cubicle that we scored from Freecycle; and, possibly, getting some more chickens. [cough].

We've also got some horse-muck lined up to collect from a very long-suffering Freecycler who offered it to us a fortnight ago ... but it requires careful timing and a large plastic sheet in the back of the car, so I don't think it will happen before the end of next week.

* Pretty unlikely, don't feel bad if you don't ... :)
** Currently a Rayburn Of The Mind, but it's outside and it will be coming in eventually, if the Furies are kind.
*** Of which we do not speak, until at least early December.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

message from the front


Is that okay?

Thursday, 11 October 2007


It's been my third day and late night in the last fortnight without B being here.

I've coped okay up to now, if you discount the day he came home at 9.30pm and I insisted on taking L to the out of hours doctor's service because his breathing was rattling*.

Today, Mrs Doubtfire the Doula came for three hours this morning - she cleans the kitchen floor even if there's no mouse blood on it, did I say? And I went back to bed for a couple of hours sleep. I don't feel great in my head - hormones I think, but I do feel I'm struggling a bit.

I want to thank everyone who sent me information and experiences regarding breast-feeding. I would also like to say that I am really, really impressed with the service our local midwives offer - basically they have a twenty-four hour breast-feeding call-out service for the fortnight after you give birth. They are also linked to a La Leche group in Welshpool - I think that some of them must be La Leche trained as the implication is that they helped set up the group and mentored some of the women now running it.

Anyway, call me a wimp, but I have drawn a line under the boob-feeding. Not really for pain-related reasons, more for head-related reasons. L was taking so long to feed - basically latching on and then staying on for hours if I let him - and I was getting so wound up about it all, thinking I wasn't giving him enough to eat because he was crying all the time - that it was doing my mental health and well-being no good whatsoever.

I stuck it for nearly three weeks, so he's had a start from me, and now he's happily on the bottle and B and I are sharing the feeding, which is wonderful. Perhaps if/when we have another baby, it will go better. The health-care people we've been involved with - the consultant, the health-visitor, the midwives, the GP - have all been really, really supportive about our choices; and we are happy. I feel a bit guilty. But at the end of the day I need to do what is best for me; and this is it.

There are two things that I am unhappy about - i) the exhaustion. Hey, that's great, isn't it! And ii) the fact that everything seems to take four times longer than it used to. Partly due to i) the exhaustion. But it's all down to planning a bit better. Not a strong point of either B or me, as people who know us in real life (tm) will know.

I still haven't planted my winter lettuce, but I have pulled out half the tomatoes and have the green tomatoes sat in a bowl in the kitchen ready to make in to chutney. Tomorrow, we are taking L for his cranio-sacral appointment and then we are staying with Kate and Vic for the night. I am really nervous about it - not the actual staying over, staying with Ma was no problem at all - but because of the Kate-related trauma a couple of weeks ago.

I might go and make chutney now. L is sleeping. More after the weekend. If we survive.

* He was fine, just the echoing-baby-mucus-in-the-throat thing. On the other hand, the lovely out of hours doctor took one look at me, put her hand on my arm and said (imagine Irish accent) "And now my dear, what about you?" and I promptly burst in to tears.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

of mice, night feeds and tomato chutney

We are doing alright, I think.

The nights are a bit patchy - Leo seems to sleep in four or five hour chunks, which is great - but he does take a couple of hours to go back to sleep in the early hours. That's okay - we have a kind-of-routine sorted which allows for it. And on the advice of Mrs Doubtfire the doula we have found*, we have got a bath-bottle-bed routine that gets him to sleep at about seven. He wakes up about eleven for another feed/nappy change and again at some point between three and five, depending on how good we've been at getting him back to sleep earlier on.

We have been doing a lot of travelling round this week - we've been taking him to see a cranio-sacral therapist on the Wirral to help with his feeding. I will do a separate post about this, as after I mentioned feeding in my last post I have had loads of responses re the pros and cons of breast-feeding that have been really useful and I'd like to address it in a bit more depth.

We had our first overnight visitors on Friday and Saturday (*waves*) - it worked really well. B is just doing the washing up and the recycling and then we are going to go up and spend a couple of hours in the garden. The greenhouse needs the tomatoes pulling out and I want to gather the green ones for chutney. And the chickens need cleaning out REALLY badly - we are going to take the carry-cot up and put it in the greenhouse and hope that Leo stays asleep. Or at least wakes up and is prepared to help ... .

I should add that B is going to do most of the actual work, because I'm still a bit fragile and the midwife gave me a bit of a talking to about lifting stuff and the possibility of having a 'flood' if I do too much. Since I'd already had one by that point I have actually taken heed of what she said.

Next post - either about feeding or about green tomato chutney and the greenhouse and winter lettuce. I'll see how I feel.

* Three hours a morning for three mornings a week - washing, kitchen-cleaning, hoovering, looking after the baby whilst we sleep or do office work. I was a bit in two minds about getting her in to start with, but I am really relieved that we decided to, now. It does feel very strange having someone cleaning up after us though. And I was really embarrassed about the embalmed mouse she found in the mouse-trap beside the washing machine. It had clearly been there WEEKS and had gone all sort of dessicated and fluffy.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

and then she touched my breast ...

27092007(001)And then she touched my breast ...

... or 101 reasons why you shouldn't invite your mother-in-law to stay two days after you give birth.

Firstly, thank you SO MUCH everyone, for all your good wishes and good thoughts. I have finally got logged on this morning* and caught up with all the comments and emails. We are both slightly stunned and very, very touched by the number of people who have delurked and wished us well. Thank you all so much, we both feel that we have made so many friends via the internet; some of whom we have never met and possibly never will. I am slightly sniffly writing this and it's not all the hormones :).

Well, I guess the drama is all over now, and it feels odd blogging about it a fortnight afterwards.
The labour and the first week were pretty rough. I have written about it all and I might post it a bit later on when things have settled in my mind. Suffice to say it was thirty-six hours from when the induction started to when Leo actually appeared, the last six hours of which were without pain relief, with him stuck the wrong way round (ie, back to back with me) and me not really able to move around very much because of the symphis pubis condition. They eventually tried a ventous, which slipped off; and they ended up using forceps.

We were both very tired and a bit beaten up and it's really taken all this time for both of us to recover - not having the internet or the phone for so long has, I suppose, given us a chance to do just that.
He is beautiful.

I am having trouble feeding him because my nipples are so sore - so we are 'topping him up' with formula after each feed and I am going to start expressing I think - only I feel a bit weird about it, as if I have udders. We are going to have to see how that works out. I seem to cry all the time I am feeding him - emotion mostly, but also because it's so uncomfortable. I have also conceived the bizarre idea that he is going to be taken away from me and given to someone else to look after.

I am aware that that is an irrational thought and mostly I am managing it - it just creeps up on me when I'm tired and makes me really angry. Unfortunately it's main focus is Kate, B's mother. She came to visit and look after the house for a few days after Leo was born and she was so excited that she wanted to be with him all the time. Her boundaries became pretty blurred and she was coming in and out of our bedroom whilst I was naked and actually picked my breast up and tried to put it in his mouth whilst I was trying to get him to latch on.18092007(007)

Not helpful.

Things are okay with her now, though - we asked her to go home a bit early and are taking things slowly with her.

Pa news - he is better in himself, from the stomach bleed, the three infections and the d &v on the ward. However, he now has a clot in his leg and is on a heparin drip to sort that out. Presumably they are then going to get him back on warfrin with a view to discharging him to home, because they don't think the physios can help him any more - he still can't walk. He is very 'turned down' and quite vague and sleepy all the time. He is also refusing to eat very much. We went down at the weekend (military operation, but worked quite well), and at least I feel that I've seen him.

More later. I've MISSED blogging :).

* House news - the move fell through the day before we wanted to complete. We are staying put for a while we think, our heads are too full for anything else at the moment. The reason for the bloggage delay is that we were incredibly organised and transferred all the internet and phone services to the 'new' house. And it has taken them this long to reconnect everything, because, it transpires, they were trying to reconnect them to the wrong house. Oooops.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

It's a boy!

Sorry for the delay - baby arrival coincided with catastrophic internet disconnection. Baby stats as follows:

Leo Thomas, born at 4.45 a.m. yesterday, 8lb 7.5oz - 36 hours of labour (!) (!!).* Mother and baby both doing well - Ally was brilliant.

[Post written by B but guest-posted by Kitchen Witch courtesy of a bizarre internet collaboration and the aforementioned hideously badly-timed internet disconnection.]

*Asterisks are mine (KW). I feel this warrants them.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

red = stop, green = go, amber = go very fast

Three hours proper contractions in the night - every eight or ten minutes, for between half a minute and a minute.

Then everything stopped about five and I woke up at eight-thirty with not much doing again.

I'm too tired to try another round of foot massage and essential oils, so I'm just going to get as much rest as possible this morning and see what happens this afternoon - any labouring I've done in the night will presumably help the induction process along when they start it.

Ugh. It's never like this on the telly, is it?

Saturday, 15 September 2007

not quite yet

So, the baby and I have been on a monitor for forty minutes and it's all fine in there. It also showed that I am having intermittent contractions that aren't really doing anything.

I've had yet another sweep - not so painful this time though - and we have booked an induction for tomorrow at 2.30pm. We are now going to do some massage with clary sage to see if we can start things off. However, I feel much better about the whole 'going in to hospital' thing. Mel is right, it is a choice that we have made - not our ideal choice, but the best choice under the circumstances for both me and the baby. I am so tired that we are now walking a knife edge between me getting too exhausted to labour effectively and having a 'natural' birth.

It also sounds like B is going to be able to manage things so that he doesn't have to leave me at all in the hospital. No-one wants me to have a panic attack in the middle of the night because I feel out of control, so we think they might manage things so that he can stay, even if I haven't gone in to full-blown labour.

After all of this, we then went for a walk around Sainsbury's in Shrewsbury. Gosh, isn't it BIG?! And don't people who live in towns wear WEIRD, IMPRACTICAL clothes? And then we stopped at Pizza Hell (tm) and had a late lunch and a pint of cider each, which I am not sure was a good idea - I feel slightly sick and rather flushed.

During the drive home, I seemed to start contracting, every ten or twelve minutes. It's getting more intense, so we might beat them to it yet, especially if we get going with the clary sage in a minute.

For now, that is all - but whatever happens, in the next couple of days, we get to meet our baby.

Friday, 14 September 2007


The midwife has just left.

My waters broke in the night but I am not in labour. If nothing happens before 2AM, then the local midwifery-led unit has to hand my care over to the hospital. We have a 'trace' scan booked at midday tomorrow and after that they pretty much start trying all the different grades of things that they can do to induce me.

The midwife recommends doing stuff to try to get me in to labour - walking up the hill, curry etc - for a couple of hours and if nothing happens, then taking a couple of paracetamol and trying to get as much sleep as possible. No shagging though, because as there is a water leak there is probably a hole it is leaking out of, which is, of course, a route for infection to get in.

We'll keep you posted. Any good thoughts sent this way very much appreciated, as I am pretty terrified about handing control over to the sausage machine of the hospital.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

oh for goodness sake ...

Hey, guess what's happened now!

The person who is buying my little house that we have been renting out in S Wales, that is in-part enabling us to buy the new house, appears to be pulling out. On the crappy reason-that-isn't-a-reason that they have 'heard that the house was built in 1950 rather than 1900 and they want a turn of the century house'.

a) Shouldn't this have shown up on their survey, two months ago?
b) They apparently want to use it as a buy-to-let so what the hell does it matter when it was built?
c) What a shitty thing to do this late on in the process - effectively they are saying 'we've decided we don't really like the house after all' about three days before we were hoping to complete.

So not only are we £10k short because of the low remortgage valuation of our own house; we are now £x short from this, too.

Do you think the universe is trying to tell us something?

Still no baby.

I've very grumpy though.

And my tummy hurts.

We are trying to look on the bright side, but it's proving rather hard to find one. In lieu of that, we have just been dancing round the dining room to 'Keep on the sunny side' from the 'Oh Brother Where Art Thou?' soundtrack. Particularly apt because the only trousers I can get in to are my denim dungarees.

Sometimes only twangy music and cheap whisky will do.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

no passata today

Loading slowly was definitely a blogrolling issue - I've temporarily remmed out all my sidebar links and that seems to have sorted it for the moment. It'll be a good project to look at tomorrow to fix properly.

Fantastic Consultant has done a 'sweep'. Bloody hell, they hurt, don't they?! Apparently I have a very shallow, saucer-shaped pelvis, so although the baby's head is still three or four fifths mobile (or is it motile, I'm not sure?), it's actually wedged very tightly in there. This is a bit of a contradiction cleared up, because normally apparently one would expect wedging to be accompanied by a lack of mobility.

All the pains etc I am experiencing, as Mel says, are indicative of a very drawn out early labour. It's boring. But Fantastic Consultant recommended keeping pottering round, doing things like dead-heading the roses. I said that I thought it was a bit too late to plant roses and she said that some gentle cleaning out of the chickens or picking of tomatoes would be fine.

She also warned that not much was happening cervix-wise and not to expect too dramatic results from the sweep, because they work best when ones cervix is a bit squishier than mine was. Apparently squishy would have equalled less excruciatingly painful as she shoved her finger through it and in to my uterus. However, she's given it her best shot, felt inside the womb to check the forewaters are still intact (they are, so any leak is, as expected, a hindwater one, which is less of a problem as far as infection is concerned) and now it's down to me and B. She has recommended (and I quote directly) "a good shagging, because spunk will soften the cervix". If we were both less exhausted then we would be taking her advice RIGHT NOW; but we came home and went to sleep instead.

B has had a really shit day - not only have I been Mrs Emotional From Emotional Town, but he has been co-ordinating two jobs remotely over the last two days, one of which he should have been on in person. Both end-clients (ie, the clients of our client) have complained about the crew.

Job One, yesterday, because the client reckoned there weren't enough people on it - which was possibly true as two people had to go off site mid-job to collect the pyro kit and then were delayed getting back, and everyone else got roped in to putting up enormous amounts of truss that we hadn't really planned for them doing. I don't think that was too dramatic or anything, as the job itself went okay apparently. But Job Two, yesterday and today was a bit more serious. B was supposed to be doing himself and had to sub someone in at the last minute when the whole liquidity scan thing came up for us. The client has complained about the subsitute's 'attitude'. He isn't someone we've worked with before but he came very highly recommended by another company that we do a lot with. As the job is still going on, we haven't yet managed to work out what has gone on; but it is possible that the end client won't pay our client. Which means that we won't get paid, which means that we won't be able to pay the people we subbed him in from. This would be bad, as they also give us work as well as doing work for us. There are no excuses in this business if you get it wrong, if the client is unhappy, you just don't get booked again.

It's all been rather stressful, hence we got home from the hospital this afternoon and just collapsed on to the bed to make up for the three or four hours pacing we did in the night. Oh, and coming up through the village, the Hateful Shiny Four-By-Four in front of us clipped a squirrel's back legs in the road and then just DROVE OFF and left it there, scrabbling in the middle of the white lines. B was so shocked that he swerved to avoid it instead of towards it to finish it off, and I couldn't bring myself to ask him to turn round so that I could nip out and do it. Horrible, horrible people.

So, there you go. No passata post. I will put it up tomorrow if nothing more interesting happens :). Now, I am going to try to persuade the chickens to go to bed early with a judicious use of corn, so that we can collapse in to bed as well.

more of the same

I've had a night of backache coming and going and gradually increasing in intensity, ditto the 'fake' contractions - I spent about three hours walking around in the middle of the night. My belly is like a snare drum and I've still got a leak.

I'm going to have a bath and then we're due to see the consultant at 12.30.

Also, is everyone else finding that the blog is taking *aeons* to load? I think it might be a blogrolling issue.

More this afternoon. If no more news re the baby I have a tomato and passata post I've been meaning to put up for ages :).

Tuesday, 11 September 2007


No induction, because there's no 'conclusive evidence' that I am leaking 'liquor' rather than, er, anything else. The baby's head is wedged really low in my pelvis, which is potentially stopping the waters coming out even if they have broken (Rhys, you SAID you thought I'd be tasteful. Let me know when I cross your personal line). This explains why it is so excruciating to move, particularly from sitting to standing.

I've still got backache, cramps in my lower belly like the worst kind of period pain and the 'tightenings' have come back again. All good. I'm going for a sleep now - this is all shatteringly exhausting. Apparently more like a second or third baby rather than a first one. Sorry it's dragging out - NOT good blogging material, as it's rather repetitive :).



Monday, 10 September 2007

moving along

We have just come back from seeing the midwife - I may have what they call a 'hindwater leak' - ie, my waters have sort of broken but not properly. They are coming out to look me over again at 4pm to see if there is any more going on; and then if things don't move along, tomorrow we go for a scan at the Dreaded Shrewsbury Hospital to see if the liquid levels in the womb have decreased. If they have, apparently we discuss induction because if you are leaking, the baby becomes at risk of infection.

I don't really WANT to discuss induction, as it means that I won't be delivering at home in my nice comfortable bedroom with my candles and essential oils on the burner, but in a scary ward with the scary midwife person.

However, in a way, it would be nice to get it all over with.

I texted Kate to let her know what was happening and she phoned back to ask me to fix her email.

That was quite stressful.

Dad is better in himself by the way, although still on powerful antibiotics and a drip. However, the ward he is on now has a sickness and diarrhoea outbreak and you have to dress up in an apron and gloves to visit anyone.

I am going for a little walk up the hill now to see if I can jiggle the baby out.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

drat and double drat

Okay. So. Things seem to have stopped. I am still sleepy, thirsty and having contractiony-type things, but nothing is moving along. So having slept all day, this evening we have had a hot chilli, tried that other thing that everyone keeps suggesting (Mel - we didn't exactly need a hoist. But it was a close thing); and then visited my Lovely Friend Diane for a reflexology. Now I'm going to go to bed and stop worrying about it all.

I think that it's probably stress that has stopped things. We got all the redemption figures for the various mortgages and remortgages and valuations in the post this morning.

Because the valuer who came to our current house to value it for the temporary buy-to-let remortgage (until we sell) valued it at £10,000 less than we paid for it, we are £10,000 short in our figures. It is such a small amount in the Monopoly Money Terms of house-buying figures; but such a HUGE amount in 'raising it out of no-where' kind of terms. And it is particularly frustrating because when we sell this house, even if that is at the reduced amount the valuer thinks it is worth, everything will balance out.

The valuer will not shift his opinion. Neither set of parents can lend it to us. We don't have any mysterious elderly relatives who are prepared to suddenly pop their clogs and leave us a legacy. We don't do the lottery.

So unless the person who is dealing with our finances for us can pull a rabbit out of her hat this week, we are, effectively, screwed.

We are both so far through stress and worry that we are, actually, quite sanguine about it. There is literally, nothing we can do. In a way it's quite liberating. Either things will sort themselves out and we will be able to move. Or they won't and will have to stay here; in which case we will lose the 'new' place and have to start from scratch.

I have shown B how to post to the blog using Scribefire, so if the baby does arrive (or I spend the next week sitting under the table with my head in a bag), he'll be able to keep it updated. Except if the broadband gets cut off - the phone isn't working as last Wednesday I asked them to transfer it because we thought we were moving. And it was too late to stop the transfer when B spoke to them on Thursday.

Now, I'm going to bed.

slow progress

It's still all going rather slowly - no established labour yet. I am bored. Can anyone recommend any good books or card games?

Friday, 7 September 2007


Still nothing very much happening - contractions still intermittent (about twenty minutes apart) but getting a bit stronger and more painful. I'm VERY sleepy and thirsty and have just been for a walk up the garden steps to say hello to the chickens to try to move things along. B is going to massage my feet in a minute with lavender essential oil - apparently around the ankle is now the place to concentrate on rather than avoid.

Kate and Vic are here helping us to pack (well, packing for us, if the truth be told), whilst I concentrate on this and B tries to sort out the two huge jobs he has on next week so that he doesn't need to go on them himself.

Dad apparently has yet another infection. But they don't want to prescribe antibiotics until they know exactly what the best thing to give him is. So he's confused and sleepy again.

Surprisingly, I am much calmer today. Aren't hormones great?

Thursday, 6 September 2007

and another thing

1. Has anyone EVER got posting by email to work on blogger?
2. Our solicitor is off sick and her oppo is not prepared to complete tomorrow.
3. Thing #4576 not to say to your wife when she is crying because she is experiencing painful phantom contractions and cannot get out of the bath: "Try to say centred and cheerful"
4. I think I'm probably actually starting labour now - I've had a 'show'. But the midwife says it could be a couple of days.

I cannot believe that after all the pushing everyone has done to get it sorted, we are NOT going to move this weekend, just because the STUPID oppo doesn't feel confident enough to go ahead. I feel absolutely devastated and that the world is collapsing around me. Now, I'm going back to bed to rest while I can.

and then God said, there will be no broadband for three weeks

Just testing to see whether I can actually post anything sensible by
email - because of course, I have been so disorganised that I only rang
the utilities people yesterday and if we DO move on Saturday, which
looks like it might just happen, it will be three weeks before the
broadband is sorted. Which is, actually, stressing me out more than the
idea of going in to labour.

Talking of which, I think *things* might be happening. I will not share
them with you on the grounds of good taste, except to use the word
'show', which anyone who doesn't know can go and Google if they really
want to.

We went to Ikea yesterday. I was kind of hoping that my waters would
break in-store in the hope that we might get vouchers; but no luck. If
anyone can recommend anywhere else that might be a good shop to go in to
labour in, NOW would be a good-time to say :). Then we came home and I
had hysterics in the bath for half an hour. Not stressed at all. But
feeling better this morning.

Off to try to hire a van for Saturday now.

Monday, 3 September 2007


Me: Still boringly pregnant.
Baby: Wriggling like mad, CLEARLY ready to come out.
B: Insane with work / wife / baby / moving / family stress.
Moving: This Saturday. With birthing pool. Provided the mortgage people get their collective arses in to gear.
Pa: Weak and not at all mobile, but the dual infections seem to have been cleared up by the virulent antibiotics. So we are all holding our breath. Thank you all for the comments and support - particularly Exmonkey and Hedgewizard.
This week: Work, packing, maybe a little labour if the baby feels like it.
Blogging status to be expected for rest of week: Patchy I should think. Apologies in advance.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

humour bypass

So. Where were we? Ranting about the NHS I think.

After speaking to Ma last night, it transpires that Pa has TWO largely-antibiotic-resistant infections. A UTI and a chest infection. He is having intravenous antibiotics of Agent Orange status, that have to be especially sanctioned by someone important in the pharmacy at the hospital. He is quite weak physically and has been suffering from dehydration, because between Ma and Sister-Natalie going in at lunch-time and tea-time to feed him, respectively, no-one seems to be giving him anything to drink.

He can't use his hands very well, even to hold a cup or a fork and no-one will sit him up or help him out of bed, because the electric hoist on the ward is broken and the nurses are not allowed to lift people.

Yesterday the physio came (with a hoist-thingy) and got him out of bed to sit in the chair. She put his knee-brace (his knee has basically disintegrated because of arthritis) on the wrong leg, back to front.

He has been taken off most of his medication because the fourteen different things he was on, including warfrin, were probably contributing to the stomach bleeding - so his circulation is fucked and his feet were really painful all the time he was sitting out - no-one's fault, that, just the situation. Presumably at some point, if he survives the lack of personal care, they will start re-introducing things one at a time and see what happens.

He wears two hearing aids and the hospital managed to lose the mould on the right-hand one the second day that he was in there, just over three weeks ago. No-one has been able to find it and despite the audiology department being five minutes walk down the corridor, a replacement has not yet been found. Because it is his 'good' ear that is missing the aid, he is having quite a lot of trouble hearing what people are saying to him, which is giving the staff the impression that he is wandering in his mind rather than merely deaf.

No-one seems to read the notes that previous staff have written up, although everyone seems to write reams and reams of stuff themselves. Some of it patently big fat lies - like, apparently, last Thursday, he sat out during the afternoon. Sister-Natalie was there at lunchtime to feed him and Ma went in mid-afternoon and stayed until early evening. He wasn't sat out then. So when WAS he sat out? And Ma was verbally told that he had fallen out of bed on Monday night - but in the notes, it said that he had a very quiet and peaceful night.

I am SO FUCKING ANGRY. And I am so sorry to be stirring up all these horrors for some of the people who have left me comments.

What kind of Health Service do we actually have? A SHIT one, if you don't mind me saying so. Surely feeding people, toileting them, helping them sit up, making sure that they can drink, even communicating with them are all an integral part of nursing? Giving them tablets, sticking needles in them, prescribing, cutting them open - all vital, necessary parts of medical care. But the rest of it - if you like, the soothing the troubled brow part of it - why are nurses too busy and/or important to do that? And don't get me started on the lack of hand-washing as the staff move from patient to patient, particularly given that Pa has a huge notice in red letters saying INFECTION CONTROL stuck up above his bed.

Why aren't there more nurses? I concur with Z's comment on my last post - some of it is lack of inclination on the staff's part - some of them DO see elderly people as bed-blockers. And I think, generally the NHS as a whole sees elderly people as a nuisance. But some of it is that although the staff are kind, caring people, they simply don't have the time. And the simple remedy for that is more staff, paid a decent wage to do an essential job.

I rarely wish people ill. But do you know, I really hope that the Department of Health Ministers end up in a recovery ward for elderly people with no family to visit them, lying in their own urine, unable to sit up, with their food and drink placed on a wheeled table six inches away from their hands. Of course, their opinion about the state of the NHS and the levels of care won't matter then, because they'll be old. And good luck to them.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

quick update

We're back - Edinburgh very good, although didn't stay over the weekend as Dad was taken very poorly again and we drove to Somerset on Friday to see him instead. He's slightly better now - we came home on Sunday to hook up with The Kitchen Witches, who had very kindly come to look after the chickens for us.

I've been having 'Braxton Hicks' (practice) contractions, which has been exciting. I'm READY now. I keep telling the baby, but it's not listening :).

More a bit later, when I've recovered, some of which will be ranting about hospitals that are so understaffed that they don't sit elderly patients up, or help them to eat or drink, even though the patients can't hold a cup, or, indeed, a fork.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

brief break

Off to Edinburgh for the week, with variable interweb connection. Back after the Bank Holiday. I have a post bragging about tomatoes and passata just waiting to be written ... and the birth plan, of course!

Friday, 17 August 2007


Okay, I have written a birth plan. It's a VERY odd thing to do. I may post it later, unusually I am having 'is that appropriate?' scruples :).

On Sunday we are off to Edinburgh for the week - B is working at the festival until Thursday and we are going to stay up there for a pootle round for a few days afterwards. If anyone can think of a particularly nice place to give birth in the city, please can you let me know? Just in case ...

Tuesday, 14 August 2007


Pa's a bit better - the stomach bleeding has stopped. However, they have taken him off pretty much all of his medication, because they are worried that it will reoccur and all the things like warfrin etc. make him more susceptible to bleeding. They've also taken him off his arthritis medication, with the result that his hands are swollen up like balloons and he can't do anything for himself, even hold a cup.

Perhaps part of growing up is feeding your father with a spoon, shaving him and cleaning his teeth.

However, by the time we left for home he was much more himself - slightly grumpy, a bit frustrated and able to tell me off for 'being vulgar' when I told him that these days they send you home from hospital as soon as you've 'slid the baby out'. The aim is to move him to the local cottage hospital as soon as possible - it's closer to home, it's a less intensive medical facility and, of course, they don't have MRSA. Also, it might be possible to arrange for Moss-the-dog to visit him in some way - she is pining for him. And so is he for her.

We are home now - I am shattered and B isn't much better. I am having a day of rest and B is doing some design and planning work.

One of the other things we managed to do whilst down at Ma's, was Go In To The Top Shed.

If The Top Shed was in a role-playing game, it would automatically knock about three points off the morale, cleanliness, dedication, ability and strength scores of any character who went inside. In Real Life (tm), it has much the same effect.

jarsWe were on a Quest, for Kilner Jars.

For some time, our group of travellers had been hearing rumours from local residents that there were Kilner Jars stored at the back of the shed. Our mission was to locate the jars, extract them intact and not cause the enormous pile of, well, STUFF, to topple off the top of the Vauxhall Cresta in the meantime. Or the pile of broken white goods and televisions to overbalance. Or the three-door 1930's walnut wardrobe full of binder twine to topple over on to us. Or to do ourselves serious ankle damage on the rotovator. Or to cause the decaying pigeon loft to shake loose from the wall and crush us and all of the above.

After some serious rummaging about and the use of one or two 'reveal' spells, B was able to report that the rumours were correct. There WAS a box of preserving jars at the back of the shed, behind the chinese screen, next to the chutney boiler (disused) and the stack of old freezer baskets. By judicious wriggling, he was able to pass the jars out to me one at a time.

I put them in a handy cardboard box, and after about half an hour, we stood back and assessed what we had uncovered.

It was scary. See the scaryness.

At this point, Ma arrived to help. She was able to throw some light on the matter. They are the preserving jars that her mother used during the Second World War, for fruit.

Some of those things have been in there since 1942.


That's sixty five years.

B and I found some surgical gloves in the cupboard under the stairs and I levered the tops off of the jars with his Man Tool, whilst B emptied the contents in to the back of the flower border beside the front lawn. We felt rather like Howard Carter dealing with Tutankhamen's organs. Some of the tops were perforated and the contents had dried out to a dessicated substance not unlike coprolites. Others were in better nick - the rhubarb for example. And some blackcurrants. And some pears that Ma reckoned were only forty years old. It was a really odd feeling, chucking away stuff that my grandmother must have picked all that time ago.

Anyway ... we now have twenty 2lb jars and fifteen 1lb jars for jam and chutney experiments. I am going to have a look for some lids for them - but they aren't real Kilner Jars, so I think we may have a problem finding caps for them and won't therefore, be able to use them for pickling and preserving.

We also scored a seventy year old pressure cooker affectionately known by the family as 'the bomb', of which, more later.

Now, I am off to write a birth plan. Excuse me.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

saga ...

So, all went well with the growth scan. The baby is exactly average on the measurement scale and there is a reasonable-but-not-too-much amount of fluid in there with it. The scan technician pointed out that I was very short waisted and therefore, the baby has no place to go but forwards. I had a large 'Doh!' moment - it makes so much sense.

Otherwise though, I have to say that our experience at the hospital at Shrewsbury was rather, well, shit.

I know it's a much larger, much more medical-type unit than Welshpool and therefore it's bound to have more of the 'sausage factory' feel about it. But I don't think that's an excuse for midwife that saw us to so pompous and patronising. Or for no-one to really tell us what was going on or ask us if we were already having ante-natal care. Or for Pompous Midwife to rant on at me about taking a non-standard iron tonic. Or for her to leave us in our cubicle for twenty minutes whilst we could hear her through the curtain in the corridor outside, chatting with someone else about something pretty banal. Or for us to overhear her instructing the doctor who was coming in to see us that he could 'discharge us' - I wasn't aware that there was anything for us to be discharged FROM. Or for them to tell us that the amount of fluid in the womb was normal and that everything was fine. But then to allow us to overhear her saying to the doctor that the fluid levels in the womb were on the low side and to ask that we came back for another scan in a fortnight.

All in all, I felt completely lacking in control of what was going on and had to fight a reflex to scarper from the cubicle before anyone came back in. On the way home I made B promise not to let me go to Shrewsbury under any circumstances.

This was back up by the story we were told by a freecycler who we went to pick some cot blankets up from. She went to Shrewsbury to be induced three or four years ago. They sent her husband home, allowed her to labour all night without any pain relief or assistance whilst she was crying and calling out for him, told him when he rang in in the morning that she had spent a very comfortable night and then refused to telephone him at her request to ask him to come in.

I am NOT going to Shrewsbury if there are any complications. We are looking at alternatives.

And this morning I was sick again. Twice.

Dad is slightly worse today. He's more confused and dozy in himself and they are going to be keeping him in for at least two or three weeks, because they need to endoscope him again after that time to see whether his stomach lining has healed. He is off most of his drugs, warfrin and his arthritis medication included, so his ulcerated leg is very painful and his hands are sore. Whether he stays in Musgrove Park or is sent to the local cottage hospital closer to home in the interim is being discussed. It would probably be better for him if he goes to the smaller hospital - firstly because it's close for Ma to visit, secondly because it's smaller and friendlier and thirdly, because unlike Musgrove, it doesn't have MRSA.

Back Monday, we're visiting them over the weekend. Thank you, everyone, for all your good wishes.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Rhubarb - betrayed or betrayer?

Okay, I admit it, B and I have become a little obsessed by the Zeddy and Rhubarb / Zeddy and Parsnip children's bedlinen characters from Mamas and Papas I wrote about last week.

I have done a (very) minimal amount of research about Zeddy, Rhubarb AND Parsnip.

Currently, the in-store sales line appears to be Zeddy and Parsnip-oriented. However, there are also a lot of Zeddy and Rhubarb things around that are available remaindered or second hand.

B and I are worried. We have spent a considerable amount of time mulling over the question 'What happened to Rhubarb?'.

Did Zeddy dump him when a successful show-biz partnership with Parsnip loomed on the horizon? Or did Zeddy put up with years of Rhubarb doing bad cocaine in dressing rooms on the baby-shower circuit and one day had finally had enough? Is that a large Camberwell Carrot that Rhubarb is clutching on the front of some of those baby sleeping bags?

Is Rhubarb trying desperately to launch a solo career after being callously ditched by Zeddy after years of commitment, once they had got half way to success? Struggling rather like Ernie Wise without Eric Morecombe?

Alternatively, has he sunk to the depths of depravity in a sea-side boarding house in some squalid East Coast resort, eroding his nasal passages and trying to make ends meet by hanging out outside National Childbirth Trust Sales?

I fear for Rhubarb - whatever has happened to him cannot be good.

And Parsnip, where does Parsnip fit in? Is he genuinely making Zeddy happy in these, the Post-Rhubarb Years? Or is Parsnip being exploited by an avaricious Zeddy, who is only focused on getting to the top of the show-biz pile? Will he be cast aside like a used tissue if Zeddy ever sees a chance to make it on his own?

Personally, I have my doubts about Zeddy. But B comes down more firmly on the side of Rhubarb-as-bad-guy. This lack of trust makes it very difficult to invest emotionally in their range of nursery linen, which is probably a good thing, given it's cost.

Monday, 6 August 2007


After Thursday's midwife's appointment, I have been referred for a 'growth scan' - apparently the bump is bigger than would normally be expected at this stage. So there are two hypotheses - either, I am having an elephant; or, there's a bit too much fluid in there. Both of these things might be perfectly okay; or they might not be perfectly okay. The midwife told me not to look on the internet until after the scan and knew a bit more. How well she knows me.

Two sets of people came to view the house today ... both seemed nice, both seemed sensible, both seemed to like it. Fingers crossed.

The main thing that is pre-occupying me at the moment is that Pa was taken in to hospital at 2am on Sunday morning, with internal bleeding. The bleeding has now stopped, but he is still on a drip, still nil-by-mouth and still being given blood. He's been on Warfrin for years and is 89. He's tough as old boots and will probably be fine. Luckily we were already going down on Friday and can move that forwards to tomorrow afternoon if we need to.

The person that's really worrying me is Ma. She is being relentlessly cheerful. I know it's her way of coping with things - and that she probably has a very natural desire not to worry or shock me at this particular time ... but I'm worrying about her being un-worried.

In other news, I have joined Facebook. Odd, isn't it?

Saturday, 4 August 2007

seven things about me and gardening

Okay, I gritted my teeth and didn't do it (unlike Rhys' mum - and good on her). But I do have *loads* of vans in my eBay watch list and we DO need a second vehicle and there are about a million reasons why a camper would be a good thing. AND we've been discussing it for about a fortnight, too.

In the meantime, Tea and Cake has tagged me for a 'seven things about me and gardening' meme.

  1. I come from a gardening background. The job description of each of my parents is officially 'horticulturalist'. But as I grew up, I didn't really like gardening. Gardening meant that no-one had any time to spend with us as kids. Tomatoes were particularly loathsome. We always had two or three 60 foot or 120 foot greenhouses *full* of tomatoes. In the summer, the family revolved around tomatoes. Every day someone was watering tomatoes, picking tomatoes, grading tomatoes, pulling old tomato plants out of the greenhouses, planting tomatoes, choosing which tomatoes would go in next year.

    Two or three times a week during the summer would be tomato picking and grading days. Everyone would pick fruit in to yellow two gallon buckets, which would be loaded in to the Morris Minor van in two or three layers and driven up to the top shed to the grader. And Great Uncle Ignatius would have spent either the day before or the morning before making up 12lb cardboard tomato boxes from the flat-pack way they arrived. The grading process took hours. Three or four people, three or four hours. A couple of people to keep the shute full of fruit, pick out the splits and mis-shapes and wipe the dirty ones. A couple of people to swap the boxes from under the drop-mechanism when they were full, weigh them, mark them with the size of fruit, stamp them and stack them.

    When I was little, I used to help make the boxes and I used to ride my bike up and down the drive while they worked, trying to stay on without stabilisers. As I got older I used to help weigh and stamp. I can remember being very proud at the age of eleven or twelve when I could lift four of the twelve pound boxes at once.

    And as I got even older, I can remember resenting the whole thing. The fact that everyone would put so much work in and the price we got for them was so low. The fact that it made everyone so tired. And that at the end of the day, everyone would end up reeking of tomatoes, washing their hands and hair until the water ran yellow with the residue of the leaves.

    As a young child I used to like tomatoes - and in my teens I loathed them. Now, I've come to a reconciliation with myself. I have grown eighteen tomato plants this year and they are taller than I am, and weighed down with enormous fruit. And I got a HUGE kick when Ma visited a few weeks ago and was impressed by them.

  2. I like growing scented things, old fashioned things. Different kinds of lavender, old roses. I like plants that climb - clematis, wisteria. I already have a Garden Plan for the new house, involving lots of scented, rambling things that will grow up the wall of the house and tap on the windows in the wind.
  3. Wherever I have lived for the last ten years I have had some kind of herb garden. Not just culinary herbs like parsley and oregano - medicinal and household ones, too; feverfew for headaches, rue to keep out insects, lavenders to dry and bring in to the house and put in between the sheets in the chest of drawers. My latest addition is woad - I might have a go at dyeing with it next year. I am also toying with the idea of making some kind of old-fashioned herb-garden with little hedges of box, or of lavender or of chives.
  4. I am already browsing the Thomas Etty Esq catalogue to decide what vegetables to put in in the spring - I think that getting a veg plot up and running at the new house is going to be our priority garden-wise over the winter. I want to have a go with more old fashioned varieties this year, and I like buying from a small supplier. Also, I like the quirky language on the website :).
  5. This year I have met some lovely people when freecycling excess seedlings - I think that generally, people who garden are pretty grounded. Certainly if I'm depressed or upset, spending some time pottering in the garden or the greenhouse calms me down and balances me out.
  6. I am also busy browsing Adam's Apples and researching which fruit trees will grow 1000ft about sea-level. I want a quince. And a damson. And a bullace. And an apple. And a pear. I'm not sure which varieties to get, yet - I need to do more reading.
  7. Gardening to me is a long-term thing. I despise garden-make-over programmes that come in and 'transform your garden' in a weekend. A garden should be collection of memories - plants that remind you of the people who gave them to you, or a holiday where you bought them (or in Ma's case, nicked a cutting from a stately home). A garden should be full of small delights and small surprises; corners where you find something you popped in to a spare space last year and have forgotten about; a scent that you catch as you open the window that makes you smile.
I should nominate seven people now, to take up the baton and run with it. Instead though, nominate yourselves - leave a link under this post so that we can come and visit you.

Friday, 3 August 2007


How bad would it be if I bought a camper van on eBay whilst B was away working overnight?

Wednesday, 1 August 2007


We have had a very nice couple of days - we were fed high-in-iron lasagne and VERY nice red wine by Kate and Vic on Monday night. Then yesterday we saw a few friends, collected some rhubarb and onions, distributed some jam and then visited Turquoise Lisa to collect the birthing pool and birthing ball.

We both agreed that it was 'a bit weird' the first time one meets people one has met via the internet. However, we had a very nice couple of hours drinking tea in the Turquoise Garden, playing with the children and putting the world to rights. I don't think B and I frightened Lisa too much and she showed no signs of being manic at all :). We really don't live very far apart at all and I am hoping she will return the visit soon!

Then we dropped in at Cheshire Oaks and went in to 'Mamas and Papas' in a deliberate attempt price up things like cots. Without wishing to sound like a stingy arse that isn't prepared to do the best for my baby ... OH MY GOD! THE PRICES! We were so traumatised that the only solution seemed to be to go and have a pizza and a huge dessert each.

That calmed us down sufficiently so that we were able to decide that we'd try to freecycle as much stuff as possible. And when we visit Ma and Pa in Somerset again, B is going to Ascend To The Attic Of Despair and see if the cot that was both ours and Ma's when we were babies is in recoverable condition.

I hold out some hope. But I am slightly frightened by the offer of the Harrington nappies - "Well dear, they're up there. If the mice haven't eaten them".

Kate and Vic have offered to buy us a new cot mattress and Ma is going to make some of those drapey things that go round the Moses Basket we have been given - the ones with it are Winnie The Pooh; the NICE, old fashioned, ORIGINAL, PROPER Winnie The Pooh, not the Disney version, but I have taken a stand and I cannot put my first foot on the slippery slope (*waves to Sara and Sean in slightly bashful fashion*). B did become temporarily entranced with a set of cot bedding in Mamas and Papas featuring two cartoon characters called 'Zeddie and Parsnip', who appear to be a Zebra and a Rabbit, respectively, and who have formed some kind of unholy alliance centred around bedroom linen.

However, we quickly changed our minds when we realised that one of those grobag thingies you pop the baby in to sleep was twenty eight quid. We soon moved on to an un-named alliance of a Hedgehog and a Snail, that we christened 'Spikey and Slimey' and which were half the price. However; I think I might have a crack at making one, instead. I also think I might have a crack at knitting this. In fact, I don't see why the child shouldn't have a whole collection of knitted Cthulhu-mythos characters - except, how would one do the Hounds Of Tindalos?

Today's tasks:

  • Checking the bees have enough stores to eat
  • Picking up a bale of straw
  • Cleaning out the chickens and putting down said new bale of straw in their pen
  • Making rhubarb jam
  • Pay some cheques out and send some statements out, just to keep in touch with The Real World (tm)
And did I mention that I have started taking Floradix iron tonic? I am starting to feel a hell of a lot better - so Z, I think you may have been right.

Monday, 30 July 2007


finished jamSome people achieve jam. Others have jam thrust upon them.

Yesterday we were given fifteen pounds (that's FIFTEEN POUNDS) of 'lammas plums' by some very nice freecyclers. I am not entirely sure how lammas plums fit in to the Plum Family Hierarchy (or Bullaces for that matter - I think they're rounder, aren't they?); but they are a lovely dark purple with a beautiful blush on them and they fell off in dozens when we shook the tree - with the help of a very friendly two or three month old kitten.

We have put aside nine pounds for wine (should make two gallons) and the rest I made in to jam. Due to a bit of a dozy moment I added far too much water at the beginning of the Jam Process (tm) and then had to rootle round for other fruit to add so it wouldn't come out too sloppy and fail to set. So we now have 'Mixed Fruit Jam, July 2007', which contains plums, raspberries and blackberries.

jam and jam pan 2There are SIXTEEN JARS. Sixteen jars! Wow. And that doesn't include the bit that B drank during the bottling process. And it tastes flippin' fantastic. Yay! for jam!

In other news - we have had some friends to stay over the weekend, which was a very nice break indeed - we chilled out, we ate, we watched DVDs and generally relaxed.

And today we are toddling off to stay with B's mum and dad for a night or two, in order to a) catch up with friends in Wallasey, b) to catch up with a chap who owes us some money and, very importantly, c) to (hopefully) meet up with Turquoise Lisa, who has offered to lend us a birthing pool and a birthing ball. Seven weeks today before I'm supposed to need them.


Let us talk about other things. For example - the vole under the bed. What do you do when the cat brings in a vole at 4am and deposits it under the bed? Do you

  • a) Spend an hour looking for the vole? or
  • b) Try to ignore the fact that the cat is playing Vole Tennis all over the bedroom, including, occasionally, actually ON the bed? or
  • c) Remove the cat from the bedroom, shut the door and hope the vole goes to sleep?
I did c). But now there is a vole in the bedroom and I can't find it.

And also, ScribeFire - which is what I more often than not use to post. The latest update doesn't seem to have a 'click to close' option anywhere - no menu item, no cross at the top right. You can hit F8 to make it go away; which is fine. But who in their right mind these days writes an interface WITHOUT A CROSS TO CLICK?

That is today's grumble. Also, I forgot to shut the hens up last night and should put some socks on and go and see if they are still alive. I'm a bit scared to go and look to be honest.

That's all for now, I think. Oh, except we are hoping to move house the first weekend in September, if anyone fancies coming to help? :)