Playing games

Since I’m struggling to blog properly these days, I have decided to just go with it for now and post as and when the mood/time allows which quite possibly means short posts with just a snapshot of what I’m up to.

Just to reassure you, I am still (of course) watching and attending City matches (every game) and I’m still playing darts every week. I just seem to have lost my mojo to blog about them but hopefully I’ll manage short snippets again in future.

However, I’ve discovered a new (somewhat addictive) way to destress at the end of the day – Microsoft’s Xbox Solitaire games pack that came with my new laptop (I got a new one on the NHS home computer scheme so I have a small amount of money deducted from my salary to pay for it.) I can lose myself in the rhythm of the cards – whilst hopefully fighting off Alzheimers at the same time πŸ˜€

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Counting our blessings at Christmas

Well time has run away with me and here I am on Christmas Eve reflecting on a year of huge change for us.

Last Christmas we had no idea where we’d be living at this time, or even if we’d have a roof over our heads at all. We had no security, no money, no idea what the future might hold and it was very, very scary. We were living one day at a time and barely hanging in there.

Gradually, we’ve taken little steps forward and now we are living in a house that’s plenty large enough for us all to remain together as a family unit, complete with cats, and we are very lucky to have such a lovely landlady. By pooling our resources, and working hard we’ve managed to just about make ends meet. Billy was working part-time at first but now has a full-time job which he is enjoying getting his teeth into. Nel was unemployed but is now very settled into an NHS admin apprenticeship and is very much part of the team at work, valued for herself – and spoiled to bits by everyone in the department! Raji was doing a job that didn’t really challenge him enough but is now in a role which suits him well and pays more. I have spent the year working as much overtime as possible, with just one week off in July, but this has kept our heads above water and I do enjoy my work and feel a part of the team. Stephen still works at the pub which he enjoys but the hours aren’t sufficient to support him, unfortunately. So we’ve had small but positive changes since last Christmas – little steps;right direction.

This has led to me really feeling the true spirit of Christmas and I am fully in the mood to count my blessings.

I have my family all together and getting on with life by helping each other through. I have a nice home. I have absolutely wonderful friends and family who have supported us though this tricky year. I have the things that really matter.

I’ve cut down a lot on Christmas presents – and even cards – as have many people in this financial climate. I’ve made many presents myself and have enjoyed doing so and put a lot of TLC into them. Those presents I have bought were carefully chosen and I’ve made use of special offers, discounts and loyalty schemes, but I am pleased with what I’ve bought. People won’t have umpteen things, just one or two presents that I hope will really please them. It’s all so much more special and meaningful for me this year and I hope the recipients feel it too.

On the other side of the coin,I feel lucky to have such lovely, kind, caring colleagues who are also good friends. I’ve already received lovely messages in cards and presents from unexpected quarters. I’ve enjoyed sharing Christmas cheer with people who work very intensely all year and feel privileged to get on so well with people of all roles within the hospital. But more than this, these people have supported me through bad times and shared good ones every day so what little I’ve done for them at this time of year to put a smile on their faces has been very enjoyable to do.

At home, I have two children of whom I am proud and whom I am happy to call friends as well as family. I am lucky to have my wonderful mum who, as you know, is a huge part of my life and gives me so much by way of support, love and fun. She doesn’t live with us but is nonetheless part of this family unit and I don’t know what I’d have done without her. Raji, of course, does live with us and enriches our household; I must admit I can’t imagine him not being with us now. We get on really well and he is more a brother and friend than “just” an in-law. As for Billy and I, we’ve actually managed to spend some time together here and there and now that he’s settled in to his job and life has calmed down a bit, he’s more like the man with whom I fell in love. Dare I hope we can pause to enjoy each other for a while?

As you may know, our darts team is made up of very good friends and they too have seen us through this year. I love my Friday nights playing darts in their company. In good times and bad, we can just relax and be ourselves with them, and they with us. I miss them if I don’t see them one week and I don’t get bored with their company if we get together for other things (such as watching football in the pub and generally leading each other astray πŸ˜‰ ) Their easy company and solid friendship has kept us going at times when we’ve really needed propping up.

I also have my beloved City to keep me entertained and through my football I have many friends who enrich my life. I have my City friends, some of whom I meet up with at games, some I only see occasionally. I have friends who are fans of other football clubs, some of whom I know well, some I’ve only met once or twice. Football brings me closer to my brother when we exchange match day texts as the geographical distance between us and busy lives make it all too easy to lose touch otherwise. All of these people make me feel a part of something, a sense of belonging and offer humour and opinion to entertain me. Many of them do more and have generously given me help, advice, support, access to match tickets and are dear friends. (You know who you are.)

So as I sit here counting my blessings and looking forward to a family Christmas and New Year with friends, I would just like to thank each and every one of you who has helped make this year bearable and kept us going. THANK YOU! I wish you a Christmas time full of your own blessings, with love, laughter and light and I hope that 2014 will be all that you hope it will be.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all my wonderful family and friends.

Led Astray!

Well it was my intention to write my blog last weekend……. but I was led astray by bad men! πŸ˜‰

Roger, being a freelance gardener, very kindly volunteered to prune the apple tree in our garden which hadn’t been done for a good couple (or more) years.

Tree in spring

By the time he’d finished, it looked like this:

Pruned!

Naturally, we wanted to thank him for his hard work so Billy proposed taking him for a drink and they asked me along. I regretfully declined as I had so much to get done over the weekend and planned to finish cooking then nip out before ironing all afternoon. I continued to resist and when I finished cooking said I was going down to Aldi to get a few bits and I left them clearing up the branches. I agreed they could drop me a text to let me know which pub they were in and I MIGHT pop in for a half on my way home. They then sent the text saying they were in Wetherspoons which I had to pass on the way home so I joined them for a quick drink. Before I knew it, Graham had joined us and I was on a second drink……. somehow the afternoon flew by as we moved to Studio to watch the rugby and by the time we went home, I’d had FIVE drinks! (Mopped up slightly by a hotdog from a van on the walk between pubs.) At first I fretted about not getting my chores done, about having scruffy clothing, no make-up or jewellry etc…… then I just relaxed and enjoyed a good afternoon in lovely company. If they were happy to take me as I was, then who was I to argue? πŸ˜€ You can’t buy impromptu sessions like this, nor good friends like ours.

So…… to catch up a bit……..

City: I watched these 3 games on TV
West Ham 1 – 3 City – Our first away win and well deserved I thought. It was also an enjoyable game to watch. MCFC’s 60-second highlights here MCFC’s Extended highlights here

CSKA Moscow 1 – 2 City – Dashed home from work just in time for kick off (Stephen had kindly turned on the TV and put it on the right channel for me) and I was pleasantly surprised to get this result. I was NOT amused at the racist monkey chants by home fans at Yaya. I’m also not convinced that the punishment issued by UEFA is much of a deterrent, though I suppose it is the 1st of the series of 3 punishments if they keep it up. Racism is not acceptable at any level, much less at Champions League level, and no-one should have to put up with it. MCFC’s highlights here.

Chelsea 2 – 1 City – good lineup, good tactics and good performance. One (stupid and frustrating) mistake cost us 2 points but that’s football. We take the many positives from it and move on. I was happy enough with this performance and that’s all I ask. I’m not happy with the media hysteria vilifying Hart and wish they’d get a grip! He’s still relatively young for a keeper, keepers’ mistakes are always very noticeable compared to those of outfield players, and jumping on his back isn’t constructive. MCFC’s 60-second highlights here MCFC’s Extended highlights here

Darts: Following on from my last report, we’re still doing well! We’ve won 5 of our 7 league games now and are STILL 3rd in the table! I’ve got a couple of singles wins under my belt too, including a satisfying one against a young lad who answered his phone during our game with “I’m in the pub playing darts. Against a BIRD!” πŸ˜€ (That was a very odd game in a pub with what looked like all those on pub-watch in our town having relocated to the next village. It was slightly intimidating when I was playing my singles with them all crowding round getting in my space a bit, but otherwise we actually had a fairly enjoyable evening as a tight-knit team.) Somewhere along the line, we I decided we should have a team theme tune to get us fired up for our games. Junior decided it would be the next song to come on the juke box. Flash! Hm, maybe not. OK, the NEXT song. Flash – the remix! πŸ˜€ Flash it must be then! Next to assign characters………. πŸ˜‰ )

Work – well this is just truly crazy, it has to be said. I spend all my time in each of my two roles, desperately trying to get everything clear in the 2/3 days I have at it before doing my other role. Then when I go back to the other one, I have it all to do again. We’re also having a Trust wide new computer system very soon so everyone has to be trained in the new software and pass tests so full and half day training sessions have to be accommodated too. (It WILL be a better system I think but it’s a massive change – like switching from MSDOS to Windows.) I really do feel like I am permanently chasing my tail but in general I do love my work, it’s just that there are never enough hours to get it done as the workload is ever increasing.

Nel: Nel’s apprenticeship is going brilliantly now that she’s switched to admin. She has picked it all up so fast and does such a lovely thorough job that the secretaries are over the moon with her. She has made such a huge difference to the department and for their part they’ve really taken her to their hearts. She has her very own desk – with the addition of her own computer and printer just this week – and has personalised it with photos of the pets and a couple of plants given to her by one of her colleagues. I’m absolutely delighted that it’s worked out so wonderfully, grateful to the team for making Nel so welcome and appreciated and naturally am, as ever, very proud of my clever daughter. πŸ™‚

Throwing again

The darts season has resumed and having been playing all through the summer with our own little competition, we were all quite keen for the restart.

We warmed up with a friendly away at Studio and then the first game was at home against the Ex-Service B. With 15 minutes to go before the game was due to start, the opposition team captain called to say he couldn’t get a team together! We were not amused (to be fair, neither was he, and we did feel sorry for him.) Since we were all there and ready to play, we had a little game between ourselves 4 v 4 which was entertaining enough.

So our season didn’t get going until the following week – away to Wetherspoons. This year they’ve moved their darts board and it seems a daft place to have it – right in front of the kitchen doors with staff going in and out all evening! Also nearby is the condiments table so that customers are wandering in to the area from behind. Bizarre. (I joked with one lady that we were the condiment bouncers πŸ˜€ ) The board didn’t seem the right height and independently, 3 of us came to the conclusion that the bull was an inch or two too high. None of us could find our throw, including Senior who is our best player. We lost 7-4 and were quite happy to get out of there once we’d played and eaten. We went for a drink (which turned into 2!) in the Heart and we ended up having a very pleasant evening indeed πŸ™‚

We had to wait a week or so to find out what stance the league would take over our false-start and eventually the other team were docked points and we had to rearrange the fixture. Playing it on another night of the week was no good so it was finally sorted that we’d play it early, BEFORE the next home fixture. As it turned out, I was away that evening so left the boys to play – including Brian who is a friend of Senior’s and would like to join us when he’s free from work. They did a fine job and won both games 6-5, the other game being against the other team playing from our club, TSC Lost Boys.

This week we were away at Cafe Enna and we got a 3rd win, winning 4-7 πŸ™‚ My own darts started strongly but went down hill, though I could have nicked my singles game if my opponent hadn’t got his double in time to prevent me having a crack at mine. Fortunately, although I was the last man, the others had done the job by then so that it didn’t really matter – just as well as I crumble under last-man pressure πŸ˜‰ We went on to the Heart for a drink but with the smokers outside, and the non-smokers inside trying to find a space in a fairly busy pub, we didn’t really spend much time together.

Just look at this table:

3rd in table!


It’s a cup game next week against an A league side so I suspect this winning run will come to an end πŸ˜‰

Laughing and late nights.

Stephen always shares funny videos etc with me and lifts me with a few minutes’ conversation every day, but I think he made an extra effort since my little meltdown and it’s been much appreciated. First he sat one evening and watched his “Rise of the Dark Knight” DVD with me and I thoroughly enjoyed both the film and his company. He has also shared some funny videos with me this week including – An American coach in London (football related) Running Man (football related) Substitute teacher – and then others by the same comedian.

I then had three late nights this week. THREE! I can usually only manage one, but I have to say that I really enjoyed all of these and felt they did me the world of good.

On Monday I had Helen, Nic and Sarah round for tea straight from work. I’d set the table and cleared the kitchen before I went to work and even picked some flowers from the garden to put on the table. I warned them that I had no idea what state the house would be in when we arrived home, though I knew Nel and Billy had both planned to do their bit during the day. I was pleasantly surprised to find a spotless house with everything in its place. Wonderful πŸ™‚ Billy had even taken the loaf out of the bread making machine for me and it was sitting cooling on the side, greeting us with its heavenly aroma. As I’d prepared the food the day before, we relaxed with a mojito in the garden for a while then ate our quiche, homemade coleslaw, salad, and aforementioned bread accompanied with a glass or two of wine. For afters we had strawberries, whipped cream and homemade shortbread and then we went and sat outside again until quite late. It was really lovely and relaxing and must do it again before too long.

My second late night was on Wednesday which was Billy’s birthday. We met up with some friends at Wetherspoons before going on to the Coach later and had a very enjoyable night. I didn’t really want to go home but with work in mind, reluctantly tore myself away about 10.30/11pm and Billy walked me home before going back out to finish his night. It was great and I only wish we could do it slightly more often. I think Billy had a good birthday anyway, which was the object of the exercise; I certainly enjoyed it!

On Friday we were back out for our summer darts mini-league. We’d decided not to simply sit back and not touch a dart all summer so Senior had come up with the idea of all 8 members of our team having a little competition ourselves. Each week we’ve been playing each other in 3-leg games and we each played everyone else twice. For fun, Paul worked out the odds of each of us winning the league and though I can’t remember the exact odds for everyone, he was pretty much spot on with Senior running away with it. I was 28/1 and was actually quite pleased with my performances. Could have won a few more maybe, but equally I could have lost more. I was pleased with a 2-dart finish to check out on 91 this week πŸ™‚ Only Graham beat me 3-0 twice. Senior did so once. I’ve won two games 3-0 and most of my games have been 2-1 regardless of whether I won or lost. I’ve played all my games now, as have most of us, but Mark just has a couple to play which will affect the final positions for us all. Not only has the extra playing time done my darts good I think – I’ve been regularly hitting treble 20 – but I’ve also enjoyed seeing the gang each week and relaxing in to the weekend with my favourite people.

Despite being a bit tired, I really enjoyed my week and felt it perked me up emotionally and mentally πŸ™‚

Smoothly back to earth

After my wonderful week off, I had a surprisingly smooth week back at work in the main. I soon picked up what was what again in my orthotics role and even the secretarial work went okay the second half of the week. At least, until Friday which is always a manic day with everything needing doing before the weekend plus the usual hunt to grab a consultant to answer a query from a GP, patient or colleague etc. Unfortunately this is always time consuming and this particular day, everything turned into a project. But I survived πŸ™‚

On the Friday evening it was the darts league’s annual doubles competition – any pair of league members can turn up on the night, register and play in a knock out competition. We were supposed to be playing a rearranged cup fixture before hand and had made the effort to get there early but the opposition team arrived too late to play in time before the doubles competition. At least we were there early to get a table πŸ˜‰ Billy and Raji were at cricket nets but the rest of us entered – Paul got the short straw and partnered me (“short straw” because once you are knocked out, one of your pair has to mark the next round on that board), Graham and Mark paired up and as usual Junior and Senior joined forces. As we’d expected, Paul and I were soon knocked out (and indeed, played poorly) but Mark and Graham were unlucky to lose and Senior and Junior stayed in for a couple of rounds. It turned out to be a really good night, with the club being pretty busy but no uncomfortably packed, and the faces were all familiar and friendly so the atmosphere was relaxed. Our group then went on to the Skinners for a drink and there was a live band playing jazz/rhythm type stuff on a sax, double bass, drums and guitar . We’d had a couple of drinks and joined in miming playing instruments which was a bit of harmless silly fun. Billy, Paul and I then wandered on the Heart and the others went to the Fox to play pool. What a great night out with my best friends πŸ™‚ With the end of the darts season nigh, I said I would miss them each week so it has been proposed that we have our little league competing against each other over the summer. But then we’ve said such things before……

The weekend was a nice long one with the bank holiday πŸ™‚ It was wonderful! I spent the entire 3 days home-making – but as the weather was rather gorgeous (late spring weather suddenly arriving over night after the cold!) I managed to enjoy a cuppa and a lunch or two in the garden. The garden is sprouting a new plant/flower every day and it’s interesting seeing what will pop up next. The apple tree has gone from being bare to being green, the flower beds have come alive with veritable triffids and big furry bees are buzzing happily in the flowers and the trees. (Zeb keeps chasing them and he’s going to come a cropper soon I think!)

Awakening garden

Patio area

The Rayburn’s hotplate cleaned up nicely with a little aptly named “Astonish” and a lot of elbow grease:

The Rayburn


Hotplate – Left side cleaned

After cleaning, I enjoyed the next experiment – Scotch pancakes πŸ™‚ There’s something naughty about pouring food directly on to the cooker, but wicked fun! (Any yummy results!)

Scotch pancakes

On the Saturday, I watched Swansea 0 – 0 City online but I badly needed to sort my clothes and toiletries out too (still in unorganised boxes and bags from the move!) so I did the two things together. I was rather glad I had managed to do something useful with the time as the game was pretty tame and a bit of a non-event. Still, a point is a point.

MCFC’s 60-second highlights here
MCFC’s extended highlights here

Darts – a narrow loss then a win

We narrowly lost (6-5) away at Studio but we had a really good evening which was much needed after a stressful week.
Random order was: Graham, me, Junior, Paul, Senior, and Mark and we won the two trebles games though both were hard fought. Graham and I made hard work of our doubles and had a mediocre game but we could have won it and didn’t, and Junior and Paul followed suit. Happily Senior and Mark got a battling win which was followed by an emphatic win in Graham’s singles. I was only just beaten by a very strong player but Junior won his. Paul lost to jammy x1 x19 finish, Senior had been well ahead but failed to get his finish and was beaten. So it all came down to Mark, who unfortunately was just pipped.

We were then at home to the Ex-Service B and again we had a good night with a relaxed atmosphere (again, much needed after another, even more stressful week.) Billy and Raji were at cricket nets but came in to the club afterwards with their cricket team mates so we had a bit of a natter with both darts and cricket players alike. The random order was: Graham, Mark, Senior, me, and Junior. With the other team having only 4 players, their random order was: player, -, player, player, -, player meaning that each trebles game was only played with 2 players,the first and last doubles were played with only 1, and Mark and Junior won their singles by default (though I’m sure they’d rather have got to play) Senior and I lucked out having the two-man doubles game and the strongest players probably. We won both trebles and the first doubles, unsurprisingly. We then lost next two – Senior and I just beaten by good players, Paul and Junior chucked it away trying but failing to hit x1 πŸ˜‰ Graham lost his singles, but it was close and Senior won his after Mark’s bye. I was expecting to be thrashed and my throwing wasn’t too great initially – good darts but scoring 26 etc. Then I got a decent score and closed the gap and somehow I also beat him to the finish and won πŸ™‚ Junior’s bye was followed by a narrow loss for Paul – caught out by that blasted x1 again; Paul’s bΓͺte noire for the night πŸ˜‰ So we won 7 – 4

Brief summary of last 4 darts games: lost;lost;lost and lost again ;)

You get the picture! After a great first half of the season, we now can’t score for toffee!
As we City fans sing: “Oh we never win at home and we never win away. We lost last week and we lost today……

Away v The Heart 7-4:
Random order: Paul, Billy, me, Raji, Senior, Junior
Lost first trebles – quite a way behind with us all scoring low but switching to 19 got us back in so both teams needed tops with them having first attempt and got it.
Lost second trebles
Lost first doubles
Raji and I won with him hitting x4
Roger and Roger won
Paul was just beaten
Billy won – just
I lost – threw it away annoyingly
As did Raji
Senior won beating Steph
Junior lost

Home v The Rose & Crown 2-9:
Billy was away for this one.
Random order: Junior, Graham, me, Senior, Paul, Mark
Lost first trebles with my darts random but scoring and theirs good but not scoring
Won second fairly comfortably
Lost first doubles
Won second with me getting the finish in two darts
Lost all singles I was poor but got myself back in with 100 then blew it again

Home v Unionist Nomads 5-6:
Random order: Junior, Paul, me, Graham, Senior, Billy
Lost first trebles – just. Played OK
Won second – Graham finishing strongly
Just lost first doubles – both on tops but they hit it first
Graham and I won. I scored well 80+ every throw, Graham consistent too and got the finish
Junior just pipped
Paul won
I lost my single – played rubbish πŸ™
Graham won after making a bit of hard work of it – hat trick for him
Senior made hard work of it but won eventually
Billy lost
Good night though πŸ™‚

Home v Unionist B 4-7:
Random order: Senior, Billy, Paul, Graham, Junior, me
Lost first trebles
And second
And first doubles
Paul and Graham won
Junior and I just beaten – he did all the scoring, I was dreadful
Senior lost
Billy lost
Paul won
Graham won
Junior won
I lost – badly!

Darts 5-6, 5-6 – one for, one against.

    5-6 Win:

A couple of weeks ago we played away at CafΓ© Enna, a new venue for us. Billy was out for a cricket dinner so I walked down with the rest of the team after we’d had a warm up at the club. It was pitch black as I trustingly followed them down to the railway line – only for them to realise we had to cross the line at the NEXT gap! πŸ˜€ We got there in the end and there was only the two darts teams in the whole place so it was a nice relaxed and friendly evening.

Our random order was: Junior, Paul, Mark, Graham, me and Senior.
We lost both trebles, and only won Mark & Graham’s doubles. The other team were good but we were also playing badly.
We then went on to win all our singles, apart from Graham’s (who was playing their strongest player) to steal the game! πŸ™‚ I came from 200+ behind to rob my opponent (after the others kindly played along and didn’t tell me my win would make it 5-5, as they know I have been known to collapse under pressure like that πŸ˜‰ ), but some were just show-boating: Mark finished with a bull; Senior finished his 46 with x6, x2, x15 and Paul got 14 with 7, x5, x1 πŸ˜€

Just to rub salt in the wound, we also won the football card – there were 6 teams left so Graham made us each cough up for one and we put them down as a joint choice for the whole team. As Paul put it – “Smash and grab” πŸ™‚

5-6 Loss:

This week we were at home to the Fox B – a team we know and like and again we had a good evening with them. This time the last game went against us so we lost 5-6. The random order was: Mark, Paul, Junior, me, Senior,and Graham. We played badly again though Senior and I switched to 19s and Graham finished our trebles πŸ™‚ We also won Senior and Graham’s doubles, and Mark’s, Junior’s and Senior’s singles.

Having played really badly in my trebles and doubles, I played well in my singles game but was really annoyed to get 3 bounce outs – 2 in the same throw! However, I kept at it and had a go at a finish but was beaten to it in a good game.

Half my mind was on moving but it was nice to try and relax – and our friends did us proud and have all volunteered their help on the day of the move. Now you know why I love our team so much πŸ™‚