Cats and paper=moths and flame

I didn’t really want to do the Dingbats/ read the cartoons, or do my finance paperwork this weekend cats, S’ok! πŸ˜‰

Cats Life

Two dramas in one week: Drama 1

Last week I had the heavy cold that was doing the rounds, and by midweek had raging sinusitis and sniffles – which I hate! Happily the herbs pushed this through quite fast but it meant that I had 3 days of feeling sorry for myself. On Thursday night I thankfully sank into bed at the end of the day and was relaxing with a DVD when Nel popped out to Tesco.

I heard a strange noise and paused my DVD to listen for it. It was a sort of high pitched sound but although I stopped to listen for a good 5 minutes it didn’t come again. Timmy was on my chair and had his ears pricked up so I knew I hadn’t imagined it. It seemed to come from above me. Just as I was about to give in, I heard it again, very briefly. OH MY GOD!

Tiny Squishy


Somehow, my brain managed to put 2+2 together and realised that was a hamster squeaking in distress and as I bolted out of my sick bed and up the stairs, I heard a cat jump down from somewhere! I crashed in to Nel’s room and sure enough, there was Zara with little Squishy, the tiny Roborowski hamster, in her mouth! I yelled at her and thankfully she dropped him and I chased Zara and Zeb out of the room and slammed the door shut and then ran to where I’d seen Squishy. There he was and without thinking I tried to catch him – Roborovskis are very fast and don’t like being handled so of course, as I scooped him up, he scrabbled off the edge of my hand and was off behind the bed. Stupid me! (Stupid as well for handling him when I had a cold – human colds are dangerous to hamsters.)

Zara


I went to the other side of the bed and happily I spotted him huddled in the corner behind Nel’s desk so I sat myself down and didn’t take my eyes off him. The cats were meowing pitifully at the door, my phone was in my own room so I couldn’t call Nel and no-one knew I was in her room to come looking. I hoped she wouldn’t be long – especially as Squishy appeared to be recovering from his fright and might be on the move again soon! Then Billy called me and I eventually managed to tell him to come in the room without letting the cats in. When I explained, I asked him to try calling Nel – but there was no answer. He and Raji decided to go hunting for her and I just prayed Squishy would stay put until she got home.

Alas, he was now starting to scamper around the area and though I was relieved to see that he was apparently unhurt, I was worried he’d disappear – he is such a tiny little thing and the bare floorboards probably had a few little holes which he could fall down! There were certainly plenty of corners and cupboards he could get into! Finally, Nel came home though hadn’t seen the men, but she let Zeb in the room as she entered so I had to try and yell what had happened and get her to catch Zeb. He came straight over to the hamster – who promptly shot off behind the bed – before I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and got him back outside.

Argh! Squishy was nowhere in sight! We hunted with a torch and couldn’t find him anywhere so we had to put the two bits of his cage on the floor, leaving him the means to get inside, and hope he could make his way home and want the safety of his own bed. Poor Nel didn’t get a wink of sleep listening out for him, but alas, he didn’t appear over night.

By the time I left to go away for the weekend on the Friday night, there was no sign still and Nel was sure he was under the floor boards or in one of the many cubby-cupboards dotted around that top floor and we weren’t certain he’d be able to get back even if he had been a clever boy and worked out how to retrace his steps. (In the wild they roam for miles each night and they leave a trail of wee to follow home. Would he even have thought of this?) I felt he’d be able to snack on the odd spider or beastie but I did think water would be a problem so I could only hope his need for fluid would drive him back.

Bizarrely, we’re not sure quite how Zara got him out of his cage in the first place. The cage (see picture below) was neatly on the shelf where it lives. The only thing out of place was the tube that joined the two parts – this was disconnected. How did the cat do that? How did she get him out of it? Or did he come out of his own accord? The distressed squeaking I’d heard (loud for such a tiny creature) was BEFORE the cat thudded to the floor – so did he jump out in fright? We’ll never know. We could only pray he’d come back.

Two-bit cage


I woke up on Saturday morning to a text from Nel that she’d sent at 12.54am: “I got Squishy! πŸ™‚

Apparently she’d heard him – on the opposite side of the room to where we THOUGHT he was – and he was trying to drag one of his treats (left out to tempt him) back under a cubby-cupboard door! Nel quickly used videos to block his path and was then able to catch him with an upside down (empty) tissue box. His fur and his paws were black, but he was safely home.

He is now in only half his cage for the moment until Nel sorts out a cat-proof larger home for him. She says he seems bored now and it looks like he rather enjoyed his freedom. He is slowly getting cleaner though his paws are still grubby. What an adventure for a little scrap of fur and what a clever little boy to get home. Nel is very pleased of course, and having saved him from the cat, so am I. What a drama, but a happy outcome. Welcome home Squishy πŸ™‚

Squishy

Greetings from the other house :)

I’m back! Did you miss me?

We have now moved to our new home and it was the most chaotic move I have ever experienced! Added to that we had no TV, phone or internet for 3 weeks. As you can tell, we now have the latter sorted and we now have a functioning home, albeit that we have a few more boxes to unpack and sorting to do still.

We picked up the keys on the Friday (1st March) and Billy and I were off work that day so that we could spend the day packing up the last of the stuff (by this time I was sick of packing and boxes, having been doing it for the last 2 weeks!) and we had two friends and their vans arranged to help with the actual move the next day. The plan was for Billy to be at the old house conducting that end of the operation and I’d be at the new house organising where things should be put and sorting them out.

But it didn’t quite turn out like that…..

One of Billy’s friends who had offered his services and van for the move was unexpectedly free on the Friday afternoon so came to make a start! And so it ended up that for the next two days the move went ahead in a very chaotic fashion – moving things that weren’t yet packed and in very random order rather than room-by-room as I’d envisioned. Important things (like kitchen pots/pans, crockery etc) were left behind (including the draining rack full of the morning’s dishes!) whilst nick-nacks stored in the loft for years were brought in various containers and bags. Naturally the food was removed from the fridge and freezers before they were brought along, but the food then got left behind! Divan beds had their bases separated for moving, but the clips to join the two halves got lost somewhere along the way. All that said, we were very grateful for the help of our extremely willing and hard-working friends and eventually we called it a day, though one friend was going to return the next week to take the final load and then take all the rubbish to the tip for us. (This hasn’t actually happened as yet and though Billy and Raji have collected some stuff on foot, and I have done a couple of car runs, we need a van for one last run which is frustrating.)

By the end of the weekend I was dirty, tired, aching and had broken nails, very dry sore hands and sported a multitude of cuts and bruises (I’m really not built for manual work!) I had the Monday and Tuesday off work, thankfully, so I was able to spend those two days playing put-and-take sorting out and by the end of that time we had a functioning home with all the main elements reasonably organised.(Kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms.)

I have to say that the cats have been absolutely brilliant and took it all their stride. We had two cat carriers and I borrowed another from a colleague but I anticipated a few problems getting the cats in. As it turned out Timmy and Zeb didn’t put up too much of a fight and Zara walked in to the borrowed basket voluntarily, much to my surprise. Nel and I took the cats and the hamsters in the car to the new house and deposited them all in her bedroom – for two reasons: firstly, her room is on the 2nd floor so nicely out of the way of the moving chaos and secondly, she also can’t cope with too much upheaval and our plan was to get her room moved so she could shut the door and stay quietly sorting her own bits. This worked really well and the cats stayed in with her for a couple of days before being allowed to explore the rest of the house in their own time. They’ve done this very casually and absolutely love having the run of a 3 storey house! After two weeks of keeping them indoors (which they accepted without complaint, though the cold, snowy weather helped) I opened the back door for them to investigate the garden. They loved this and were soon jumping up (and over) the walls and lapping water from the (tiny) pond in the corner. Once they all came back inside I shut the door but unblocked the cat-flap. Within an hour they were all coming and going freely and I was pleased to think they could now please themselves. All in all, I’d say they are quite satisfied with their new home, garden and lifestyle!

Car parking is an issue here and we were given, by our lovely landlords, a visitor’s parking permit. However, after searching in vain for a parking spot, Billy and I went in tot he council offices to enquire as to exactly where these parking bays were. There are 4. Four bays for the whole street! (At a cost of Β£15 per year.) The previous owners apparently had an arrangement with a chap further down who has his own designated bay but no car. He wanted Β£20 a month for this. However, after our visit to the council offices, we’ve instead bought a county-wide parking permit (for all council pay-and-display car parks across the whole county) which is Β£130 a year (though we’ve currently paid for 3 months at Β£48.) It means the car is parked a bit of a walk from the house but this isn’t a huge issue as we don’t use it for small trips on a daily basis. Another half a day spent sorting this out though!

You won’t believe the saga with TV/internet/phone that we’ve had! It’s like something out of a sitcom! We had, at our old house, all of these with Sky and we called before our move, giving a couple of weeks notice so that could simply switch us over. Simple, yes? No! They couldn’t ascertain whether or not there was a phone line in the new house. We told them there was. They insisted it wasn’t clear and they’d report it as an issue to be resolved. In the meantime, though, they’d book a Sky engineer to come and set up the TV – but it couldn’t be the day of the move so we’d have to wait until the Monday. On the Monday, out came the engineer and as Billy had been called in to work (he was NOT amused!) I had to deal with this. I’ll try to keep this simple:

Old house: 1x Sky+ box, 2 x Sky boxes (multiroom)
New House: 1 x Sky cable in to upstairs lounge, now Raji’s room
Wanted in new house: 1 x Sky box in living room (which has no TV or Sky cables/sockets at all) and 1x Sky box (multiroom) in Raji’s room.

So the engineer looked at the Sky dish on the roof and announced that he couldn’t get up to it as it was on a pole next to the chimney and he couldn’t safely get to it. (“Must’ve been a private company that put that up” he said.)
However, he could drill holes in the wall on the front of the house to safely affix his ladders to get to it. Er, no. It’s a grade II listed building and not our property.
Hm. Well he could fix another, separate dish to the front of the house. Er, no. It’s a grade II listed building and not our property.
Well he could drill a hole in the wall in to the front room and feed the cable that currently goes in to the upstairs room to the sitting room. Er, no. It’s a grade II listed building and not our property.
Deep thought. Aha! He could fix our dish to the dentist’s property next door! Er, no! As if!
I’d pretty much got the picture – there wasn’t going to be anything he could do so we’d simply have to have the one Sky box in Raji’s room only. No, no….. he’d wait for his mate and see what he said. Two hours later we ended up with the one Sky box in Raji’s room only! We could have done that ourselves had we known, and at the least I could have had an hour and a half more time unpacking! Amused, not!

OK, we could work around this – we’d have the Sky box in Raji’s room, Nel had a TV aerial socket and had bought a freeview set top box, and we could register 4 devices to stream TV via SkyGo so that would work. Once we got the internet of course…..

We plugged in a phone to the phone socket and had a dialling tone. Great! We could call Sky and tell them we definitely have a phone line installed and they could connect us straight away. Er no! It still appeared we had no line and a BT engineer would have to be booked. This would not be until 21st March! 3 weeks after moving in! Paul came round and ascertained the telephone number. Great! We could call Sky and they could cancel the engineer and connect us! Er, no! There IS no phone line and the engineer was coming out to INSTALL one! So we had to wait 3 weeks with no TV for all but Raji, and no internet at all. This was hardest on Nel because of her autism – the only place she can interact enjoyably with people is via the internet (no trying to read people’s expressions, pick up on unspoken clues etc. – all nice and clear in black and white.) She ended up spending a fortune on mobile dongles and top ups, having been sold various things that were no use or cost her the earth (avoid Carphone Warehouse!) We were very upset on her behalf and Billy sorted out a mobile dongle at a better rate which helped. Naturally with these things she still couldn’t do the things that are important to her so she really did suffer during this time.

And so the great day dawned. At last, the BT engineer was coming and since Billy and I were working, Paul very kindly got up early during his week off and came round to let the engineer in the house and speak on our behalf. Not only this, but he actually arrived promptly at 8.45am. Just as Billy found out that our phone line was now active! BT engineer had clearly looked at his job sheet, checked there was a line already installed and activated it at the exchange! After quickly plugging in the brand new Sky router and checking the internet worked, Paul left the house with us as we set off to work. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!Unbelievable!3 weeks of stress for no good reason!

It is nice to feel part of the world again, though I have yet to catch right up and to get into a routine and of course, much of my time is still taken up with working 35 hours a week and sorting the house – as well learning to use the cooker here….

This house has a Rayburn cooker which means learning to cook a whole new way. There is also a ceramic hob, but after one play with this, I have made it redundant (the biggest problem being that it takes a while to heat and then an age to cool and I’m worried about the cats getting burned if they jump up when the kitchen is unattended.) The Rayburn also provides the house’s heating and hot water, but we’ve yet to learn how best to use it for this so it’s a bit chilly as yet and we sometimes run out of hot water.

Rayburn cooking is completely different to “normal” cooking and I’m glad I am a confident cook else I think I’d be terrified! You cook 20% of stuff on top of it on the hotplate (a solid plate which varies in temperature so you slide things around to hottest/coolest spots) and 80% in the ovens – an upper and a lower, the lower running at about half the temperature of the upper. It takes around half an hour to heat the oven to the baking or roasting temperatures and it seems about 2 days to cool back to the lowest setting, even when “idling”. The whole of the oven is hot, including the floor (which is good for baking pastry without needing to bake blind) and the shelves are deep so you can get 2 dishes on one shelf. The Rayburn is NOT for quick cooking or for cooking one thing then turning off!

So after two weekends of experimenting (the results of which were all edible, I’m pleased to say) I have learned that it’s best to batch bake/cook at weekends and then simply warm each evening meal in the idling oven all day whilst at work. Lots of casseroles and such, accompanied by home-made bread courtesy of the bread maker which is now in almost daily use πŸ™‚ It means a lot of my weekend is gone doing the batch cooking, but it is lovely coming home to a hot, home cooked meal each evening after work. Today, on only my second weekend of experimenting, I have managed to cook a roast – challenging and time-consuming but absolutely gorgeous as the Rayburn keeps in all the flavours of the meat (beef on this occasion). Even the gravy was wicked! I’ve pre-cooked the meals for the week and each evening I put porridge in the oven to cook slowly overnight and Raji and I love coming down to a bowl of that every morning.

I am going to need to invest in some hotplate-to-oven friendly cookware as I am currently having to mess about swapping pans for casserole dishes and I’ve only got 3 casserole dishes. I am getting the hang of using the Rayburn for drying dishes, warming plates/jugs/mugs/bowls and airing wooden cooking utensils. I am looking forward to using it for making herbal oils and drying herbs etc.

Oh yes, I almost forgot – Nel’s freeview box doesn’t work – but it looks like the aerial isn’t working so still, Raji is the only one with proper TV. I have to admit I never watched TV much anyway and haven’t yet started watching it through my laptop. The only thing I miss having on in the background is Sky Sports news – I do feel very out of things without this. Must find a new routine where I can watch this each day to keep up with things.

The “children” seem settled and happy here and I think they like having the top floor of the house to themselves. Raji is Raji – one can never tell, but he seems happy enough and seems to like having the biggest bedroom in the house for all his stuff. Billy and I are just relieved to have left the old house and feel lucky to have found a large enough home for us all, in walking distance of our needs and where cats are allowed. There are lots of things to work through yet but we have a roof over our heads and can hopefully move forward.

So, there you have it. A brief catch-up on our move. I’d like to tell you more about this lovely house when I get the chance but for now………. welcome πŸ™‚

A lorra laughs with the birthday girl

Mum’s birthday was on a Monday this year and I had some holiday left to take so booked the Monday and Tuesday off and went to Mum’s for a long weekend πŸ™‚

I drove down on Saturday morning and it felt absolutely wonderful to be on the road after such a long time. I love motorway driving and was quite happy singing caterwauling along to my CD’s and looking forward to a couple of days R&R. It was going to be nice to swap the mess and moods at home for calm, order and relaxation.

In our couple of days together we had lots of laughs and managed to go to B&Q to buy paint for the next little project, do the shopping and we thoroughly enjoyed going through some old letters and photographs of my Nan’s. There were letters between her and my grandad from the war when she was evacuated to Whitehaven and he was serving in Italy; it was very moving to read how much they loved and missed each other and promises never to be parted again. Grandad’s letters were full of assurances that “Jerry” was on the run and the war would soon be over now. Nanny’s letters to him and to her mum showed what a close family unit they were and there were others too from very early on in her married life. It was all so interesting and we felt privileged to share a glimpse in to my grandparents’ lives. There was also a little booklet, sponsored by Stork margarine which was a “Questionnaire for young folk which my Nan had been given at school in 1930. There was a sport, history and first aid section of questions and answers, with the rest being general knowledge – and some of them were really tough! Some were just tough for us as they pertained to matters only up to 1930! (so questions asking for the last prime minister to do something, or last sports person to hold a record etc. would not have the same answer now as then.) Some of the first aid answers were so out of date that they were wrong e.g. they had blood vessels down as organs. However the true purpose of this booklet was to brain wash “young folk” with the message that Stork margarine was every bit as healthy and nutritious as butter and mum and I now know that margarine was invented in 1870 by Mege-Mouries thanks to the Franco-Prussian war when there was a shortage of cows and therefore of butter! Stork bought the rights to make it in England and set up shop in Purfleet. (Hope you’re impressed as I have told you this from memory (brain washing, see!)) Mum and I got the giggles as every new section of questions began and ended with one on margarine and its history πŸ™‚ At some point I will try and scan some of this stuff and share. Even the paper was interesting as both the booklet and the letters – and even greetings cards – were on good quality paper, some of which was so soft it was almost like fabric. The stamps were interesting too – mainly those of George VI and then one of the series of letters with Queen Elizabeth II. All so fascinating!

On the Sunday I abandoned mum for a bit and went to my match – my first for ages. I was so happy to be there despite City playing very poorly and being extremely lucky to have it finish City 2 – 2 Liverpool We had two fluky goals but Liverpool were by far the better team and should have won! I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon though, as I always do, and loved getting my fix of live football / City.

On mum’s birthday we had a birthday breakfast of “Nanny toast” and marmalade. (My Nan always used to cut great fat slabs of bread, toast them, add loads of butter (no, not Stork!) and marmalade and this was always a special treat for us when visiting her and grandad) Then mum opened all her cards and presents which was fun – I love sharing present openings and seeing what lovely things people have chosen. We then went in to town and had a nice coffee break (hard work these birthdays you know! πŸ˜‰ ) and visited the Grosvenor Museum which neither of us had done before despite all the years in Chester. It was a bit of a disappointment in that many of the exhibits were being either assembled or dismantled and therefore had nothing for us to see. We were also dodging school parties and in fact it didn’t take us long to look at what there was at all. We enjoyed the Roman bits and we had to leave the art gallery when I got the giggles at mum’s face when a guided group entered the room, taking her by surprise πŸ˜€ We thought we’d revisit the Visitor Centre but this was closed, unfortunately. (When I’ve looked it up to link here, it seems to have changed hands and purpose.) We walked along the river and up through the park, with a nod to “Charlie” (actually, he’s Richard!) whose monument resides there, and finished with a little mooch round a couple of shops. This included popping in to a couple of the O2 shops to ask how to get my usual ringtone set up on my new phone. Unbeknown to me, as the phone was set to “silent”, the volume was on the highest setting and consequentially, in both shops, when staff accessed the song I wanted as my ringtone, “City, Manchester City” blared out full blast – in Chester, which is largely populated by Liverpool fans! The day after we jammily robbed them of a point! πŸ˜€ (Neither store could help much, but I’ve since figured out a way to do it myself.)In the evening I cooked the lamb shanks we’d chosen from mum’s freezer and we had them with a very nice bottle of wine πŸ™‚ It wasn’t the most exciting of birthdays for mum but we both enjoyed it nevertheless and I certainly enjoyed being there to share the day.

On Tuesday, we planned to take Rocky to the vet for his annual injections as Mum hates trying to catch him to take him to the vet and has had to cancel taxis before when she couldn’t get him in time. I was happy to be helping with transport, but after the last time I caught him he was nervous of me for months and I really didn’t want him to be like that with me again. Mum and I were very deliberately acting casually and literally pussy-footing around – and in the end he was fairly simply captured and mum got him into his carrier without too much fuss. It added a bit of extra fun running with his carrier through the blizzard which was blowing at the time, but he got a clean bill of health, bar a minor bout of conjunctivitis for which he got some drops, and that was that! Whatever were we worried about? πŸ˜‰ Mum rewarded us that evening with Dominos pizza – and we got a good deal since we had an e-mail offer of Β£10 off when ordering Β£25 or more. Er, bargain! How could we refuse? πŸ˜‰

I had to leave straight after breakfast on Wednesday so that I could get to work for the afternoon, but I had had the sot wonderful break with one of my most favourite people in the world, which really perked us both up I think. Thank you Mummy, I love you, and Happy Birthday πŸ™‚

Rounding off my break

All too soon it seemed that I was coming to the end of my holiday and I used the last few days to sort out everything from my sock drawer to my paperwork – hardly glamorous but rather satisfying. One thing I will/won’t miss is that for these last 2 weeks I’ve been doing all the washing up once or twice a day – I won’t miss it in that it seems grossly unfair that people just leave all their dirty stuff and don’t take a turn, but I will miss it because all that dirty stuff will now remain there! Washing up (and leaving dirty plates, glasses and cups sitting around in the living room) is one of my bug bears in our household. I’ve also kept on top of emptying bins, not had to worry about how long it takes to put the wash-load out to dry in the mornings, and been able to cook what and when I’ve fancied. Best of all though, I’ve seen more of the family because everyone has such vastly different working/sleeping/waking times that we’re usually ships that pass. Being at home I’ve been here to chat at whatever time they are most inclined and I’ve loved that. (Funnily enough, the exception has been Billy – I saw no more of him than usual as he tended to either be out or in bed.) A little bonus that has brought me much pleasure has been fussing the cats every time I’ve been around them – their soft, furry, purry little bodies are such great de-stressors and I’ve had lovely cuddles and smiles dotted about my days here and there.

On Friday night we were back playing darts (it was a cup game last week when I was away, Raji stood in for me, and after winning round one, the team was knocked out at the next stage.) We were at home against The Grapes (the team defeated by the boys in the cup last week) and they absolutely thumped us! It’s been years since we lost 11-0 but that’s what happened. In most of the games we were miles behind but the away team faltered on their finishing allowing us to catch up and get a couple of goes at a double before they finally got it themselves. They were, however, a very nice lot and it was nonetheless a good evening. Senior was ill – the result won’t have helped make him feel better – so Billy stood in for him so our playing order was: Mark, me, Junior, Billy, Paul and Graham. At least I don’t need to spell out for you which games we won or lost πŸ˜‰

Thumped!

On Saturday it was fun following the FA Cup action – for me this is still a magic competition and brings the wider football family together. We all love a cup upset (unless we’re on the receiving end of course) and we all know anything can happen on the day. Sadly Newcastle were beaten by Brighton, though from the bit of the game I saw, the result was deserved. I listened to City 3 v 0 Watford on the radio and it sounded comfortable though never to be taken for granted. Thankfully we were 2-0 up at the break thanks to a fabulus Tevez free kick and another Barry header. This made it a little easier to bear in the second half and it was lovely for our 17-year old debutant, Lopes, to score the 3rd. Watford fans didn’t endear themselves to the home fans with their chants of “United. United…” Why on earth do fans do this? Support your own club, that’s what you’re there for! Anyway, a good win and City are into the next round. And it turns out that it will be against the winners of the replay in another of the games that interested me – Palace v Stoke! I do hope Palace win through so we can play them – at least either mum or I would be happy with the result and could wholeheartedly get behind them to go the whole way πŸ™‚

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

So now here I am on Sunday evening having relaxed, sorted, blogged,and packed my gym bag ready to get back to normal tomorrow. I have really enjoyed this much needed break and although I’ve kept busy, I’ve been able to relax too. I’ve enjoyed being a housewife and mum again, do I have to go back…………..?

Not doing; just being.

We spent a lovely, leisurely Boxing Day at home (mainly eating what we wanted, when we wanted it πŸ˜‰ ) I watched the Sunderland 1 v 0 City match on a very hit-and-miss webstream whilst Billy watched ManUre 4 v 3 Newcastle and we were both wanting each other’s team to win; we were both disappointed! Ho hum! (MCFC’s 60-second highlights here and extended ones here)

On the 27th, Nel and I drove down to mum’s to spend the night and just have some girls’ time out. Nel went shopping with her friend who lives nearby and mum and I did……………. absolutely nothing! πŸ™‚ We just sat and chatted and it was lovely. Nel returned in time for dinner (braised steak, mmmm.) She had asked if she could sleep in the living room on the camp bed and as soon as we’d made it up ready, Rocky decided it looked very cosy (which it did, as mum always makes it so) and promptly claimed it! πŸ˜€ Nel going to bed later didn’t bother him a bit – since he had his spot, right in the middle and wasn’t budging! At some point in the night though, he did decide to let Nel get some sleep and he went upstairs to sleep with mummy. The next morning we went for a mooch in the shops and though we enjoyed ourselves, we didn’t actually buy much (and even then what we bought was from the 99p shop!) so we clearly hadn’t missed much the day before. We had a lovely late lunch of mum’s home-made chips with Bockwurst before we set off for home again. What a wonderfully relaxing visit – not doing, just being πŸ™‚

I couldn’t get a web stream for the Norwich 3 v 4 City match and had to content myself with the radio commentary instead. It sounded a fantastic match and of course, the result was very pleasing too. The effort was certainly better than the apparent lack of interest on Boxing Day and fans of both clubs got their moneys-worth. (MCFC’s 60-second highlights here.)

Other than this, I just enjoyed being at home for a few days – no work, no plans, just pottering around doing little things like catching up with some blogging, cleaning up my laptop (backing up files, doing a defrag etc.) and playing with my new phone, installing apps etc. πŸ™‚ I was not missing work at all!

Precious family time at Christmas

Having finished work on the 21st December, I had two glorious weeks off ahead and got it off to a good start with a couple of nights out. On the Friday night, the darts team got together for a few drinks and light-hearted darts games at the club – this is becoming a very nice tradition now πŸ™‚ On Saturday it was Billy’s work Christmas dinner and this was held at The Heart and was a wonderful night with fantastic food and company. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it put me nicely in the Christmas mood. I then had a couple of days staying indoors to potter around at my own pace preparing for Christmas so it was all very relaxed and un-rushed πŸ™‚ Since I’ve scaled down present buying considerably over the last few years, there weren’t too many to wrap and I’d just about got cards written and posted a few days previously, so I could concentrate on the house and food.

Mum had given us a food goody-bag in which there were really well thought out supplies such as chocolates and biscuits, savouries and beverages and even a treat for the cats and hamsters! (Thank you mummy πŸ™‚ ) We also had another thoughtful gift of an M&S gift card from another relative and this was spent on fresh foods such as dips, pate and cheeses. Finally, my Tesco Clubcard vouchers covered the turkey, a beautiful piece of silverside beef and the other Christmas essentials. All that was left was for me to bake so on the Sunday I made my shortcrust and puff pastries and on Christmas Eve I cooked the meats and did the baking.

Coleslaw and Sausage Rolls

Mince pies and Christmas cake

and set the table

Christmas table

When I went to bed that night, I was just drifting off when I suddenly remembered the kids’ stockings! ARGH! Stephen had gone to work and wouldn’t be home until midnight or after so I could put his on his bed and he’d find it when he came home. But Nel was still up and not likely to go to sleep until the wee small hours; what to do?! As I leapt out of bed Nel called out “Have you just remembered what I have?” and so I went in to her to discuss my dilemma. At no point did she deny that if I left her her stocking now, she’d immediately examine its contents πŸ˜‰ I suggested I placed it somewhere “just so” and she was to get a clock and take a photo to prove it hadn’t moved until after midnight, and she came up with the idea of hanging it on the hook under her clock, which also happens to be on the wall that backs on to my bedroom – so I’d hear her if she tried removing the clock to alter the time! For the final touch, I stapled the top of the stocking so she couldn’t try peeking without touching and we took a photo to show its exact position:

Nel’s Stocking!

She took another at midnight – though in fact Billy (who had spent all afternoon and evening in the pub) returned around midnight and vouched for the security of the stocking at that point πŸ˜€ I don’t know! You’d think when your children are adults, they can manage to wait for their stockings wouldn’t you? πŸ˜‰

The next morning I enjoyed some peace and space whilst everyone else slept and I prepared the veg etc before they emerged at 11 am. Nel sorted the presents and took her own upstairs to open alone (after her diagnosis of autism we started this last year and she was able to fully enjoy presents for the first time) and then everyone gathered in the living room to open our presents together – with Nel opening the cats and any family ones.

The cats enjoyed the wrapping paper pile in the middle of the floor πŸ™‚

As usual, we had some lovely and perfectly chosen presents, including these beautiful Christmas ornaments which a few of the secretaries at work had given me (so unexpectedly that I’d burst into tears when they presented me with them along with a couple of bottles of wine!)

Photobucket

After clearing up and making a couple of family phone calls, I continued to prepare dinner in a leisurely fashion, and it all came together nicely for a relaxed and enjoyable meal – with the usual naff crackers, lots of laughs and everyone enjoying the food (and drink!) After clearing up, Raji and I did the washing up and watched the Queen’s speech (unfortunately the main thing I noticed was that those poor Military Wives had been asked to sing in public a song they clearly didn’t know as they had to make up the tune to “In the bleak midwinter” as they went along! (Why, oh why do people feel the need to take a traditional song and mangle it dreadfully to a new tune? πŸ™ )

We then settled to an afternoon of playing The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game which we had been bought a couple of years ago and somehow overlooked. It was brilliant!

Nasty Horse Racing

By the time Billy won this (having kept a great poker face when Stephen was openly convinced he’d won πŸ˜€ ) we were flagging and settled in front of the TV for a short while before bed.

It had been a very relaxed and smooth running day and I really enjoyed spending the time with my family. We should definitely play games together more often and though they may all have started out just humouring me, I think everyone genuinely enjoyed it as much as I did πŸ™‚

This time last year – I laughed at Nel and her stocking!

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A week’s cat-sitting for a cat we hardly saw.

    Monday

Mum left for her coach trip early on the Monday and after a leisurely breakfast I decided to pop out to the local shops for a couple of hours, leaving Billy to sleep. I mooched about just window shopping before returning home to find Billy had made it to the sofa for the afternoon πŸ˜‰ We treated ourselves to a Dominos pizza for dinner and it was DIVINE! πŸ™‚ We channel hopped a bit until we gamely decided to see what Conan the Adventurer was like. It was truly dreadful with a very low budget and wooden acting – and we laughed throughout, before getting engrossed in NCIS. (We don’t watch TV normally so it was a bit of a novelty.) We didn’t see Rocky as he was staying out Billy’s way since he is scared of men, but we hoped he’d come round as the week went on.

    Tuesday

England were playing cricket so I went off out for the day letting Billy watch it. I had such a lovely time going round all the shops in town, pleasing myself where I went, and poking around in all the charity shops as well as the other shops. I even got some bargains and moreover, they WERE things I actually needed (including replacement darts the same as my old worn out ones) πŸ™‚ I grabbed a light lunch in Bhs to keep me going and I only got the bus back when my feet decided they’d had enough. I can’t remember the last time I did this so it was rather fun – and on the way back I managed not to get caught by the local odd-bod (who had moved seats to sit next to me on my way in earlier and even shook my hand as he introduced himself!) I cooked us steak and chips for dinner with some of mum’s home-made apple pie and lemon meringue pie for afters. Later we simply had to watch Conan again and rewarded ourselves with NCIS afterwards as we had last night. Rocky still wouldn’t come near Billy, though he’d let me give him a quick fuss or two and he polished off every morsel of food I put down for him.

    Wednesday

I decided that Billy had had quite enough time to be lazy and we were now going to spend quality time together! He still managed to laze around for the morning but in the afternoon I was dragging him out for a nice walk along the canal and into town. My vision was a romantic afternoon, me wearing a pretty dress, hand in hand as we enjoyed a summer stroll along the canal. After the 2.5 ish mile walk we’d have an early evening meal in whatever restaurant took our fancy, continuing the romantic mood. Ha! First of all, the weather wasn’t playing ball – it had been glorious the day before but was clouding over as lunchtime appeared, though the forecast had predicted only a 10% chance of rain. Well, by the time we were thinking of going, the heavens opened and it poured! Undeterred, I said it’d soon pass and then we’d go. In the meantime, Rocky appeared like a little drowned waif and we took pity on him and left him the house to himself whilst we went out into the downpour! πŸ˜€ So, the plan had changed a little – no pretty dress but instead jeans, boots and raincoat. Nevertheless I was in a holiday mood and laughed at the sky. Billy pointed out that this may be a mistake – and he was proved right as the rain got even harder and we were soon soaked through with squelching feet. Then came the thunder. And the lightning. Yet when we looked behind us, towards Wales, the sun was shining and the sky was blue! Just like in cartoons, the black clouds started right above us – and came with us πŸ˜€ I had another mocking little rant at the sky – and so came pea sized hailstones! Oh come off it! It’s supposed to be summer! The canal was very high – but the ducks, moor-hens and swans seemed to be enjoying it at least πŸ˜‰ Eventually the weather must have decided that if were still smiling, laughing and even Singing in the rain, it may as well behave – and the sun came out! By this time we’d reached the City walls but felt we were too soggy to go and have a drink in the pub there as we’d planned. We decided we’d also spoil our dinner if we stayed wet so we turned round and walked back the way we’d come. We saw a few other people this time – but no-one was nearly as wet as we were and some were bone dry! When we got back I found my phone was soaked inside and I thought it was dead. Luckily I keep a spare handset in the car so swapped my SIM over and was contactable again. After drying off and getting changed, we got the bus back into town and tried to decide what kind of meal we fancied. I’d been fancying a Chinese for a few days so I suggested we take a look at a place I’ve often seen but never tried – the Slowboat. It looked inviting so we ventured in and we had the early evening banquet – which was absolutely gorgeous! We’d certainly go back and we’d recommend it if you’re ever in Chester and fancy a Chinese meal πŸ™‚ I can’t say I got Billy’s undivided attention as he was on his phone a lot, but it was more than Monday or Tuesday so that was rather nice, but we opted not to stay out, and returned home instead, where I put my phone (minus battery) in the airing cupboard overnight and then guess what we watched?! πŸ˜‰ Rocky was nowhere to be seen but his food bowl was empty so hopefully he’d been in long enough to dry out at least.

    Thursday

In the morning, Rocky surprised me by being on mum’s bed, having clearly spent the night there, and he let me give him a good fuss before he disappeared. My phone surprised me by being dry and working as normal again – good old Nokias! πŸ™‚ We’d earmarked the day for doing a couple of jobs for mum and we decided to clear out the loft first. This was really dusty, dirty work as no-one had been up there for years, but there wasn’t too much there so we got it done quite quickly in the end. We took the stuff to the garage for mum to sort out at her leisure, but at least the loft was free for a loft insulation survey now. We treated ourselves to a light bite at the new Costa drive-thru on the retail park – though we didn’t drive through at all, but parked and went inside πŸ˜‰ We spent the afternoon painting the fence panels – initially this was to be just Billy but I ended up joining in so between us we got five panels done in between dodging the occasional shower. We did have a cuppa sitting on the garden chairs in the sunshine too which was nice. Billy was painting the large part of the panels and I was doing the edges and going over missed bits/2nd coating where needed so he finished before I did and went inside. I was running out of time as I still had dinner to cook and the weather to beat but was determined to complete the final panel. Eventually it was done and I got cleared up and cooked the dinner while Billy had a shower. It was chicken breast dinner with roast potatoes and veg and it went down very nicely after a hard working day. After washing up I went and had a bath as I was now aching. Everywhere. Despite the hard work, I’d really enjoyed spending the time companionably sharing a job with Billy. I wish we did it more often as we do actually make a half-good team and once you can prise him away from the sofa he can actually get quite a bit done. πŸ™‚ Rocky had appeared a couple of times in the garden but he gave us a wide berth so no fusses that day – dinner was wolfed down though!

    Friday

We went to Chester Zoo with L, A and Callum. We’d hoped to meet up with them earlier in the year when they were in our area on holiday but it hadn’t been possible, so instead we wanted to spend a whole day together as the opportunity had arisen. We met them there and our timing was good so no-one had to wait long, and since we had already bought our tickets, we didn’t have to queue to get in either πŸ™‚ Unfortunately Callum has recently been on one of his courses of chemo which meant he was very tired but L and A had brought his wheelchair and Billy took charge of pushing Callum for the day. We had such a lovely day and Callum proved to be a pretty good navigator, working from the zoo map we had given to his care. We didn’t quite see everything as it is such a huge zoo, but we did see everything he wanted and that was the important bit. Mum had bought him a City cap which I gave to him when we arrived and he wore it for the day and I was wearing a City shirt – football shirts seem to be the preferred item of clothing for the zoo visit as I’d remembered from when we used to take the children every year when they were smaller. There were, as you’d expect, lots of Liverpool shirts, a few “checked tablecloths” (if that means nothing to you, google ManUre’s home shirt, not linking! πŸ˜›) and a few City shirts. Funnily enough though, it was a man not wearing any football attire who came up to Callum, tapped his cap and told him that was the best team in the world, and another who said to me that he’d be at the match next day and asked if I would. πŸ™‚ As well as the animals (we saw my favourites, the tigers, and for the first time EVER I actually SAW the elusive jaguars) there was a dinosaur exhibit too which Callum was keen to see so we managed to include that before he got too tired, though actually he was struggling a bit by then. L bought him a toy white rabbit which he watched being made up – complete with birth certificate – and eventually he settled on the name “Azurill” after a Pokemon he likes. Sadly, another side effect of the chemo was that the poor little thing had a mouth full of ulcers so he could hardly eat and had managed with a slushy and a drink all day. None of us had eaten in fact, as L had suggested we go to Frankie & Benny’s for tea as we knew they would be happy to accommodate Callum’s needs as they had last time. We met there after leaving the zoo and had a really tasty dinner and even Callum had managed to eat a reasonable amount of his which was pleasing. It was a very nice way to round off the day as we all got on so well (it was the first time Billy and A had met but as I’d thought, they hit it off right away – a little too well at times resulting in a light hearted battle between the sexes πŸ˜‰ ) It seemed to soon be time to say goodbye, but we had thoroughly enjoyed the day and it was absolutely lovely to spend such quality time with my Godson who was so good and so uncomplaining the whole time. I just pray for the evil that is cancer to go away and let Callum and his whole family live a normal life again.

We arrived home only moments before mum returned from her holiday so soon we were all sipping our drinks (vodka for me, gin for mum and Billy) and catching up a little – but we were all so tired that it wasn’t a late night at all.

Slide show of a few photos (right click area and reload if not seen straight away)

South West to South East and back to North East

After leaving Dorset we drove along the coast road to Sussex where we were spending the night in Eastbourne as I’d been keen to take this little detour so that I could see my brother having not seen him since Easter last year. (He doesn’t have visa or inoculations to travel north of the Watford gap πŸ˜‰ )

We’d booked in to the Bay Tree Guest House and had received an e-mail explaining that a parking permit would be given to us for on-street parking and that if there was no available parking outside we could drop off our bags and the proprietors would help us find somewhere nearby. We drove round a couple of times and couldn’t see anywhere so Billy got out, returning with both our hosts – one helped to take in the bags and the other hopped in the car and took me to a nearby road where we found a parking spot. Phew! Without his help I’d have been panicking as I love driving but hate parking. We’d been given a lovely room on the top floor and it was spacious, thoughtfully equipped and very welcoming. We only stopped long enough for the loo before walking the couple of hundred yards to the prom.

The plan had been to have the afternoon in Eastbourne on our own but having left so late, I was a little frustrated to only have an hour. However, I didn’t want to waste that hour so we went to Fusicardi’s Eastbourne’s best ice-cream shop which has been there for years and had an ice-cream walking along the sea front. (If you pay attention, you’ll know that ice-cream doesn’t agree with me so I don’t eat it – only for Fusciardi’s will I willingly suffer the tummy ache that comes after πŸ˜‰ ) Then it was time to go and freshen up to go to Rick and Mel’s.

The road to Uckfield hasn’t changed much apart from the big spaghetti roundabout at Polegate so I enjoyed a nostalgic drive and we were soon at Rick’s. Rick and I chatted about City for a bit and I gave him his birthday present and match programme, and a couple of bits from mum that she’d asked us to bring down. Mel cooked us a gorgeous roast dinner followed by apple strudel and we then relaxed and caught up on everyone’s news. Jay had joined us for a bit and naturally Billy and I made a fuss of the beautiful big pussycats who had grown into themselves since I last saw them.

In the background was the Champions League Final between Bayern MΓΌnchen and Chelsea and though it looked like MΓΌnchen were having most of the play, it was still 0-0 when we left. This was at 9pm as I was pretty tired having done a bit of driving and knowing I had a full day of driving next day, so we tore ourselves away reluctantly. We’d had a really good evening and I was so pleased we’d taken a detour to Sussex. On the drive back to Eastbourne Billy looked at his phone and said “Bloody hell, it’s 1-1 now!” Once again we had to have help to find somewhere to park but at long last we were in our room and I could relax for the night. We put on the TV and caught some of the football’s extra time and then the penalties. Even as the penalties started it looked like MΓΌnchen would probably win, but up stepped Drogba and much as I don’t like him, I had to admire his very coolly taken penalty which sealed the win for them. Well done Chelsea.

We both took a while to get to sleep but once we did we slept well and after a gorgeous, freshly cooked breakfast, we packed and then went for a final walk along the seafront. After visiting the souvenir shops for little gifts to take home, we stopped for a coffee on the beach at one of the beach cafΓ©s so I had a little longer to admire the sea and breathe in the sea air. Then it was a quick stop at the B&B to check out and thank our lovely hosts once more for looking after us so well, and then we were off. (We’d definitely recommend this guest house and I shall certainly see if they have any vacancies next time I’m in the area.)

I expected it to take a good 8 hours to drive home assuming roads were clear, though I was anticipating lots of traffic with it being a Sunday. However after a brief stop for petrol (because it was Β£1.33 a litre compared to Β£1.38 at home and considerably more at motorway services!) and another to buy a picnic lunch and use the loo at Tesco, we had a trouble free drive and made good time. Since we had the means and the time (having expected neither) we even stopped at Tebay services for a hot dinner which was a nice treat.

We were home by 8.30pm and after greeting everyone – people and cats alike – I unpacked the essentials, sifted through the important post and then collapsed into bed πŸ™‚ Our trip had been tiring in some ways but a complete mental break from routine which was just what we needed. It was also a rare chance to see our families in the south and enjoy their company so all in all a lovely holiday.