After St George

On Tuesday, Nel mum and I went to Newcastle – via Ten bus at Nel’s insistence so we had a thorough tour of every town and village on the (very winding) way πŸ˜‰ We decided we needed lunch first since the 1.5 hour ride meant we arrived at noon, so we took advantage of a special offer and a voucher we had to enjoy a Pizza Hut special. Mmmm. πŸ™‚ Mum and I then followed Nel round since a) she knew where she was going and b) she had specific shops she wanted to visit. She came back with a few bargains, mum bought one thing she’d been after, and I came home empty handed (though there was nothing I’d been after, to be fair.) During our equally long return bus ride home, Stephen phoned to ask where everyone was as he’d planned to spend some time with Granny (Men!) but by the time we were home, he was busy with friends again. We didn’t do anything much in the evening bar watching some TV and mum packing. Oh and a bit more mutual love and attention between mum and the cats – who loved having someone else around to adore them.

Mum returned home on Wednesday, though I’d soon be seeing her again when I went down at the weekend ahead of my football match and I got on with my usual Wednesday jobs at home. This time it involved putting things back to normal of course, but I could do that at my leisure. I have got so out of the habit of having guests now, though in the past I’ve always had regular visitors and have always had a home and spare room ready at all times. This time it took a lot of clearing, sorting, and cleaning to prepare (mainly because with all the hours I am working, I am not here to keep on top of things) and I had to scrabble around somewhat for decent spare bedding having used it all ourselves over the years. Nel helped, and Billy earned lots of Brownie points both in the preparation for and during mum’s visit as he really was a huge help physically and with moral support – sssshhhhh, don’t tell him though else he’ll just blow them all in one go πŸ˜‰

Hopefully now mum’s retired she might visit again occasionally as we all enjoyed having her here πŸ™‚

A mum who is everything…


A single white carnation represents the purity of a mother’s love

Today brings memories
of the love you’ve shown,
and of the happy moments
we’ve shared.

Mother’s Day means
looking back on all the times
your thoughtfulness
has really made a difference…

You have such a special way
of sharing your love
and doing so much for others…

…And so today’s the
perfect time to tell you,
you are appreciated
and loved more than
you’ll ever know.

This is the wording on the Mother’s Day card I chose for my mum this year and as usual, although I’m pleased to find some nice words, they just can’t quite express what I feel. My mum is, in my opinion, quite simply the most wonderful woman ever to walk the earth. She is my mum, my best friend and my sister all rolled in to one seamless, almost perfect person πŸ™‚

My earliest memories of my mum are of soft cuddles, security, happiness, contentedness and quite simply… love. If mum said everything was well, it was. If I had a problem, mum could always put it right or help me to do so. If something good happened mum was the one with whom I shared the pleasure. As a child I believed mum was always right – about everything! If there was a quiz show on TV I was sure all her answers were right (to be fair they probably were most of the time!) If I asked her about the likelihood of something happening and she said “I doubt it” that meant it definitely wouldn’t, and if she said “maybe” it probably would – she was my oracle. If I did something to disappoint her, I was devastated – she rarely needed to get cross with me as I always wanted to please her. She was the centre of my universe and my life’s barometer and she was everything a mum can and should be to a child. (If I was half the mum to my kids that she was (and is) to me, then I’d be delighted with that.)

As an adult, my relationship with mum has evolved and she really is my best friend too. We are fairly alike in many ways (in fact we laughingly pity anyone else spending time with the pair of us as it must be like having one person in stereo! πŸ˜‰ ) and yet we are also different in some ways – partly a generation thing, (albeit the gap between us is only 20 years) partly the other half of my genes, ( I do share a few traits with my dad) and partly the evolution of my own personality and opinions. Our likeness to each other means that we can laugh together (often without needing words), cry together, use each other as sounding boards for ideas, or just have a darned good moan about life, the world and the universe without having to worry about how it comes out. Our differences range from opinions on minor things to social/political issues – but we are quite happy to be different without a need to judge or preach, and often these differences can be cause for humour e.g. I just love teasing mum in the fruit/veg aisles of the supermarket πŸ˜‰ Although I admire mum, I haven’t put her on a pedestal so that she isn’t allowed to be human, but she IS my role model and my inspiration. She’s taught me, by example, to be strong yet caring and to be a lady.

We’ve shared so many good times, bad times and times in between and all have only brought us closer. So in no particular order, some of my memories of times shared with mum include:

  1. Moving to Chester – when dad left the army they bought an ex-army house in Chester and though I had left home, I enjoyed helping with the move. The house had been vandalised when mum and I arrived (as the advance party, going up on the train ahead of dad and the removals van) We shared the shock and horror then we sorted it out together so that when the van arrived order had largely been returned. I can still vividly recall sitting in the garden in the bright sunshine eating fish & chips from the takeaway round the corner. So though I never grew up in the house in Chester, it has always felt like home to me, and to the children it has always been their 2nd home.

  2. Swearing – mum doesn’t swear and neither do I. (Well, our swear words are: bloody; bug – ger (trying to avoid unwanted traffic via keyword bots here); and damn – very mild these days!) To be fair in fact, neither did dad at home so I grew up in a swear-free home and that is what I expect in my home too. There’s a time and a place and the home is not it! Mum instilled this in me and the one time I used a word, not realising it was not acceptable as an everyday word was when I was 13 and mum, Rick and I were walking home together one summer afternoon. I used the word c.r.a.p. The next thing I knew was that mum slapped the back of my bare legs and I was shocked! “What? It means “rubbish”” I said, much affronted. “I don’t care,” she replied, “You are not to say it!” and that was that. I still don’t use, or like, the word. Once when Rick and I were teenagers we were obviously irritating mum and she got annoyed and told us to “Stop………” she groped for the words she wanted, couldn’t find them and blustered “… fart-arsing around” It certainly had the effect of stopping us doing whatever it was (I don’t remember that bit) as we were so completely shocked that we just sat with mouths agape, speechless! πŸ˜€ (Both Fart and arsing are words she’d never used before (nor since I don’t think) and though I do now use the former occasionally, I don’t use the latter nor its noun. )

  3. When we were children, mum would always insist on a proper family breakfast and evening meal, and when we got older, though she worked full time, if she had a weekday off, she would buy something nice and cook us a meal at lunchtime and we’d go home and have a special lunch. (As an adult, I appreciate how much of her precious day off this used.) If it was unexpectedly raining, she’d come and meet us with a brolly or coat – which also reminds me of that very hot summer of 1976 when we went to school a 1.5 mile walk away and she’d bring cold drinks to us when she came to walk us home. When I’d left home but we were all still living in Sussex, mum would come and meet me for lunch sometimes if she had a day off and the mornings on those days dragged by yet I loved the anticipation of an hour with mum to break up the day/week and spending some quality time with her.

  4. Learning by watching – When the children were little and I was floundering round trying to get the hang of parenting, mum was there to offer a steadying hand, yet she never interfered. She didn’t tell me how I should be doing things, but I learned by watching her. In fact, I learned a lot by simply watching her as I grew up. I loved watching her do things. I loved watching her put on her make-up and felt this was my special time with her as naturally, neither dad nor Rick wanted to watch her do this so I got her all to myself for 5 minutes. I loved watching her cook – even the mundane stuff like preparing vegetables and once when we went to Sunday dinner with a friend of dad’s and his new young wife, she was trying to prepare sprouts and clearly hadn’t a clue what to do with them. Rick and I told her how mum did them and she gratefully did as we’d described so by watching mum we learned without realising it and were able to help someone else. I also learned how to bake by watching mum. She makes the best pastry of anyone I know and I remember making pastry at school once and being told off for making it the way mum makes it (even now I can’t see the problem, mum makes it the normal way as far as I can tell!) but since I KNEW mum’s pastry was better than the school recipe I carried on regardless πŸ™‚ I loved watching her sew dresses – she always made my school summer dresses and I was so proud of that, and sometimes she made us matching dresses. Sadly, I can’t sew to save my life, but when I was only about 4 or 5, I decided I was going to make Rick some trousers. I’m giggling as I type this but doubt I can adequately describe my creation. I had a piece of red tartan fabric big enough to cut out the shape of a pair of trousers, but not big enough for both back and front. So an old white sheet was used to form the back! I cut out the shape of trousers and hand stitched (remember I was 4 or 5!) all but the foot holes and waist, and I’d failed to add any extra material to go AROUND his legs, then presented my little brother with his gift! πŸ˜€ Another sewing memory of one Christmas when the children and I (in my single parenting days) had come to Chester to spend Christmas with mum and dad. They had (and still have) a stocking each and I had somehow managed to forget to bring them! Mum and I spent Christmas Eve sewing two stockings out of a couple of (yellow) pillow cases. πŸ™‚

  5. Helping each other through– When dad was ill (yes, single occasion – he never really got ill/ let on if he did) mum and I visited a couple of times a day, sometimes together, sometimes separately. As is the nature of the evil that is cancer, we got through one day at a time, never really knowing whether things would get better or worse and never getting any straight answers from the doctors. We intuitively knew that the prognosis was poor and together we did our own research, talked openly and honestly and literally laughed and cried together through the short weeks before the inevitable happened. We needed each other and we were there for each other. Along with Rick and Billy, we planned his funeral together, again laughing and crying, and we leaned on each other on the day itself. After the perfect send off, we decided we’d “do” St George’s Day for him every year and in the 8 years since, we have spent every St George’s Day together in memory of him. We’ve had the odd tear of course, but we’re not maudlin and we laugh a lot too. I love our SGD memories – you can share some of them here. We similarly got each other through when my beloved Nan, mum’s mum, was ill and then died> and as her birthday was April 22nd, we sort of combine memories of her with our SGD activities.

  6. Mum can kill with a look – well, she can turn back the tide and stop a man with a gun anyway πŸ˜€ Mum is pretty easy going and very selfless, but if she’s determined or annoyed, nothing will deter her (yes, I know! A trait I share! πŸ˜› ) When we flew to Hong Kong back in 1986 we had a brief stop for fuelling in Dubai and we were ushered off the plane by a Dubai guard with a gun. Mum gave him “the look” and muttered “don’t you point your gun at me!” A couple of years later when mum and I were were on one of our annual girly weekends away, we went for a walk along the seafront on a very blustery day and the sea was throwing up huge waves across our desired path on the prom. Mum glared at it fiercely before walking at HER own pace along the path, just daring a wave to hit her. It didn’t!

  7. Keeping a sense of humour – When mum had her hip replacement a couple of years ago I was really pleased to be in a position of being able to help her by staying with her at first and then visiting each week. Apart from the fact that she was recovering from a physically traumatic procedure, I loved our time together and still giggle at one of the many memories from that time – in fact I’ve just read it again here and am in fits. πŸ˜€ Again, we got through the post-op challenges by being able to be honest and by laughing together and the experience cemented our closeness.

  8. Loving cats – Mum and I (and all our family) share a love of cats. We’ve nearly always had cats, though the first I remember really is Tippy, a black cat we had when I was about 8 I think. When we went to live in Germany, my aunt and uncle took her for us and I remember being sad but trusting my cousin Keith when he promised they’d take good care of her. In Germany we had Tigger – part German wild cat – a big tabby with a wild streak. We lived on the top floor of a block of flats so we took him out on a lead for walks – HOW embarrassing Rick and I found that! And how entertaining too – cats go where they want, under cars, up trees and under bushes so many a time one of us was hanging on to the lead whilst the other had to try and retrieve a stubborn cat! Dad loved to tease and he played a bit too much one day and Tigger launched himself off dad’s lap rather too strongly – hurting dad somewhere a bit delicate! πŸ˜€ He gave us many memories including chasing Rick up the road (his leg still carries the scar), going off for a wander for days (once we were back in England and he could go out alone) and following us home through the woods once we’d tracked him down ( he offended many dogs and their owners along the way by swiping their noses with his claws when they got too inquisitive, despite our warnings that he might hurt their dogs!) As well as his wildness, he had his soft side and I remember crying in to his fur when I (wrongly) thought I’d broken mum’s new washing machine, and he had a soft spot for a neighbour’s somewhat neglected, almost permanently pregnant cat and he’d leave her some food in his bowl. We later adopted one of her kittens, Tiddles, and he accepted her in to the family. We lost him when he went AWOL one final time and never returned. Tiddles, though, had one litter of her own (gorgeous little things – one black, one white, one tabby and one silver tabby) and she moved to Chester with mum and dad and they had her many years before she died of old age after a fairly pampered life. Mum wasn’t quite ready for another cat but dad dived in and brought home Muffin, a beautiful mass of long black fur who really was daddy’s little boy and who shared the loss of dad and helped mum through. It was devastating when he too died. When she was ready, mum found another beautiful little puss who needed to be loved, and now Rocky is the lucky recipient of as much love and attention as his little furry heart could ever desire. I am honoured to have been there when mum got him and more so that this nervous little wussy cat enjoys my visits when I go to Chester. Mum has also shared my cats over the years too – Blackie, Jet, Toby, Garfie, Timmy, Tinker, Zeb and Zara – the welcoming in to the family and the upset when they leave. More memories that we can share and that bind us.

I have too many memories shared with mum to write, but as I hope the few examples show, it’s the bad times as well as the good that strengthen the bond between us. The tears are the binding that strengthens the laughter. My mum is the most thoughtful, caring, loving person I know and she is always there for me. She supports me in practical and emotional ways and I don’t have to pretend to be anything other than I am with her. She can read my blog entries and pick up on unspoken things which no-one else would because we are so alike and in tune. We have a telepathic connection and we just KNOW when something is not quite right even if we haven’t seen each other, or spoken, or even texted, anything to give any hint that this is the case. In fact we are an extension of each other and can make decisions and choices on behalf of each other because we know what the other would want.

She was a perfect mum when I was a child, and she is still a perfect mum now – nurturing me even though I have grown up children of my own. I also know she is one of the children’s favourite people in the world and just as she has done with me, mum has been a perfect caring, protective, guiding adult when they were little and a reassuring, non-interfering friendly presence now they are grown.

I adore my mum, she is everything the cards say on this day of the year…… but she is also more.

Happy Mother’s Day mum. I love you so very much and am so lucky to have you as my mum. I know you will have both laughed and cried at these few shared memories I have posted, and I know that there are a million more that I haven’t written. I’d like to add more in the future so maybe you can help me choose some. For now though, I just want you – and the world – to know that I look up to you as you are the perfect mum and that I am very grateful for everything you have done, and continue to do, for me.
With lots of love from YLD – X

Rounding off my holiday

After my match I went to mum’s and stayed with her for a couple of days, in which time we: shopped; attended an appointment (routine); hunted for fabric in fabric shops then charity shops before mum suddenly recalled some old curtains she had that might suit my purpose; dug out said curtains πŸ™‚ ; dug out some other stuff that would be gratefully received at home; spent ages in B&Q finding the paint I wanted (mould-proof, steam-proof paint for bathroom ceiling); dug around in the compost making bin (fascinating stuff, I’m getting quite into mum’s recycling-for-compost); ate; drank; laughed and admired Rocky. In short, a lovely couple of days πŸ™‚

Back home, I knuckled down to my list of jobs again and am happy to report that I did the lot! I painted the bathroom ceiling (I HATE painting ceilings and still ache now!), I put up shelves in Billy’s and Stephen’s rooms, I cleaned the oven (I can now see through the glass doors to see how the food is cooking πŸ™‚ ), I began my very basic ‘cos I am no seamstress sewing project by cutting out the fabric from mum, and pinning together so now I can sew a bit each evening when sitting down with Nel, I sorted my bag, tidied the bedroom, and caught up properly with a multitude of other little things that accumulate when I’m working. I also kept up my gym sessions which I’ve enjoyed, and I’ve been able to fuss my 3 beautiful cats throughout the day as I pass through the living room. An added bonus has been being around to spend a few minutes several times a day, chatting to Billy and the kids just as the mood and opportunity arise.

On Thursday I watched the Sporting v City match on TV, but it was a poor performance by City and I was rather relieved to only finish 1-0 down. (MCFC’s highlights here.) Happily we do have a chance to turn it around at home next week, though we’ll have to play better than that!

On Friday I went with Nel to walk one of her doggy clients – and got muddy and an extra workout with the hilly quarry but enjoyed the walk, the fresh air, the lovely dog and her feline friends and spending the time with Nel. In the evening it was darts – my first game for 3 weeks and I was looking forward to rounding off my break with a relaxing evening with my friends. We were away at The Fox – a nice pub, good board and friendly team πŸ™‚ Paul arrived very late – after the time the game is supposed to start – so we, his team, dropped him, our captain! πŸ˜€ (The team had to be drawn so we could get the playing orders for both teams started) I ended up being first, then: Junior; Senior; Claire; Graham and Simon. It was fairly level through most games though we won: our first trebles; only Senior’s and Claire’s doubles ( myself and Junior were dreadful and easily beaten); my singles and Junior’s, Senior’s and Simon’s. This meant we won 5-6 and makes our 6th win of the season! πŸ™‚ Senior was particularly on fire all evening and he won his singles game using just 18 darts in all! Simon did very well to win his and I nicked mine as I was 200 or so behind but my opponent couldn’t finish – even though I misfired a few times giving him even more chance to do so! Apart from one person being very inebriated and ruffling a few feathers slightly, it was a good evening and I enjoyed it, and being with the gang again πŸ™‚

Finally, over the weekend I’ve been baking and preparing for my return to work – do I have to go back? Can someone write me a note? πŸ˜‰ Actually, I love my work so I don’t mind going back in terms of enjoyment of the job, but I have just so thoroughly enjoyed being able to do things at home and being more physically active than I am at work. I’ve had a wonderful time being off and feel that my batteries are recharged, which they had so desperately needed. I highly recommend two consecutive weeks off work (something I haven’t done for years) and shall certainly try and repeat the exercise in future.

Quiet Christmas at home.

When the children were small I used to have all the presents under the tree but they’d get a stocking from Father Christmas, which he delivered when they were asleep and which they were allowed to investigate when they woke up in the morning – before disturbing me at 6am πŸ˜‰ Of course, as they’ve got older they’ve stayed awake until their stockings arrived and opened them before even going to sleep. Now they’re older still and go to bed way after me, they open them before even going to bed! So I was rather pleased with myself this year when I came up with the cunning plan to leave their stockings in the morning when I woke up – before they were even thinking of waking up! πŸ˜€ But Nel was not amused! She begged, pleaded and finally threatened that I was messing with her autism! So I said “OK. Go and get me your stocking and I’ll fill it now then, as I don’t want to mess with that!” At which point she hesitated. And admitted she’d used it as an excuse. (I’d guessed that.) I said that nevertheless, if she wanted it now, she could have it. So she thought about it and came up with a compromise – since I always get up for the loo in the night, I could do the stockings then. That seemed workable so after she’d closed my door I filled the stockings – well, OK, stocking plus a small bag for Nel and a large gift bag for Stephen as his stocking went AWOL years ago. πŸ˜‰ When I got up at just gone midnight for the loo, I put them outside the kids’ doors – Stephen was out but Nel pounced on ehrs the second I shut my door so I laughed and called out “Merry Christmas” to her πŸ™‚

When I woke up properly at 6 am, I had a pounding headache and my ears were sore so before I had my breakfast and coffee, I took a large dose of herbs* to try and settle it so it wouldn’t spoil Christmas. It took an hour or so before it calmed enough for me to face the day and I had to take a couple more doses during the the morning but it receded enough to let me have my Christmas. Nel was up next and came in to say hello just as I was about to go for a nice bath. We had already agreed that she could open her presents on her own as it causes her a lot of stress opening them in front of other people ( a genuine autistic trait) so she opened them whilst I bathed.

When the men got up and joined us, we all sat together in the living room to open presents together – Nel had the cats’ and hamsters’ pile to open and she had her one from mum as mum had stipulated that we all had to open them together as they were themed. Mum had bought us all a watch each! What a lovely idea and all of them well chosen to suit the individual πŸ™‚

Nel gave the cats their treats and their “cosmic banana – Zara got it first and Nel left it wrapped but she didn’t take long to unwrap it:

The toy had come with a warning that cats go absolutely mad for it so it should be kept well hidden until Christmas and it seemed there had been no exaggeration. All the cats took turns with it, though Zara had had it the most and spent the rest of the day quite literally stoned!


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We all did very well – we had fewer presents than in previous years but all of them were perfect and we were happy. Billy bought me a beautiful pair of sapphire earrings; Nel bought me a colour-changing candle, some rose bath salts and bath fizzes and a pretty purple wine glass; Raji bought me a gift set of my favourite perfume; and Stephen bought me a rather fantastic mug:

Stephen rather amusingly, thought he’d had just a key-ring gadget from us and a child’s Thorntons chocolate animal from Raji – we had to tell him he’d missed the money that was wrapped with them! πŸ˜€ Bless him! Billy did well as both kids got him an Amazon voucher which he could use together and get something from his Amazon wish list. One of Raji’s best presents was a huge mug from Nel so he now only has to make cups of tea half as many times whilst still feeding his tea addiction πŸ™‚

After a couple of phone calls to wish mum and Rick a Happy Christmas, we all sat together for Christmas dinner at 1pm – turkey and the trimmings (beef or pork for those who preferred it/wanted it as well as turkey), Christmas crackers (complete with naff jokes, paper hats and a game of charades), Christmas pudding (or syrup sponge pudding/mince pies for those who preferred) with cream or ice-cream, coffee and chocolates. For some reason Billy kept trying to get down from the table and Stephen couldn’t wait to get away either so after a couple of rounds of rather entertaining charades, I gave up and let them go. Nel and Stephen disappeared upstairs, Billy immediately flopped on to the sofa, and Raji helped clear the table. Guess who washed up?! (More herbs helped me through.)

Raji and I sat and watched the Queen’s speech (Billy disappeared for that bit) and I thought she got the tone just right. Well done Ma’am. πŸ™‚

Then at 4pm we all sat together again to watch the last Harry Potter film – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 – both the kids had seen it before, Billy and I had seen all the previous films and had read the book, but Raji had never seen any of the films – so at the end, Nel loaned him her boxed set so he could catch up πŸ™‚ Stephen fidgeted a bit and eventually disappeared, which was a bit disappointing as he knows I like to have the family together on Christmas Day, but otherwise I enjoyed the film and the day.

I was tiring fast but Nel wanted me to watch TV with her at 8pm so I went upstairs and got undressed and read a couple of magazines until then, but really could do without it – my headache was building up again and I felt like I could sleep for a week. I just about made it to 8pm but then Nel said she was too tired too and wasn’t going to watch TV after all. Hooray! Oh dear! She was upset at missing her programme though so I sent a text to mum to see if she’d record it for Nel to watch next day when we visited. That sorted, I collapsed thankfully into bed – and went out like a light.

Merry Christmas everyone. πŸ™‚

(* Herb mix was anti-inflammatory and lymph system boosting: Poke root/puke weed; white willow bark; meadowsweet; liquorice)

Pre-Christmas R&R

After the Norwich match I drove to mum’s and was staying there so that I could go to the Bayern MΓΌnchen game midweek, giving me a few days R&R with one of my favourite people in the whole world πŸ™‚

We decided to go Christmas browsing/shopping on the Sunday and we had such fun – we even bought a couple of bits so that I could at last say I’d officially started my Christmas shopping πŸ˜‰ It would soon be mine and Billy’s wedding anniversary too, our 7th which apparently was our woollen anniversary, and as we do like to buy something to fit the theme, I wanted to look out for something woolly for Billy. We’d already agreed not to spend much money this year as we don’t have much, so I was struggling somewhat. We racked our brains for something a bit different but could only think of the usual woolly hats/gloves/scarves which seemed a bit dull, so I had to leave it. We also mused about the current fashion for leggings and a long top and being in a somewhat light-hearted mood we decided to try some on and see if we suited them. We decided we did so we got a pair each. πŸ™‚ It was a silly, giggly, fun day – even going to Tesco for a few groceries isn’t dull with us two! After that we went home for tea and crumpets to keep us going until dinner before relaxing in front of TV for the night.

On Monday mum had to go to work so I nipped to Costco and Ellesmere Port, and then just enjoyed a day at home catching up with a few things. I then had a lazy evening with mum when she returned, but on Tuesday she’d taken the day off so we could go out to play πŸ™‚ We decided to go to Wrexham as I haven’t been there for absolutely ages. We had another really enjoyable day out, and though it was rather cold, it didn’t spoil it. Mum knew of a small bakery with a cafe upstairs and we had a lovely hot lunch of gorgeous cheese-on-toast which just melted in the mouth, accompanied by a hot cup of tea. With this time of year being so busy, we thought parking might be difficult so we went on the bus and I quite enjoyed that too and some of the scenery was pretty. We didn’t really buy much but I’d really enjoyed browsing round some different shop and in such excellent company too πŸ™‚

In the evening a colleague of mum’s came round – with a hamster for Nel! Mum had heard that the hamster was not getting much attention and sounded Nel out about adopting it – was there ever going to be any doubt about the answer? πŸ˜‰ We hadn’t previously known what type or gender the hamster was, only that its name was Rody (presumably short for rodent) When I saw it, although I couldn’t tell the gender just by looking at the furry blob running around in the cage, I could see it was a Campbell’s dwarf and thought Nel would be pleased. Mum and I debated where to keep little Rody (who wasn’t a bit shy and very happy to come out and say hello) so that Rocky wouldn’t get at him/her. The only room in the house which could be shut to keep Rocks out was the downstairs loo, but it was freezing in there and we were worried that it would be far too cold. Eventually we settled on the cupboard under the stairs which was out of the way but plenty big enough that Rody could get air. We didn’t need to check up on him/her – we could hear the wheel spinning vigorously for hours on end.

On Wednesday I spent the day organising my things for the evening’s football match and for going home very early next morning (I was working on the Thursday so needed to drive home to leave Rody, then go straight to work.) I packed the boot and just left myself what I’d need, and then set off for my game at 4.15pm to allow plenty of time…

Wolves 2 – 5 City – and a sick cat.

Early in the evening I’d noticed Zara’s right eye was closed but when I opened it to check it was clear with no discharge or inflammation that I could see so wasn’t too worried. By the time I sat down to watch City playing away at Wolves in the Carling Cup I had a poorly pussycat on my lap – she was now very hot, lethargic and her eye looked swollen behind the closed lid, with a bit of visible pink in the corner, but still no discharge. I was somewhat concerned but didn’t really think calling a vet out or rushing her to see one was necessary. Zara will come on laps for a short while but she fidgets a bit and doesn’t really feel settled. However, on this Wednesday evening, she was floppy and heavy and seemed to derive comfort from being with me. For my part, I was constantly noting how fast she was breathing and worrying about her. She stayed on my lap throughout the entire match without moving much and when I did have to get up to go to bed, Nel took her in to her room to keep watch over.

I thoroughly enjoyed the match itself. City didn’t start very well and in fact looked almost like they were just testing the waters for the first half, whereas Wolves were really trying to get ahead. And they did indeed go 1-0 up about 15 minutes in. Thankfully AJ equalised with a good finish and then by half time it was 1-3 with Nasri and Dzeko scoring. I don’t think I’ve ever kept my goal celebrations so muted but didn’t want to disturb Zara so made do with a whispered “Yess” and little air punch. I was no less pleased though.

Even better was to come in the second half and City scored another 2 – it’s like we just don’t know how to stop scoring at the moment! We then conceded another goal (I’m not too convinced by Pantilimon, I have to say ) but can’t argue that Wolves didn’t deserve it. I thought they’d tried hard and could hold up their heads despite lacking in quality (that sounds patronising, but actually that is not my intent. I like Wolves and I do think it was quality that let them down in this game, not effort or spirit.)

So, City still playing well and coping with differing styles of play from opposition teams, and in to the last 8 of the cup. The draw took place the following weekend, and the good thing with being behind with my blogging is that I can tell you who we have next – Arsenal away. Hmmmm….

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

As for Zara – Billy and Nel took her to the vet the next afternoon and it was decided she had some sort of virus and conjunctivitis. She was given a couple of injections and some eye drops and we had to keep a close watch over her. It took a few days, but eventually her eye cleared and opened, and her temperature slowly returned to normal. She had us all quite worried – to the extent that Billy even had her in bed with him one night – taking up most of the room and ensuring he got little sleep. We do love our little furry darlings though and are very relieved that she seems better now.

A couple of days with mum.

After the match, mum greeted me with a vodka and lemonade all ready to drink and at last I could fully relax. As she had taken the day off work on Monday, we now had 2 whole days ahead of us, which was rather good.

On Sunday we browsed the shops and stopped for a coffee at Costa and got home mid-afternoon, so we mum had the rather excellent idea of having crumpets and a cup of tea to keep us going until dinner. We decided to have a peek at how the Arsenal v Sunderland game was going and ended up watching the last 15 minutes or so of it. We were then utterly decadent and watched the Newcastle v Spurs game – which was a fantastic match and we got rather caught up in it πŸ™‚ Billy was there, along with Simon and Claire (the latter having to sit in the home end, so I hope she behaved πŸ˜‰ ) and I exchanged the odd text with Billy. Mum cooked us a lovely roast dinner and had to go out to the kitchen before the match finished, and I was on my way to help her with something when I saw Newcastle had a break on at 1-2 and was sure they would score – when they did, I cheered – and heard an echoing cheer from the kitchen πŸ™‚ We ate our roast lamb with the TV left on just to follow the last few minutes of the match – we do like our football πŸ™‚

On Monday, mum was expecting a delivery and called the company to find out what time her bedroom furniture was coming. They said it would be after 1pm and that the driver would call mum’s mobile to give her an hour’s notice. That suited us nicely as mum had a hospital appointment (physio for her still troublesome hip) at 11am, and we decided to go to CostCo first as there were a few bits we wanted and we got there for opening time, got we wanted and went to pay. As we got to the till I realised the bag of winter grit mum had bought was split so we brought it to the attention of the girl at the checkout who asked if we wanted to swap it – to which we naturally replied “yes”. She proceeded to put our stuff through – including the split bag and when we had paid and no help was forthcoming I asked if were to go and get a new bag ourselves – and apparently this was indeed the case! Not only were we unimpressed that we had to go and fetch a new bag (requiring the finding of another trolley as the bag was too heavy for us to carry) but also that this had not been made clear and the staff completely uninterested. Eventually I wrestled a bag that wasn’t split from underneath all the ones that were and we were on our way to the hospital.

To my amazement, we parked without difficulty (when I used to go there daily to visit dad it used to be terrible.) I grabbed the book I keep in my glove box and read that whilst mum had her session and then we drove 2 minutes down the road to Morrisons where we planned to have lunch. Just then mum’s mobile rang – the furniture would arrive in an hour’s time, so we decided that rather than worry, we’d grab some food to have lunch at home. It was the right choice and we’d just eaten our yummy steak slice and baguette when the delivery arrived. The driver was chirpy,friendly and helpful and took the furniture upstairs which was nice, and then mum and I finished our lunch before putting it in place. After that we found a container for the winter grit and put it where it would be handy for use, put away the shopping and pottered about before relaxing for the evening.

On Tuesday, mum went to work and I popped in to town. Ironically, since I wanted to drive rather than get the bus, I decided to do the non-perishable Tesco shopping a day early so I could park in Tesco’s car park – but they had some sort of problem with their “in” ramp meaning we were directed up the exit ramp and therefore no ticket was issued – so I didn’t have to pay anyway! (You get free parking for certain period of time dependent on your total spend in the store.) After that I went home for lunch and then spent the afternoon repairing Rocky’s little house which badly needed the waterproof roof covering replacing. Rocky poked his head through the cat-flap whilst I was doing this and I think he thought I was pinching his house!

After eating some of the stew mum had cooked the previous day, I got myself ready and set off for the match – really looking forward to it as I rarely get to an evening game, and obviously had never been to a Champions League one

Collection from Chester

On Sunday, I set off back to Chester after a really intense week at work, so thoroughly enjoyed the time alone just being me. The sun was shining, the scenery through the Lake District beautiful and all in all it was a thoroughly pleasant drive. I needed to pop in to a couple of mum’s shops on my way, including B&Q for some felt roofing tacks (Billy having acquired a piece of felt from a friend so we can finally fix the shed roof.)

When I arrived at Mum’s she’d cooked a tasty roast dinner (lamb) despite having only returned from her own holiday the night before. She’d been on a coaching holiday to South Wales and Nel had been house and cat sitting for the week. Nel had enjoyed a bit of time away, but she’d had a couple of things going wrong, including her laptop charger dying, so I think she was also ready to return home again. Pleasingly, Rocky had been happy to have her company and even slept on the bed with her a couple of nights – maybe Mum’s wussy cat is getting brave in his old age πŸ™‚

After dinner, mum washed up, I went to check progress of the bedding on the washing line, and Nel collected some of the seeds that had fallen from mum’s hanging basket. Hopefully next year, both mum and I can have beautiful baskets of blue at no cost πŸ™‚

We left around 3pm and had a lovely drive home, catching up on news on the way, and that was that – another weekend over already.

I am woman. I am invincible.

After a pleasant morning out and about in London and then an entertaining coach trip home, (thanks to the man in his mid-twenties sitting next to me who jumped like he’d been shot every time he woke up to find his leg resting against mine πŸ˜€ ) Billy met me at the coach station in Newcastle and took me for a drink whilst we waited for the train home. Being home has been a bit of a mixed bag and it took me a day or two to settle back – not helped by being very tired and still working plenty of overtime.

I think I have got the hang of the secretarial work I’m doing on my extra 2 days a week now – I’ve pretty much mastered the dictation software and letters systems, and the different consultants’ preferences and methods. Some weeks I have to hunt down a “hot desk” to use, but it doesn’t always have everything I need (software and hardware) so I have to do my best with what I’ve got, but other times I can use the desk of a secretary who is on holiday. Either way, I work hard and do as much as I can in the time I’m there in order to try and help clear some of the backlog. Unfortunately, as fast as the secretaries clear work, more appears – it’s more like a factory full of conveyor belts than an admin department. I do feel for the girls who do this all the time, and I don’t envy them never being able to catch right up or clear their desks. I also feel for the patients who must wonder why it takes so long for letters to be typed and sent. I hope that my efforts make a little bit of difference, but have to admit that it’s hard to see progress, even though I know I’ve cleared a few clinics’ worth of letters. On a personal level, I don’t think all the typing and staring at the screen for hours on end is doing my eyes any favours and hope they can recover when I stop doing it.

When I’m back doing my own job the other days of the week, it’s nice to know just what’s what and to be able to organise my own workload. I’m also working on a little project using my new found Excel skills, to analyse activity for the last four years and it’s proving quite satisfying as it’s backing up my subjective impressions. One thing that has been really frustrating me however, is members of the public barging in to my office – when the door is closed and the opening times clearly stated on the door! I would NEVER consider doing that! If I called in to business and the door was closed, I would assume it was not open and then I’d read the sign to see when they open. These same times are also clearly printed on our information slips and letters and clearly stated on our answer phone message. So why do people walk in on me when I’m eating my lunch (I just take 10 minutes at my desk) and still expect me to see them despite my mouthful of food? I even locked the door one day in an attempt to eat uninterrupted, but when I heard an informal patterned knock, assumed it was a colleague and opened it – only to find it was a patient! I despair! I am covering for my job-share colleague this week and will not be happy if the problem continues, so wish me luck.

Last weekend, I’d noticed that one of our direct debits was due to go out of our bank account the day before our salaries would go in to cover it. (Since being in a debt management plan (like many other people these days) we have switched to a very basic bank account with no overdraft facility, and Billy’s payments are very irregular which makes it hard to budget for direct debit dates) So we worked out a plan of action which required me to withdraw cash from another account and pay it in (via the post office) the day before (this bank has a very weird system which means that even cash must go in to the account the working day before in order to clear into the account. Previously, I’ve been used to everything clicking in to it’s rightful place at the end of the working day.) As Wednesday is the only day I get a couple of hours free to try and keep on top of household management now, I had everything planned and had also managed to juggle money from here and there to scrape together enough for the food shopping. Since I was going in to work to do a few hours IT training, I made sure I was at the door of Iceland for opening time – 8.30am, so I could do the shopping and go to work and the food would be delivered later. At 8.35am a member of staff came to tell us there had been a spillage and the store couldn’t open until it had been cleared up – probably around 20 minutes or so! Argh! So I changed plan and went to work first, doing the shopping on my way home at lunchtime. As I passed the cash machine I withdrew the money I needed for the bank account and then after working, went to the post office to pay it in. Only to find that their PIN machines were broken and I couldn’t do it after all. Walking home, I was deep in though as to how I could get round it – I couldn’t go to another post office as the car was dead. (As it turned out, the machines were not working at any post offices that day!) As soon as I got home, I decided to cancel the direct debit and then set it up again 2 days later, meanwhile making a manual payment by phone. So I logged on to the banking site only to find they’d taken the direct debit already – and it had of course bounced. At this point I sat on my bed and cried! It just felt like no matter what I did, the world was against me. I hadn’t cried for months but I’d just had enough. Of juggling money, of scraping together enough for grocery shopping (and trying to keep the 5 of us plus the 3 cats on less than Β£90 a week including all food, toiletries and cleaning products) After I’d finished I felt drained and flat, but gathered myself together enough to go back out and pick up the stuff I couldn’t get at Iceland. The cry did me good I think, and not being one to stay down or give up, I rallied and was smiling again next day. This was helped by a lovely little interlude in the garden before work when it was calm and still, a couple of bees quietly buzzed, and all 3 cats came outside to be with me. We just enjoyed the moment, they flirted, I fussed them, and I had a wonderful cuddle with Zeb, and it set me up nicely for the day.

Another problem in which we seem to have been taking two steps forward and one back is regarding Nel’s job seekers allowance. She earns a small amount of cash from her dog-walking work but as this is such a small amount, she claims benefits to top it up whilst she looks for other work. She has always, from the outset, declared her earnings and filled in the relevant form each fortnight when she signs. 6 weeks ago, suddenly and without warning (or even any notice after the event!) her payments were suspended. On making enquiries, they claimed this was due to an investigation into her earnings! Nel spent a whole day in frustrating communication by phone and in person and was told that she needed to submit proof of her earnings and in the meantime her payments were suspended and she may have to repay everything she’d had since February! She was in a real panic and floods of tears, a until finally she was told that duplicate invoices would be acceptable so she took her invoice book down for them to photocopy as proof. Finally they admitted their error in never asking for this proof before and reassured her that her payments would be reinstated and the arrears paid. Two weeks later no payment arrived. So we phoned again and gave a few more details and once again, assured that her account would be reinstated and payments made. This week, still no money received! More frustrating phone calls ensued. This time they said they were still waiting for form B16 to be filled in. When asked when she’d been given this form, the response was “Actually I can find no record that she has ever been given this, or been asked to fill it in” ! EVENTUALLY we arranged for Nel to go and collect it in person from the job centre and I helped her to fill it in prior to an appointment we made for the next day for it to be checked and then fast-tracked. I am not at all convinced this is the appropriate form for her as it seems to be for self employed people who have ceased trading! However, we did our best. When Nel took it in, the staff at the job centre were as bemused as we’d been and agreed that it didn’t seem applicable. However, it was duly faxed off and she was told that it should all now be sorted and she’ll be paid next week. Hmm, we’ll see! In the meantime, she’s had 6 weeks with no money and has had to sell a lot of her things on e-Bay to pay for things she’s needed. If she wasn’t living at home, how on earth would she have managed? Once again, it appears that this country penalises the honest citizen whilst bestowing riches on those who unashamedly abuse the system! πŸ™

Life is feeling like hard work and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that nothing stays the same for ever. I’m plodding on and hoping things improve, and meanwhile trying to enjoy the little pleasures life has to offer. I’m a fighter, a survivor, an optimist and my family rely on me so I’ll get through.

I am woman. I am invincible.

Catching Butterflies

With all the overtime I’m doing, I’m spending my weekends trying to catch up at home, but when the sun is shining, I do try to have my cuppa/meal breaks outside in the garden and make the most of it.

Zeb often comes outside with me – he loves company, and he enjoys being outside but is such a little wussy-cat that he prefers to have someone nearby, be they person or cat. Because of this, he usually leaves his sister to do the hunting, or he catches and eats whatever live prey she brings home for him, but this morning he has thoroughly enjoyed his own hunting in the safe confines of our garden and with me to notice how cute and utterly adorable he looked admire his skills .

Since I couldn’t afford new garden plants this year, I scattered a packet of candytuft seeds in my pots and they are now a mass of pretty purples and whites and are attracting lots of bees and butterflies.


Photobucket
Photobucket

Zeb seems very taken with the butterflies and has spent all morning trying to catch them. He looked so cute that I took a photo of him pouncing on one – but he moved so fast that by the time the shutter clicked, he’d caught it. He was so taken aback by this that he just looked at it for long minutes, before cautiously moving his paw – and then watched bemused as it fluttered away πŸ˜€

My fearless little hunter:

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